Weather Forecast: Craig’s Still in Tórshavn / Fámjin & Faroes’ first flag

I arrived at the airport this morning in Vágar, a one-hour bus ride from the Faroese capital of Tórshavn, prepared for my departure from these green sheep-filled islands. Fifteen minutes before scheduled departure, however, passengers were informed that the weather conditions were so bad, the flight had to be cancelled.

Thick fog was down to shoulder level, and you could hardly see in front of you. No wonder the flight to Copenhagen was cancelled.

So I am back in Tórshavn for at least another day. The airline arranged hotel accommodation downtown at Hotel Hafnia, a significant step up from the guest house I was in before. The airline also gave me lunch and dinner vouchers, so I can spend my last night here eating and sleeping in luxury.

Let’s hope the fog lifts and the plane can take off tomorrow morning at 11.45 local time (06.45 EST). Of course, this unexpected change of events ruins my Saturday shopping plans in Helsinki, since tomorrow was the last day I had to go shopping. Thank-you Arto for doing my shopping for me tomorrow! I must make do with my current situation and have a laugh over it all. It wasn’t as if wicked weather like this was news to me; I kinda was waiting to experience some typical Faroese weather on this trip. Too bad it had to come now!

The past week’s Faroe weather had been such a sunny (daytime) and chilly (evening) treat that one might think that it never rained here. That is, until yesterday night. And this morning. And this afternoon. My Faroese friends are right: it rains from left to right here, not falling from above. You can see these white sheets of rain coming down the street and off the cliffs and fjords, ready to beat your body with enough force to knock you over. Before my trip I bought a raincoat from Mountain Equipment Co-op, specifically for hiking outdoors. I had not needed it until yesterday. I am keeping dry as I explore wet Tórshavn.

I bought a Faroese wool sweater while I am unexpectedly back in Tórshavn. It is made from 100% Faroese wool, neither blended with other wools nor dyed. It is natural wool, which is more expensive than some other Faroese wool-blend sweaters, but I wanted an authentic wool sweater from Faroese sheep (not that I have anything against Shetland sheep, the other wool Faroese wool is often blended with).

Yesterday, on what I thought was my last night in the Faroes, I saw acoustic trio Spælimennirnir at Café Natur, in downtown Tórshavn. They performed for two hours and then I chatted with some new Faroese friends. The café closed at midnight–quite a surprise when I am used to 4 a.m. club closings in Helsinki.

After my arrival in Fuglafjørður on Tuesday afternoon, I went to the home of librarian Petur Petersen and saw his collection of 6000 books, all of which pertain in some way to the Faroe Islands. He is the colleague of Vónbjørt Solmunde, at whose home I stayed that night. When Petur heard my enthusiasm for the Faroes, he invited me to see his book collection. I do believe he had a more enjoyable time showing me his books than I had looking at them 🙂

Vónbjørt then took me to meet some friends at the nearby village of Gøta. We met in one of the oldest houses in the Faroe Islands, a Viking home over one thousand years old, which had belonged to chief Tróndur í Gøtu. Its cellar was still the original stone foundation and its magical Viking stone formation in the centre of the basement is believed still to possess power. The house above was rebuilt four hundred years ago. There are no trees on the Faroes, and the wood used to build the house was made either from prized driftwood discoveries or from shipwrecks. You can easily spot the shipwreck wood, as it is notched or cut out in some way to suggest fitted construction of some type. As a house’s roof support or wall brace, these cuts and notches are totally unnecessary, and suggest some prior usage. Vónbjørt said that when the floor boards got too worn out, the Vikings simply rotated the planks. Thus the floor boards in the kitchen still had the foot paths and wear and tear of Vikings a millennium ago.

On Wednesday morning Vónbjørt drove me to the bus stop, and I travelled back to Tórshavn for the ferry to Drelnes, on the southernmost island of Suðuroy. The sunny and clear trip was smooth and not at all windy. En route I photographed each passing island, including the two smallest Faroe Islands, Stóra Dímun and Lítla Dímun. The place I was staying was the town of Tvøroyri, however it was four km from the port at Drelnes, on the opposite side of the fjord. As I crossed to the other side, with my suitcase in tow, a young woman stopped her car and offered me a ride to the hotel. Such a sweet spontaneous offer of kindness! Thank-you so much!

I checked in and was told that I was one of the 21-room hotel’s only four guests. Here’s a tip to save you money: when travelling in the off-season, there is no need to pay extra for a room with private shower and bathroom. At the Hotel Tvøroyri, I booked a simple room with bathroom and shower facilities down the hall. Turned out I could have put my name on that bathroom cuz no one else used it but me.

That afternoon I spent hiking with the sheep to Suðuroy’s highest point, and I overlooked the tiny Vatnsdalsvatn lake. Before I left on my hike, the hotelier asked me if I would be wanting dinner in the dining room that evening. I said that I would, and she said that since I was the only guest who would be partaking of the hotel dining facilities, could I please try to make it back by 6.30 p.m.! So I obliged and planned my hike such that I was home in time for dinner.

The next morning I hiked to Froðba, the tiny village at the mouth of the fjord (Tvøroyri is a few km inland). There I saw towering basalt formations which looked more fake than real–how’s that for Huysmansesque?

Then came the highlight of my trip to Suðuroy: I was going to visit the hamlet of Fámjin (pop. 100) on the west coast. Fámjin’s church is the home of the very first Faroese flag. It was designed by the Faroese student union at the University of Copenhagen in 1919, and its credited designer, Jens Oliver Lisberg, is buried in the church cemetery. With a place as small as Fámjin, and especially during the tourist off-season, one must schedule an appointment to see the flag. I did so from the travel office in Tvøroyri. The gentleman who opened the church for me, Jaspur Magnussen, spoke English, and he told me he used to work in St. John’s and in Halifax on the fishing boats. His wife Lis is the niece of Jens Oliver Lisberg (the inventor of the Faroese flag was her mother’s brother) and it was such an honour to meet with them, see old photographs, and to hear their personal stories about growing up in the twenties and thirties. I spent the whole afternoon in Fámjin, then got the bus (the van, really) back to Drelnes harbour for the ferry to Tórshavn.

And that’s when the rain started. The waves beat the ferry viciously, but we were in no danger. The rain hasn’t stopped since. You can’t experience the Faroes without getting whipped around by the rain, and I’m feeling it now. My extended vacation here might end tomorrow morning if the weather is clear, but I’m worried it may be like this for another day. My flight home to Toronto is Monday!

The Academy Awards will be broadcast in their entirety for the first time in Finland this coming Sunday. Live. You guessed it–in the middle of the night. Finland is seven hours ahead of EST, and I can suppose the show will begin at around 20.00 EST? So Arto and I will be watching at 3 a.m. local time. When the last award is given out in the early morning, I will catch the Helsinki airport bus to commence my journey home.

I still might make it to a PC on Sunday. Provided the weather in Tórshavn clears up!

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