Klaksvik is the Faroes’ “second city” and as such, I felt that we should visit. This was also because its halfway across the country, three islands away, and I felt getting the bus over there would give me a good overview of the driving conditions before hiring a car.
Many of the main islands here are very close together, separated by short stretches of sea, and have been connected by undersea tunnels. Some people seem to freak out about this, but the ones we went through on the bus to Klaksvik were wide, well lit, and well-marked. One even had an art installation, that lights up the walls in different colours, which we later learned was done by a famous Faroese artist who specializes in glasswork.
The journey over to Klaksvik was stunning, and our first hint of the amazing scenery awaiting us as we explore.
Dramatic cliffs plunging into a rough sea, snow topped mountains, huge fjords coming way inland between steep mountainsides, waterfalls flowing down mountains into the sea and at times right through villages. Taking photos through bus windows isn’t ideal, so you’ll have to wait til we have a car and can take some snaps. Rural areas are mainly moorland, reminiscent of the very north of England and Scotland, boggy in parts, steep hillsides of grass and not much else. Lots of sheep (we keep being told there are more sheep in the Faroes than people, and I’d say by a good margin) and geese. The geese have cute little houses, also thatched.
The villages themselves were generally quite pretty, often clustered around a bay, with multicoloured wooden houses, some with tin roofs, some with grass roofs, and always a church.
But these are not ‘quaint little traditional houses’ – they seem to have all mod cons and are stylishly decorated on the inside. We know this because no one in this country ever seems to close their curtains, so its quite common to pass a house and see everything going on inside – people eating dinner, watching Tv, playing with their kids, folding washing…
Properties are clearly very well maintained, and the impression crossing the three islands was of a prosperous, self-reliant, well ordered society. I guess with the kind of extreme weather and isolation people face here, they can’t afford to be lackadaisical about things. If you don’t maintain your property, you’ll be cold (or face huge heating bills), if your car breaks down in the dark on a mountainside, you could freeze. If you don’t maintain your fences and the sheep wander off… that’s going to be one hell of a cold night searching for them. But I sense there is also a strong belief in being capable and practical, and a clear judgement from community if you don’t conform. One recent returnee to the islands told us how she had only brought one bra when visiting her mother, so washed it and hung it out of her window to dry. People apparently still talk about the day a bra was hung up outside to dry…
Maybe the open curtains and the outward appearance of a staid, solid, self-reliant people really masks a deep beating core of thrill seeking and passion that I just haven’t tapped into yet…. Maybe.
Its fair to say that Klaksvik makes Torshavn look like a megametropolis.
All the tourist information lady could suggest was lunch. Which was lovely and extortionate. 40 euros for a pulled pork sandwich, a chicken sandwich and a latte.
We bumped into an Australian family with two children, one a year older and one a year younger than Lauren. They are travelling for 3 months and we’d already met at the ferry terminal. Small place, this.
After lunch we wandered down to the marina, and ended up somehow around the fishing area, which was actually quite interesting. There were a number of trawlers, old crusty things, and some fish processing units where a number of men – mainly middle aged and above – were cleaning and processing the fish.
Fish and fish products make up over 90% of the exports of the country, so it’s a big deal, and the economy is heavily reliant on world fish markets, so I found it quite interesting poking around until the horizontal rain drove us back to the ‘centre’.
We had a while to pass before the bus was due, and standing in the freezing bus shelter wasn’t an option so we went to visit the church, which was pretty enough, but Lauren soon discovered an excellent way to warm up and pass the time, which took me back to wet camping holidays in the dales. Sledging in her waterproof trousers down the steep sides of the churchyard.
The bus journey home (in the dark, as it starts to get gloomy around 3pm and by 3.30 is properly dark) was interesting mainly for the chance to observe the young Faroese up close (I know I sound like David Attenborough but seriously, this place is interesting because it’s so different). It was clearly school ending time, and many of them – from Lauren’s age up – piled onto the bus and various points along the route. They seem very serious – a big of giggling from two of the girls, but most just plugged in earphones or slept. Very few had any kind of outward signs of wanting to be different – boys generally had short, neat hair, designer trainers and tracksuits or jeans with good quality but not flash jackets; girls had long hair tied back in a pony tail, no make-up, conservative jewellery if any, nondescript clothes and bags. The odd colourful scarf but hardly teenage rebellion!
Everyone seemed to have the latest tech. We didn’t see a single non-white child. I must admit my heart sank when I saw around 20 teenagers waiting to board on the outskirts of Klaksvik (Lauren had promptly fallen asleep as soon as the bus set off, worn out by the sledging and knocked out by the heat) but they were fairly quiet and certainly the most ‘well behaved’ group of teenagers I’ve even seen. Kind of made me want to shake them. Teenagers shouldn’t be well behaved!!!
We made it back to Torshavn dead on time, ready to prepare for the excitement of the following day, which we hoped would be a highlight of our trip – a helicopter flight to the southern island of Suderoy.