Faroe Islands Part One

The Faroe Islands were Robbie’s idea. He had seen photos of this untouched country and couldn’t get it out of his head. I originally wasn’t too keen on the idea of coming because something about it being so remote and sort of “off the map” scared me. But somewhere along in our months and months of planning, I couldn’t get the thought of the Faroes out of my mind either, and thus we are here.

It took 24 hours of travel from Dublin, although it really shouldn’t have if you look at a map. We flew from Dublin to Oslo, Norway for a 6-hour layover, then from Oslo to Copenhagen, Denmark for a 12-hour overnight layover before getting on a 2 hour flight over here. Our night in the Copenhagen airport feels like a dream– not a dream because it was awesome– a dream because it doesn’t feel like it happened. That night we hadn’t eaten dinner because everything in the Oslo airport closed by 8pm and we weren’t hungry til around 9 because of a late lunch (obviously we would have just bought food earlier and saved it for when we got hungry if we had known that literally not a single place that served food would be open past 8!). Once we arrived in the Copenhagen airport at midnight, nearly all the lights were turned off and no people were around, like we were walking into some sci-fi film. We searched and searched down long terminal halls through gated areas and food court areas (that were closed) for any sign of a lounge or couches to sleep on. Nothing. We were exhausted. So I googled “Sleeping in the Copenhagen airport” and I found a helpful article telling me that the wing for the “A” gates is rather low lit and quiet with bench seating that could be more easily slept on than hard chairs. So we did it, and we were joined by a couple other crazy travelers also sleeping in that part of the airport. haha Around one in the morning began our on-off again (mostly off) sleeping escapade well into 9am, waking up hazy to a large audience of travelers watching us sleep. We were so out of it. After calculating it, we got approximately 3 hours of sleep total that “night” and then slept another 2 on the plane ride to the Faroes.

We had a section of two to ourselves next to the window in the plane. With clear skies and the loud speaker waking us up to the pilot saying in Faroese and then in English that we would be landing soon, we looked out at the approaching island group of mountains jutting up out of the ocean with giddy eyes. We were squeezing each other’s hands so tight. I kept looking out the window and then back at Robbie’s face and then back out the window and then back at Robbie’s face. Our smiles said it all.

Our friends and family know this, but we had quite the car trouble in Iceland earlier this summer. We rented an old clunky manual Land Rover and the thing was a beast. Its gears grinded and continually made a scraping sound while in gear and cruising; it was so easy to kill it, and we ended up having to get it towed because the bearings were destroyed. Needless to say, renting another stick shift in a country similar to Iceland had me less than enthusiastic. It seemed like just our “luck” (although I don’t believe in luck), that we got into what seemed like a brand new Kia Picanto and it wouldn’t start. It didn’t even make a noise like it was trying to start. Just literally nothing happened at all when you turned the key. *sigh* “Why does this keep happening?” I said to Robbie, so discouraged. We kept thinking the same thoughts we had in Iceland.. “Is it not running because it’s a stick shift and we’re really this dumb about cars??” haha We messed with it a long time more and finally gave up, called the maintenance number and a guy came right away, jumped the car and it was good as new. Thank goodness!! Besides this hurdle, this car has been a dream: the gears shift so smoothly and it rides so quietly. Robbie’s a total pro. 🙂

Day one we made the best use of the rest of our day by visiting a fresh water waterfall that flows directly into the salty ocean off of a cliff in Gasadalur. It’s a famous site here in the Faroe Islands and it didn’t disappoint. We just stood there for the longest time just looking at it and feeling so happy to be there.

The drives here are insane. We keep comparing everything to Iceland since they have similar landscapes and we were just there a couple months ago. The roads are paved so much better in the Faroes, the locals are kinder (in our experience), it’s quieter here with wayyy less tourists. Things are also less expensive here than there, but that’s not very hard to do considering Iceland is one of the most expensive destinations anywhere. We are loving it here and we can’t stop saying: “These are some of the best days of our lives.”

The first night we drove to our airbnb on the island of Eysturoy in a village called Nordragota and slept for 14 hours. From 7pm-9am! We really needed that after the Copenhagen airport sleep! Day two we got up slowly and eventually checked a ferry schedule and realized if we wanted to get to the island of Kalsoy for this particular hike we both wanted to do, we needed to be in the city of Klaksvik by 10am to catch it. We left at 9:40 in a huge rush. We don’t have data here or a wifi hotspot or anything, so we downloaded the location of where we thought the ferry dock was and just went for it. We pulled up at 9:59 and were the last car to board the car ferry over to Kalsoy– an island not connected to the rest by roads like many of the others are. We couldn’t believe the timing and were so grateful! We got out, walked to the edge of the ferry and took in all that we could see. This scenery is so new to us and so beautiful. We are like little children here. Fresh eyes to take in God’s creation and fluttering hearts for each other and the privilege to do this together.

We arrived on Kalsoy twenty minutes later, drove off the ferry and headed up the one and only road on the whole island. The whole stretch of road is maybe only 18 kilometers long. There are these crazy tunnels (actually across the whole country) that they have dug through the mountains for cars to drive through. It’s completely amazing to drive straight into the side of a mountain and then pop out on the other end to a brand new view of ocean and cliffs. We stopped in Mikladalur, a tiny village (every village here is tiny, but this one was probably 15 homes big) along the coast that had a very steep stairwell down to the ocean along with the “famous” seal woman statue (theres some story and legend behind her). We had been used to being high up driving on the mountains, so being at sea level and looking up at where we had been driving and walking was definitely enough to make you feel small. We climbed the rocks and watched the slow, still tide wash up the side of the stones.

After some time at the ocean, we drove the last little leg of the road up to the village of Trollanes. This village has maybe 9 homes in it. After some confusion about where the hike we wanted to do started, I asked some Faroese people picnicing, “Does anyone here know English?” and an older woman, most likely the grandmother of the family bunch sitting at these tables looked at me totally blank. Then it registered to her what I was asking. She motioned to her husband, “Engelsk.” He jumped up out of his seat, “Uhh, yes! what can I help you with?” “We’re looking for a trail that leads to a lighthouse?” They were so kind and so helpful. He walks us over to the main little road, points off into the distance at a tiny red sheep gate and says to go through the gate and follow the stones up the mountain. So we did.

The hike was strenuous and steep. I’m still recovering from my sinus flu so I still couldn’t breathe through my nose. Taking many breaks (mostly for my sake) paired with Robbie’s precious encouragements along the way (and his adorable comments to the sheep after every one we passed), we finally made it. The weather was stunning, sun shining with bright blue skies, fluffy clouds, very light wind and a clear view of the surrounding ocean mountains. We got to the top of this cliff where the small lighthouse was and all the pain in my thighs went away. On one side you could see a dozen little “triangle” mountains in the distance, and on the other, one enormous mountain in view, all encompassed by ocean ocean ocean, everywhere you look. We were so high up, and I’ll admit I was scared at moments from the height. We had packed sandwich supplies for a picnic and we kept saying it was likely the greatest picnic view we would ever have. So we tried to savor the moments. We were up there for 2 hours and no other people ever came. We had the whole place to ourselves, just two tiny humans swallowed up by God’s glory. We talked about how God is this invisible God who makes visible things (Hebrews 11:3). We talked about how in His humbleness, He goes unseen, yet in His power and majesty, He is manifested in all the greatness of creation. We can’t look at all that was around us without praising Him. I believe that just by gazing at these unspeakable and other-worldly landscapes, we are worshipping our Creator, because we are seeing the undeniable work of our Father’s hands and can’t help but be in awe of it– thus being in awe of God. This place, the Faroe Islands, is Earth’s best kept secret. I’m certain of it. We never wanted to come down.

We made it back to the ferry dock about an hour early, after spending five hours on the island exploring. We sat for that hour and prayed through our prayer journal, one by one for our friends and family back home and across the United States, for the refugee ministry we were a part of and the refugee ministries abroad.

We grabbed a few groceries that evening and returned home, feeling changed by the experience that day. Our airbnb hosts several other guests in other rooms. We all share a couple different bathrooms and one kitchen space. This 22 year old and 19 year old brother and sister from Belgium (Thomas and Iris) arrived that evening and didn’t have food. They had hitchhiked there unexpectedly because they were sure they could just rent a car once they arrived in the Faroes but the country truly had no rental cars left to rent out when they arrived. So we offered to cook them food since we were about to cook some pasta for ourselves anyway. They graciously accepted and we got to sit and eat and talk for four hours. The time went quickly, sharing stories about home, why we are on this adventure, discussing language, different cultural quirky things (like how there’s a 25% sales tax on everything in the Faroes!! shocking! and how there’s a new sweets tax on sugary items in Belgium!), and sharing other funny stories. The airbnb host’s 18-year-old Faroese niece was there too and we asked her to join us. Thomas and Iris taught us a new word Gezellig which is when you can not only get a warm feeling of coziness or welcomeness when you walk into a certain room, but when you receive that same feeling of warmth when talking to a stranger or an old friend. ❤ These people gave us Gezellig. It was lovely.

Day three. We shared and ate our cereal this morning with Thomas and Iris, who would be checking out of the airbnb after only one night and leaving for one more night’s stay on the islands somewhere else. We connected on facebook and Thomas gave us great recommendations for places to see and eat in Copenhagen (that’s where they had just traveled before coming here). Then we drove an hour to the village of Vestmanna and took a two hour puffin cruise! Aside from the seasickness I felt by the end, this allowed us to view some of the most astounding sights we had ever seen. Robbie loves being on boats and it was so fun to watch him light up at all we got to absorb. We could look down from the side of the boat, into the clear ocean, and could spot big groupings of jelly fish just under the surface of the water. They were everywhere and it was amazing! The boat captain weaved us in and out of caves and inlets in the enormous rock walls. Robbie had his arms around me, holding me, smiling from ear to ear. This excursion was so breathtaking and surreal. We had never done anything like it. We saw a million birds flying around, and the captain said there were puffins nesting in the cliffs if we looked closely enough, but we never could see them ourselves. That’s okay though, we felt like the experience of being on the North Atlantic Ocean at the base of the cliffs was good enough for us.

On the drive back to the airbnb, we made a stop along a cliffside to sit on a small rock that overlooked a huge valley with ocean and two mountains on either side of us. There is this flyer that came in our rental car that has information about the Faroe Islands and something that it says is, “There are 8 billion people in the world, and almost no one has seen these islands. You are a part of a very small minority. Consider yourself very privileged to be here. Stop and breathe in some of the freshest air in the world.” So we did just that. And we really do feel so privileged to be here together. That thought never goes away.

More adventures to come and we cannot wait. ❤

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