I woke warm and cozy in my sleeping bag and listened to the watercourse that had sung me to sleep. The house was quiet and there was a stillness in the air as I rose and dressed. The waters of the fjord between Vagar and Stremoy were smooth as glass and reflected Vagar's bulk perfectly. To the west, framed by the mouth of the fjord a small island rose from the cobalt sea beneath the blue morning sky. I realized then that the first thing I was going to have to find was a good map. I wanted to know where I stood in the landscape, to learn the names of every village, peak and promontory, and to be able to find myself by looking at the topography. The land and the sea were speaking to me and I wanted to be able to return the favor.
I am, as a hard and fast rule, a night person. I've always said that the best way to see a dawn was to stay up for it. The quiet house made me realize that something strange was afoot. 5:45AM and I was wide awake and by all appearances the first one up in our little household. The Faroe Islands are eleven hours ahead of Hawaii Standard Time. 6AM in the Faroes was 7PM at home. Perhaps my body clock was simply still running on Hawaiian time. I would have to keep track of when I woke see if the time changed in the weeks to come.
The kitchen had a small table and two chairs and I set up shop there with my computer and notebook. Hot chocolate and toast with melted butter and cheese was my breakfast while I recalled and documented as much as I could of the previous day and of the feeling I had right then, in the early morning stillness as the sleepers began to wake.
First to rise was Bonnie. She walked into the kitchen with a big smile on her face and began to make coffee. We sat and talked and drank in the view and shook our heads in amazement. We were in the Faroes! I still get chills up my spine when I remember that morning. Three long weeks to do exactly as we wished and an infinity of possibilities open before us.
"What are you writing?" Bonnie asked.
"Everything." I replied. Bonnie smiled.
That was how most mornings would start for the duration of our stay. Up in the stillness to write about the previous days adventures and occurences and then a hearty breakfast as we planned the new day's activities.
Pall arrived shortly thereafter and we roused the gang, fed them breakfast, then crammed into the car for the ride to Torshavn, a city of about 20,000 inhabitants located on the northern side of the south-western tip of the Island of Stremoy. Larina sat on someones lap in the back and Bonnie crowded in between Pall and I in the front. The trip lasted about half an hour and took us along a route close to the coast. On one side several bodies of water were visible and on the other the land rose to an ever changing view of mountain tops wreathed in clouds. The weather was marvellous. Blue sky and bright sunshine combined to show us the islands in all their green clad splendor. Waterfalls appeared regularly as white cascades that wound up into the hills and disappeared among the crags. We passed through two small towns and gradually turned west until we crested a small hill and saw the capitol of the Faroes laid out before us. As we approached the outskirts of town Pall pointed out a dense thicket of tree surrounding a few buildings.
"That is our forest," he deadpanned with a ghost of a smile that would come to characterize him.
It would have been funny if it were not true. These were the first trees of any note that we had seen besides a few in the river valley that led to Leynar.
"Why are there so few trees?" I asked.
"Sheep," Pall replied. "And cold winters." The answer made perfect sense.
One translation of Faroe Islands is Sheep Islands, supposedly bestowed upon them by Irish monks who used the islands as a hermitage in the 8th century. Whatever the case, the name was fitting. On every hill and Hamrar edge on the way to Torshavn, sheep could be seen in abundance, each wearing a numbered tag to identify them prior to shearing or in the unfortunate event that a motorist hit one.
We made our way along the seaward side of the town, past a ferry terminal and into a parking lot next to a small boat harbor that abutted a much larger harbor that serviced cargo ships. The town came right down to the water, buildings neat and tidy and painted in bright colors. Pall pointed out the Tinganes, a group of older red buildings situated on a rocky peninsula, site of the oldest functioning parliament in Europe. We strolled past the innermost boats, small fishing craft very reminiscent of the classic Viking ships of old. They looked well maintained and seaworthy, lines properly stowed, bumpers positioned carefully and all hatches battened down. Here and there large jellyfish undulated slowly through the shallow water.
One of the first buildings that caught our eye was a two story tavern, black sided with a brilliant green turf roof. Painted in bold letters across the seaward end were the words, 'Cafe Natur'. This establishment was to become one of the unofficial headquarters of our expedition. It was closed, but I knew we'd be seeing its interior later in the day.
Pall led us inland and uphill through narrow streets toward the city center. No building I could see was over six stories high and the majority were mostly one and two story edifices. Old and new mingled without clashing in a spacious yet Old-Worldly arrangement around plazas and squares. Pall pointed out a kiosk, gaily painted in red with white trim.
"My grandmother works there," he said. "She sells newspapers and magazines and has owned and operated it for almost thirty years."
The town was a delightful mixture of modern and old buildings, with sculptures throughout and an endless amount of shops to explore. I found a bookstore with a great section of maps and chose two. The first was a good road map and the other a large folding topographical map that would serve me well when I wandered far afield. We spent the morning wandering and photgraphing and drinking in the sights and sounds. Summer in the Faroes is tourist season and we fit the bill. You have to start somewhere to get to know a place and Torshavn was perfect for our first day.
Around noon we walked down to Cafe Natur and had lunch and some very fine Faroese beer. If I could have figured out a way to stop time I'd be there still. It's that nice. Our meeting with the reporter from Socialurin was scheduled for right after lunch and I felt somehow that the tables had been turned. Why on earth anyone wanted to interview us was a mystery. But, hey, when in Rome...
(To be continued.)
(If you stopped in with us at Cafe Natur, please leave a comment and I'll buy you a round.)
(Especially you, Eric!)