Rainswept paradise. The Faroe Islands, part 1/4

29 June 2012

It’s an undiscovered but rather damp gem in the middle of the Atlantic that few people notice on their way past. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but the Faroe Islands are truly one of the pleasantest places in the world. As both a business traveller and an occasional tourist, there are few places I’d rather go.

The trouble is, the Faroes aren’t all that easily reached. My first visit was thirty years ago as a practically penniless backpacker heading back to a job in Iceland after a few weeks of hitchhiking around Denmark and Norway. I arrived on board the old Smyril ferry from Bergen, where I had cashed a cheque that subsequently bounced and worried the bank manager back home in England for months. As the ferry back then ran a circular route between Bergen, Tórshavn, Seyðisfjörður and Hirtshals, taking in a dogleg detour to Lerwick, I found myself with three days and practically no cash to spend admiring the turf roofs of Tórshavn bathed in July sunshine.
It was a good fifteen years before I found myself back in the Faroe Islands, this time in the slightly more comfortable guise of a journalist writing about the fishing business, and there were several repeat trips in the next few years.

 

 

The Faroes still aren’t much easier to reach than they were and there are few direct flights. One visit included a fourteen-hour stopover at Kåstrup as a January storm hammered the Faroes and Copenhagen’s airport filled up with knots of philosophical Faroese who shrugged their shoulders and waited patiently. That’s what living on an island surrounded by the unpredictable Atlantic does for you. The Faroese live closer to nature and the elements than practically anyone in Europe, and they are able to live alongside it in a way that is an example to the rest of the speed-obsessed world. There’s no earthly point getting wound up about your flight being delayed. Weather is something that’s always there and it affects every aspect of life in the islands. There’s good reason why the Faroes are so green – they’re right in the path of every depression heading for the Norwegian coast. Snow in the morning can be replaced by blazing sunshine a few hours later in the day, with a hailstorm and a little rain here and there so you don’t get too used to one thing.
Once I commented to someone that it had been raining pretty hard and he almost looked at me as if I had two heads.
‘We had nineteen rain-free hours last month,’ he told me with a shake of the head and a look of pity for someone who could never begin to understand what real rain is.

This article was originally written for a business magazine, the Faroese Business Report

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