At first glance this morning, Torshavn looks very different than either Aukyrei or Isafjordur in Iceland.
Once out of the city itself, the similarities between Iceland and the Faroes, hundreds of miles apart, became more clear:
Rugged basalt mountains with little soil, many waterfalls, covered only with moss and lichen and some grass. The grass is enough to graze a limited number of sheep, horses and cattle, who roam fenced areas. Once the number of sheep exceeds a certain number, the “excess” are slaughtered and sold for food. Cows, enough to sustain the Faroes’ dairy needs, are never allowed to roam, as they damage the soil and grass, although cattle roam in some areas.
The 18 Faroe Islands are connected with underwater tunnels, bridges and a network of ferries. They are owned by Denmark, and receive military, medical, and police training from Denmark. However, they are mostly self-governing and have a parliament (as well as two seats in the Danish parliament.) In WWII, they were “occupied” by Britain to save them from Germany during Denmark’s occupation. Unlike Denmark, they are not part of the European Union, as the fishing restrictions would impact an economy in which fishing is 93% of the industry. Salmon farming is a big, big thing; you’ve probably seen “Salmon from Faroes Islands” in the grocery. Their #2 industry, and growing, is of course tourism.
The links between Iceland and the Faroes are more than just geologic. An 18-hour car ferry runs regularly between the two. A “sea stack” –two rock towers just off the coast–is said to be a witch and a giant trying to drag the Faroes back to Iceland. Sadly, the sun turned them to stone before finishing the job. The Faroese language is a blend of Icelandic, Old Norse and Danish which no one beyond the Faroese can understand. All students learn Danish and English and at least one other language. Our English-speaking guide spoke only Faroese to the bus driver.
The Faroes anticipate being fully energy independent by 2030. Wind, hydroelectric and restrictions on home heating sources (must be geothermal or heat pump) are expected to do the trick.
Continuing our backward trek to the source of the Vikings who were the original European settlers will see us in the Orkney Islands of Scotland tomorrow and Norway the next day.
Bob joined in the excursions today, at last pronounced free of COVID! You can only imagine his joy; it’s been a very long time.