Thursday, 7 June 2007

Faroya

I have been in the Faroe Islands for seven days now - that's more than some people have been alive for. Hence I confidently believe that I am in a good position to assess this country accurately. A chronological account of my visit is, alas, not possible, but instead I shall describe my week in evocative detail using subject headers and my new mastery of "bold".

Puffins

While on a very misty boat-trip, we saw real, living puffins, bobbing about on the sea. No doubt, had the mist not enveloped us and obscured all vision, we may have seen some enjoying their day on cliffs and rocks. Puffins, for those not well versed in this popular bird, are smaller than you might imagine. They are about the size of a bottle of wine.

Far more than living puffins, we have seen many stuffed puffins. A number of shops sell stuffed puffins, for around about £50. Green bought one today in fact, and hopes to successfully smuggle it into Scotland. Apparently you're not meant to have stuffed puffins in the UK because they're endangered or something stupid like that.

Buses

Torshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands, has free buses. This was brought in to combat the growing number of cars clogging up the city centre (apparently up to seven cars can be seen at one time during rush hour). I am very impressed by this move by the Faroese powermongers, and it makes life for the tourist very easy. Even though it's only a fifteen minute walk into town, on the way home from town this walk is uphill and therefore inappropriate for a tourist trying to relax on holiday.

The skateboarding community also appear to approve of the free bus service, as we observed one boy hopping onto the no.3, waiting as the bus went uphill past a few stops, then hopped off again to enjoy skateboarding back down the hill the bus had just taken him up.

Sheep

There are lots of sheep in the Faroes. They seem to roam free on hills and have a wilder, craggier look than the soft-edged Scottish sheep.

The Weather

There is an image of the Faroe Islands being this bleak, windswept, rainy outpost on the edge of civilisation: this image is correct. However, during the week we have been here, the weather has been mostly lovely. Green's face has turned bright red from the sunshine, and Varwell has been caught muttering about the stifling heat being almost unbearable. Let's not get carried away, there hasn't been any moments when I've suddenly mistaken my location for the Mediterranean, but from Monday to Wednesday the sun was out, people were eating and drinking outside cafes, not wearing a thick coat wasn't seen as an act of lunacy, and the conditions were as I'd describe a lovely, bright Scottish spring day.

This is coupled with the fact that it is almost midsummer, and the day never really gets dark. At about 1am it certainly much duller, but to describe it as a traditional night-time would be an exaggeration. Of course, in winter the reverse is true: months of darkness with only a little light hinted at around noon each day. But I don't think many tourists visit in winter.

The Scots And Italians

We've seen two football games here, and thus two sets of fans. On Saturday we witnessed the Italian fans... or did we? Where were they? We saw a handful of swarthy men wander the eerily quiet streets, and the game itself there were a couple of Italian flags and one brief Italian football chant during the 90 minutes, but that was it. The World Champions of football, and a nation of 60 million, made next to no impression on these tiny islands.

The Scots on the other hand, well. There was no mistaking the Scots were in town. On the day of the game, in the town centre, a large number of burly men gathered, almost all in kilts, and almost all drunk, singing, dancing and causing bemusement to the local population. Scots were everywhere - but mostly in the pubs. As this is the fourth time Scotland has been drawn in a qualifying group with the Faroes, the Faroese by now know what to expect, and so took this invasion of ridiculous but hilarious madmen in very good humour. They were perfect hosts in fact. In the town centre, in front of the parliament buildings, the Faroese flag had been lowered and replaced with the Scottish, and speakers had been set up blasting out (inevitably rubbish) Scots tunes.

Later too, the pubs were mobbed, not just by the Scots' Tartan Army, but by local Faroese, who clearly treated this like a festival day. Everybody was very drunk. The Scots have a very good travelling support. Apart from the outlanding and overdone national costume, the behaviour, though drunken, is very friendly, and involving of the locals. The Faroese we spoke to seemed to love when the Scots came visiting. I've complained about the dour misery of the Scots when working offshore, but when en masse, on holiday, they are anything but.

Beer

It's £5 a pint here. Even with the beer being a strong 5.6/5.8%, this is expensive.

Girls

Well, I'll be damned if the girls aren't very pretty young things. I'd kind of expected a bunch of inbred troll-like lumps, but instead I find a lot of very perky, sweet-faced elfin lovelies. Most of whom seem to be about 15.

The Faroese

We'd been led to believe that the Faroese people might be quiet, reserved and taking a little warming up, but have found them to be outgoing and friendly. We've definitely caught them at a good time - during good weather and during the football, when the town has been relaxed and often drunk. I think the Scottish are popular here too. But I've been impressed.

Buffets

Buffets are very popular here at lunchtime. We sampled a pub-style buffet, a Chinese buffet, and a pizza buffet, all at a very reasonable £8 each. Alas, puffin or whale buffets don't appear to be in abundance.

Football

We saw to games while here: Faroes 1 - 2 Italy, and Faroes 0 - 2 Scotland. The Italy game was played in the national stadium, and was in freezing wind and rain, and the Faroes really took the game to them. The Scotland game was played at the amazingly picturesque Toftir stadium, which involved a ferry trip and climb up a steep hill. The weather was lovely and sunny for this, and the Faroes were unlucky not to have got a goal, though Scotland deserved to win overall.

My Travelling Companions

It goes without saying that both Green and Varwell have been simply outstanding travelling companions.

Photos

I'll put up some photos when I can be arsed.

1 comment:

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Bathmate