faroe inspiration

Endless green grass stretching over hills and through valleys. Strikingly jagged cliffs careening into the deep blue Atlantic. Water cascading in thin, white lines from every pore of the earth. Cozy turf roof homes nestled into the protected fjords. Music with captivating melodies despite a language, undecipherable. Encompassing fog, persistent mist, clear, sunny skies.

I actually first published this post while I was away, but it didn’t feel right, so I am revamping it now that I’ve had time to reflect. Inspire posts are new to the mix, and I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to go about it (okay, I’m still not sure how I want to go about it), but I definitely needed to say about our time in the Faroe Islands and the resulting inspiration that sprang forth from the sights, sounds and activities that kept us busy.

The Sights

First up a little geography. The Faroe Islands (Føroyar, or Faroe, means “Sheep”) are a group of 18 volcanic islands huddled together in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. Because they are home to many myths and legends, we could easily dream that perhaps, once upon a time, a handful of scree fell loose from the hole of a Giant’s pocket as he stepped from Iceland to Norway, thus creating the Faroe Islands. Today, these islands are home to twice as many sheep as people (human population is right around 50,000) and are connected by bridges, subsea tunnels, ferries and helicopter.

As you can imagine, the landscapes in the Faroe Islands are pretty dramatic and beautiful. Cliffs rise and fall from the choppy waters, pockets of natural harbors are tucked into the rocky shores, and waterfalls spring from every height. The Faroes have an ad campaign that uses the words: Unspoiled, Unexplored, Unbelievable and for the large part, these words are spot on. (I could add: Unexpected, Unpredictable, Unreliable, but these last three mostly just describe the weather!) There were a lot of ‘Wow!’ moments while traveling around the islands.

The colors of the Faroe Islands can vary from day to day. There’s always the crisp white waterfalls cascading from rocky crags, and the green carpet of grass, stretched high and low. Now, if it’s sunny, the sky is the babiest blue, and the Atlantic reveals her dark, teal waters. But if it’s foggy, misty, cloudy or rainy, which chances are that it will be at some point, the sky can be greyish white, and the sea almost black. (But for one day of sun, I actually forgot that it existed while we were there!) This is as good a point as any to mention that I had the most aptly colored yarn with me from home while I was in the Faroes - it was a variegated mix of greens, blues and purples. When I would knit with it, I couldn’t help but think I was joining together the elements of the Islands. (I know I didn’t mention purple in my colors of the islands, but I wore purple everyday, so I am the missing link there.)

Strikingly jagged cliffs drop into, and rise out of the Atlantic everywhere you turn. (Pic: Town of Bour, Gasadalur Waterfall, island of Vagur)

Strikingly jagged cliffs drop into, and rise out of the Atlantic everywhere you turn. (Pic: Town of Bour, Gasadalur Waterfall, island of Vagur)

See what I mean about the color of this yarn and the colors of the Islands? (Pic: Eysturoy Island, Beach of Tjornuvik)

See what I mean about the color of this yarn and the colors of the Islands? (Pic: Eysturoy Island, Beach of Tjornuvik)

Water - be it ocean, rivers, waterfalls, or just saturated earth - is abundant. (View from the hike above Saksun, island of Streymoy

Water - be it ocean, rivers, waterfalls, or just saturated earth - is abundant. (View from the hike above Saksun, island of Streymoy

The Sounds

Nothing says ‘island life’ like the cry of a seagull, right? At our home in North Carolina, I am often greeted by the sound of roosters in the morning, but in the Faroes it was the gulls. That’s a very broad term here, as the Faroe Islands are home to numerous colonies of several species of birds. We really, really wanted to take a ferry to the Vestmanna bird cliffs to see them all (including PUFFINS!!), but sadly they canceled our tour due to weather, and it was the only day the boat was running while we were there. We still saw (and heard) our fair share of birds who have a pretty grand setup there - fish galore, cliffs for nesting, few people to disturb them. 

You know who else seem to completely enjoy their homeland? The sheep. With miles of grass to eat, and free range as far as their legs could take them (and the ability to run on the steep slopes - how they do that I’ve no idea!), the sheep on the Faroes seemed pretty content. On our hikes, we rarely came across humans, but were always accompanied by sheep. It was almost like the line in Ole’ McDonald Had a Farm when the sheep enter the picture. “Here a baaa, there a baaa, everywhere a baaa baaaaaa.” (I like to think that they were saying hello, but I spend a lot of my time associating human thought and emotion to animals, so truly I have no idea what they were saying/thinking.) Regardless, they were lovely company, reminding us, along with the birds, of the nature of where we were.

These land and sea sounds were always accompanied by the sound of the breeze. And by breeze I mean 40 mph winds. Haha. No, not really (okay, maybe sometimes). On some days, the wind was mild and enjoyable. Other days, it was truly whipping. It made certain hikes (and drives in our glorified go-kart) particularly hairy, and sometimes impossible. It was laughable when it wasn’t petrifying (Call me dramatic, but I thought we’d get blown into the Atlantic, unnoticed by anyone but the gulls and sheep.) The wind (and weather in general) really got me thinking of the hardiness and the resilience of the inhabitants of the islands, and how I really needed to toughen up! :) 

Often, when the winds got to be too much, I’d relish the thought of cozying up in our adorable turf roof Air BnB. Our soundtrack in the evenings while we made dinner, or I knit and Dylan read, was Faroese music. Although we have no idea what the lyrics were about, the tunes were great. Listening to the music from a destination is one of our most favorite ways to immerse ourselves in new lands. As far as Faroese music goes, our go-to musician was Hogni Reistrup. If you want to take a listen, I highly recommend starting with the song called “Vegurin” which means, “The Road” (or so says Google Translate). Aptly named for travelers!

Our incredibly adorable turf roof AirBnB in Torshavn. Built in the 1800s, these turf roof homes were painted with black tar and topped with grass for the most efficient heating and cooling. 

Our incredibly adorable turf roof AirBnB in Torshavn. Built in the 1800s, these turf roof homes were painted with black tar and topped with grass for the most efficient heating and cooling. 

Our music of choice while in the Faroes.

Our music of choice while in the Faroes.

The Activities

From learning about photography from Dylan (and trying it out for myself), to hiking the hills, the activities of the Faroes, were, I’d say, the most expected sources of inspiration. 

We basically picked the Faroe Islands as a vacation destination because #1 we are in love with Scandinavian countries and #2 the hiking opportunities seemed abundant. We were not disappointed. A little disoriented at times, but not disappointed. Hiking in the Faroes is unlike any other hiking I’ve done. We’d often get to the general area of a hike and then sort of guessed our way through. There were typically multiple ‘paths,’ so it was really a choose your own adventure scenario. But the ultimate oddity was the weather. If you’re out hiking in the Faroe Islands and you find yourself enveloped in fog, you are meant to sit down and wait for it to pass. (Really, there’s no other choice as it is fog of the ‘all-encompassing’ variety.) As quickly as the fog descends and swallows you whole, it lifts and passes without a trace. Crazy. But the landscapes you’ll hike? As previously noted, excellent. And in my books there’s nothing better than stretching your legs while hiking in new lands. Inspiration from natural surroundings achieved. (I even collected some raw wool that was threaded in the grass from the passing sheep, just as a memento.)

The Islands are actually very accessible from one another. Most are connected by roads/bridges/tunnels, and of these, the farthest was two hours away from our base camp in Torshavn, the capital. But driving? Oh goodness. Driving was inspiring in that it brought me face to face with my mortality and inspired me to live life to its fullest while I still had time. We rented a manual Peugeot 108 (108 is a very auspicious number in Hindu mythology, and I fully believe that we were spared any harm because we had the gods on our side.) Oh, have you never heard of a Peugeot 108? Me either, until the Faroes. You know how Europe loves it’s small cars? Well, this one has got to be the smallest. It’s the kind of car that’s easily manuerved because you take up less space on the road than a postage stamp (okay, being dramatic again), but that, when a gust of wind blows outside, you feel it inside. And, not sure if I drove the point home earlier, but it’s kinda windy in the Faroe Islands. The other ‘inspiring’ bit about driving is going on and through one-lane road and tunnels with 2 directions of traffic. There’s quite a bit of pulling off and backing up on narrow, sometimes, steep and highly-cliffed roads. 

As for picture-taking, I had’t done much of it since I married a professional cinematographer and photographer. (Who would?!) But this trip was the first time that both Dylan and I took cameras, and he taught me so much! None of the pics in this post are actually mine, as I have yet to go through them all, but it was so much fun to explore this creative pursuit in such a photo-worthy destination. I think the inspiration from taking photos can be applied to other creative pursuits too - it encouraged me to look at things differently, to try and capture the essence from a different angle, and to thinking outside the box. I’m excited to apply what I learned and experienced with photography in the Faroes now that I’m back at home. 

And that, dear friends is a glimpse of the inspirations that I experienced on our journey to the Faroe Islands. I didn’t journal much while I was away, but thinking back to our time there certainly has gotten me nostalgic (and I haven’t even been back a week!). In this post you may have noticed that I didn’t even touch the topic of knitting (except for the small amount that I did while there), but, you know those content sheep I mentioned? Well, they produce a special wool, unique to the Faroes, which has instilled quite the knitting tradition among its inhabitants. And which, rightly so, will be getting its own post very soon!

Inspiration is all around - the sights, sounds, and activities spurred my curiosity and creativity on this trip to the Faroe Islands! (Pic: Waterfall in Saksun, Streymoy)

Inspiration is all around - the sights, sounds, and activities spurred my curiosity and creativity on this trip to the Faroe Islands! (Pic: Waterfall in Saksun, Streymoy)

A huge thankful to my talented hub, Dylan, for all of these wonderful pictures!