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Monday, 27 May 2013

This is Europa - Streymoy, northern part,Faroe Island -

Beyond the bustling city centre of Tórshavn, beyond the tunnel  to Kollafjørður, lies Northern Streymoy, the broad and mountainous part of the main island of the Faroes.

The village of Kvívík is the site of the interesting re­mains of a well preserved Viking farm­stead. Leynar, a small village set amidst some of the most splendid scenery in the Faroes, is home to a lake full of sea­trout and salmon. Beyond these ancient villages lies the enter­prising town of Vestmanna, from where two boat operators cruise under Vestmannabjørgini, the fam­ous Vestmanna bird­cliffs.Although one can stand on top of the sheer Vest­manna birdcliffs some 600 metres above sea level and gaze across towards the islands of Vágar and Myk­ines, no vista is as magnifi­cent and awe-inspiring as the birdcliffs from below. Drifting along slowly under the towering cliffs as sea­birds glide over­head is an unfor­gett­able experience. Sailing be­tween the rugged sea stacks and ex­plo­ring the many grot­toes along the coast, with their rich textures and rain­bow co­­lours, chal­lenges the ima­gination and the spirit fills with amaze­ment at the wonderland that nature has created in the Faroes. It is possible to go fishing from Vestmanna, where it is relatively quick to sail out to the fishing spots. The possibility of catching something is good as you can fish in all weathers due to the shelter from the high mountains. M/B Blástein has room for 12 passengers and arranges half-day fishing trips everyday at 09.30 or 14.30 from May to October. Definitely worth trying! On the whole, Vestmanna is a town with good facilities and services. The Vestmanna Tourist Centre pro­vides useful infor­ma­tion about excursions and places of interest, one of which is the recently renovated church. Compared to Stremoys steep northwest coast, the eastern side of the island is a perfect idyll. The narrow sound between Streymoy and Eysturoy looks like a river valley and here are the peaceful and well pro­tec­ted villages of Kolla­fjørð­ur, Hós­vík and Hval­vík. Kolla­fjørður, one of the big villa­ges in the Faroes with its houses stret­ched like a band all along the shore, takes its name from the fjord, sur­roun­ded by high moun­­tains. One of them is the majestic Skæ­l­ings­­fjall, in the old days considered to be the high­est mountain in the Faroes.

Hvalvík with its black church, the oldest of the ancient Faroese wooden churches, opens the way to the road through the long and wide valley of Saksun. This picturesque and more or less flat road is a para­dise for cyclists. The nar­row one-lane road runs along a delightful shallow river full of miniature ra­pids and thriving bird life. Watch out for the Tjaldur (oyster-catcher), the Faroese natio­nal bird, if you decide to stop for a picnic alongside the river because they are very protective of their nesting sites. They are fairly large birds with black and white plumage and a distinctive red coloured bill.

Saksun is tucked away at the end of the road. As you get closer, the vistas sur­prise you around each twist in the road, and there it is, one of the most distinctive villages in the Faroes. The old farm, Dúvu­garðar, is now a national heritage mu­seum, and together with the out­buildings that belong to the museum, it provides an intimate look into the rural life of the Faroes in the past. The museum and the ex­quisite stone church just below served as one of the important locations for the film version of Barbara and the Icelandic film, Dansurinn, based on a short story by the Faroese writer William Heinesen.

The round bay below the farm was at one time a natural harbour. Today the bay is full of sand and is only accessible by small boats at high tide. At low tide you can walk on the sand out to the seashore. If you are an angler, you might try your hand at fishing in the bay because the area is well known for its salmon and sea trout, which come into the bay on their difficult and almost impossible journey to Sak­sunar­vatn, the lake outside Saksun.

One of the biggest attrac­tions in Northern Streymoy is Fossá between Hvalvík and Haldarsvík - the highest water­fall in the Faroes. The river cascades some 140 metres over se­veral rocky ledges into the sea. This mountain river is fed by several smaller streams and connects to a lake on top of the moun­tain.

On beyond Fossá is the village of Haldarsvík. It clusters around a small inlet and in the steep sur­rounding slopes the fields are built in terraces behind the village. In Haldarsvík you can see the only octa­gonal church in the Faroes. The new altar­piece is of in­terest as well, painted by the artist Tor­bjørn Olsen, depicting the Eucharist with the faces of wellknown, contemp­orary Faro­­ese.

Tjørnuvík, the northern­most village in Streymoy, sits in a natural Greek theatre created by the sharply rising mountains above it. The village faces almost north to the open sea and affords one of the best views of the twin sea stacks, Risin (75m) and Kellingin (73m), rem­nants, it is told, of an unusual at­tempt to tow the Faroes to Iceland by an Icelandic giant and his troll wife. Struck by the beauty of the islands, they laid a rope around Eiðis­kollur, the north end of Eysturoy, but quar­relled for so long that they were caught by the rising sun and transformed into cliffs.

Viking graves have been found in the eastern part of the valley and pollen analy­sis shows that the area was inhabited since the early Vikings first came to the Faroes. The fishing is excel­lent as well, but the village is exposed, and wind and tide often make landing con­ditions very dif­fi­cult.
From Tjørnuvík, twice a year, tours are arranged to Stakkur, a sea stack on the north coast. Steel wires are stretched across the narrow sound and you are carried across in an open cage with a hoist. From Stakkur you will see the flat top of Mýlingur to the west, the eastern side of the moun­tain sloping steeply down towards the bay of Sjeyndir. Legend has it that all those who fail to marry end up in this isola­ted region of the Faroes. Jørgen-Frantz Jacob­sen, the author of the novel Barbara, describes this un­usual place which lies in total isola­tion surrounded by a towering land­scape:

“Down from the moun­tain edge comes the river. Its clear water forms an un­broken drop of some 1800 feet down the valley’s grass­-grown slope, singing a great song which weaves itself into the solitude. It is the pulse of the place, gi­ving life to Sjeyndir. From the sea one sees its gliding ribbon of water. One wants to drink from its fresh water and rest in the sweet grass by its bank. And one reflects that perhaps the unmarried are not always so joyless.”



SUMMER FESTIVALS

The villages outside of Tórshavn also hold summer festivals; Sundalagsstevna mid June and Fjarðastevna mid June. The various villages take it in turns to hold the celebrations each year following a traditional programme of sporting events, exhibitions, concerts, meetings, midnight speeches and community singing. An important part of these festivals are the boat races in beautiful Faroese boats. These races are followed with great excitement right up until the final race at the St.Olaf’s Day festival in Tórshavn, where the Faroese champions are crowned. At the end of May there is a boat festival in Vestmanna where boats from the whole country gather in the fjord, after which there is entertainment for everyone in the village. 


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