That was the Faro Islands!

It was a flying visit, but what a lot we packed in…

Flying in over Suduroy

The charter flight left at 9 on Thursday morning and we were on the ground and through customs by 10.30.

Advert in the airport terminal building

Then it was into the coach and the ‘scenic route’ to Torshavn.  I had never flown in before and the scenery of the island of Vagar. where the airport is was new to me.

Faro is a land of tunnels and so it was straight through our first tunnel to Streymoy. the largest island and home to the capital, Torshavn.  But on this occasion we did not stop there but skirted the town and went on to an old farmhouse and the oldest church in use today.  Like most Faroese churches the art was striking, and the use of materials very Scandinavian.

Eleventh Century church at Kirkjubour

John was our guide with us for the whole trip and in the farmhouse he told us a lot about the old way of life in the islands.  Then it was back to Torshavn to our hotel and the afternoon free.

Very conveniently, the hotel was right next door to Sirri.  They buy up most of the Faroese wool clip and use it to make felted items and yarn, some of which they sell as yarn and some of which they knit up into a variety of fabulous items.  Their designers, some from the Faros and others from Denmark and Poland, are superb and know exactly how to use wool to the best effect.  I had brought an almost empty case and so was able to stock up on various weights and colours!!

Then it was a walk up the main street to visit other yarn shops known from previous visits.  There have been changes.  Toting went out of business a couple of years ago.  Snaeldan‘s shop has expanded – but was closed!  The little shop opposite the parliament building was still there and still had beautiful hand knit goods for sale along side superb coffee and cakes!  As some of you will know, it is lovely to sit in there and admire the lined shawls while sipping coffee and eating home made biscuits…

Friday was an early start and a packed day.  The weather was beautiful and so the scenery was showing at its best.  Our route took us over mountains and along narrow roads, up and down steep hairpin bends.  We had coffee in a lovely little village on the Atlantic coast of one island looking over to two others.

Above the church, set in a tranquil garden, was a memorial to those lost at sea.  The statue was a group of a mother and her two sons looking out to sea as if waiting for their man to come home.  The woman was wearing a shawl and the boys were wearing ganseys very similar to Guernseys that are still worn here today.  They are made from yarn similar in feel to 5 ply and have silver buttons at the neck.  They are worn looser than ganseys, but have a ribbed hem not the Channel Islands hem.

Monument at Gjogv

Then it was on through more tunnels to the ‘Northern Isles’ as they are known.  Here we visited the fabulous church in Klaksvig before going even further north to another church to the far west of one of the islands.  Again, stupendous scenery and fascinating stories.

We came back to Klaksvig to our hotel for dinner, but the day wasn’t finished yet!  They had arranged for some of the local group of dancers and singers to show us the traditional chain dance.  This is a very simple, very old dance accompanied only by voices.  The songs, or ballads, may be about any of the usual things – life or death , love or war, history or fairy tales, sad or comic – and many of them are very, very old.  Usually the dancers come in National Costume but a variety of outside things meant that most were coming on from other things and didn’t get a chance to change.  What was interesting, though, was the number of young men involved…

Saturday did NOT dawn bright and clear.  It was we with low clouds only just above the town.  We had been due to take a boat trip to another of the Northern Isles only accessible by boat, but because of the forecast the timetables were changed and that was not possible.  At least the people on the tour knew about boats and weather and we didn’t have folk asking why it wasn’t possible to land in wind!!

So instead we went to another farmhouse museum in Saksun.  This was one I had been to before on my first ever visit to the Faroes.  I wanted to return as I had lost my photos of it in our flood and I knew there was one of the Faroese wheels in place there, attached to the wall as they were in times past.  Fortunately the place had not changed much, and the wheel was there, along with the worm depression along the flags on the floor made by the constant walking to and fro of generations of spinners.

On our way back to Klaksvig we stopped at a smallish local supermarket by the Bridge Over the Atlantic.  And it had yarn!  This time another Faroese brand, Navia.  They too have recently gone into colour, and they have a very good range of colours in what we would call 4 ply/fingering, but which the Faroese call ‘2 fold’.  The they do 1 fold (lace weight) and 3 fold (aran) and a new chunky mix of lambswool, mohair and alpaca.  They still have a good bakery and I bought my lunch as well as some yarn.

Back in Klaksvig we were able to go to the local craft shop, where I resisted the yarn but bought some buttons.  I also resisted telling it like it is when some of our party were saying how expensive the hand knits were.  I merely pointed out that about 20 quid for something which would have taken 5 quid’s worth of wool and 10 hours to knit was not too bad…

Sunday was our final day, but the flight was not until 4 pm so we had plenty of time for more visits on the way to the airport.  These included some areas I had been to before and others which were new to me.  In particular, we explored more of the island of Vagar, with its high cliffs and scattered villages.

We had the most wonderful fish soup and home made bread for lunch in one village, where there was also a marina (as there is in most places).  And where you have boats you have men talking about boats.

The final stop was at the WWII museum near the airport.  Vagar was home to 10,000 British soldiers during the war and the museum houses some of the memorabilia left behind.  (John also pointed out that the main legacy was visible elsewhere – in the phone book!  Quite a few soldiers married local girls and their families are scattered over the Faro islands.)

So I have arrived home this morning (after a night in Kirkwall) with a case full of yarn and a memory card full of photos.  Over the winter I hope to make sue of both.  But now I must make my final preparations for GanseyFest and the last ever NIFA trip.

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