Despite what I said I got the it’s-not-raining-now-you-should-be-outside guilts so I headed over to Kirkjubøur, an easy 2-hour hike from Tórshavn. At the far end of the town you can see a path up the hill by a farm and the path is clear all the way as this used to be the main route before the road. The light was pretty crap as I passed along the route including a stone dais where since the 1800s assemblies have been held. There were patches of fog, which were fine in this route but I’d be cautious of any near cliffs. The thing is, the weather changes so so quickly here. There was everything bar snow, looking over Sandoy, Hestur, Koltur and Várgar.
The Kirkjubøur hiking trail
There is a legend that a boy from Koltur called Magnus was in love with a girl from Hestur. He used to swim across with the tide and meet her in secret but one day her father was waiting for him with an axe. Magnus had to swim back and was never heard of again, presumably drowned, and that an eddy appeared as an act of revenge. Kirkjubøur is a beautiful little village with picturesque turn roofed houses. There’s an old cathedral from the 1300s, the ruins of the bishop’s seat and farmhouses from the same period with old carvings. The church dates from the 1200s and is still in use.
Ólavsøka – The Faroe Islands National Day
But as the bus wasn’t running (being the national holiday) I headed back on the road, hoping to catch the traffic from the ferry. A girl who had dropped her Mum off to the ferry gave me a lift to town. Tórshavn is pronounced Torsh-how, or just How. She was in Iceland just a few weeks ago and said there were so many people at the main sights locals go at night instead. Apparently a lot of foreigners think Iceland and the Faroes are the same thing, because they’re islands in the North Atlantic and have sheep. But here they’re mixed breeds, including Scottish breeds and bred for wool not meat.
She told me to check out the singing later on in the centre and I ambled through the town in no particular hurry when I passed an opened window in the old town and I was called back. The people inside asked where I was from, we agreed that Bono is a pox and I was invited in for beer and the Faroese delicacy of dried where meat, blubber and potato – or “why everyone hates us”. I can’t get over my dislike of fish. At all. And because I was holding what I couldn’t eat my jacket and bag now smell of whale. Here they air dry it for 6-8 weeks and salt it so it’s more like jerky. And very nice if you like fish.
I was treated to a history lesson from lovely people but unfortunately, the only names I can remember are Shirley, named after Shirley Temple and Heine, who owned the house with his wife who’s due in a month. We chatted about Greenland where he worked for a while with the Americans and after sharing some Faroese spirits (which definitely would warm you up) he told me that on Suðuroy there are lots of Celtic place-names for rocks and the like. The Faroese word for beer (bjór) and Irish (beoir) are pronounced the same. His friend, who works with children with disabilities and another man gave me a really in retrying history lesson complete with dates which I’ve unfortunately forgotten except for the fact that they have Winston Churchill to thank for their flag so as to mark them as unoccupied by the Nazis in the Second World War and that they don’t like the Danes very much because they repressed their language and created a trade monopoly.
Down in the town about 30% or more of the population of the whole country was out for singalongs and listening to speeches from members of the government, along with someone taking them off too. They did the Icelandic clap, as a way to say hi to Iceland I was told, and sang Molly Malone after asking what would the Irish do. Which I’ll never forgive them for. Who knew that coming to one of the most remote countries you could feel claustrophobic?! It is said that the Faroese people are taciturn and rarely speak but at least on Ólavsøka they are amongst the warmest, friendliest people I’ve ever met. And mad as badgers.