Iceland - From Hirtshals to the Faeroese   

The idea to start one day earlier was not that bad and so we first took ourselves to  Hirtshals/Denmark. On the way there we met a lorry of the Smyril-Line - good omen!

We took a hotel room. This was a little more expensive but against a fee we now could leave our car at a safe place. Moreover we had the stressfree chance to find out where the ship to the Faeroese and Iceland was going to unberth. After a booking without any problems this remained the big question.

After treating ourselves with a good lunch we walked along the port back to the hotel and looked for the best path to the mooring place of the 'Norrøna'. As an aside I discovered that my passport had expired two months ago, but that should not stop us.

Actually the terminal is shared by the Fjord-Line we took to Norway last year and the Smyril-Line. Fine, this was settled and we walked back to the hotel.

But what a night! The room was much too warm and we had a "swinging bed". One matress for the two of us rather prepared us for the swell to be expected on sea. 

After an 8.30 h breakfast we left the hotel at 10.40 h, fetched the suitcases from the car and set out. After half the distance we met a bus driver at the wayside and asked him about the mooring place of the Smyril-Line and to your great delight he took us there for free. He told us that he made the tours from the ship of the Smyril-Line to the alighting point of the passengers for their journey to and fro. The tour back would be 40 Kronen but this we only will need to pay in a week's time when we return.

Already around 11.00 h we were at the quay and could goggle at the homecomers.

Check-in starts at 12.00 h, quite brisk, my invalid passport only got a glimpse. The drizzle of the morning had ceased, later on it became dry and a little windy.

At 13.15 h we could board and entered our long wished for cabin 6104. Whoever thought that during the next days on sea we would lie in the bunk, watch TV, and have meals was definitely wrong.

The first announcement already caused a slight hectic on board because we were to change our watches to Faeroese-time. Those who had put their clocks to Iceland-time were now confused because Iceland is 2 hours ahead of the Continent. So turn it back because this is a Faeroese-ship with a Faeroese-crew. 

14.30 h: The info-event, i.e. the unavoidable safety instruction on deck 9.

Then however we had the much longed for dinner.

Much longed for because at the info-event we had been told that last year the cuisine of the ship was awarded for the best food.

At 6.00 h the time had come, it was opulent indeed and there even was dried fish. Afterwards we crept out to observation deck 9 to admire the sunset.

Back to the cabin, which by the way was cleaned every second day including fresh towels. As to the cabin, we had an outside cabin, a little small and tight but absolutely sufficient. I much liked the blind at the window which could be pulled down for darkness at night in this quiet cabin. Contrary to other cruises we have made the air was really good. All the week we had no reason to complain.

And even if there had been reasons, we learned the name of our Cruise Host,  Heðin [he:jin ], who had a daily hour for complaints and would accompany our excursions with explanations.

There were 575 passengers on board, quite few with a capacity of 1,500, but it much reduced the jam during meals. And so we sailed at wind force 5-6 and a wave height of ridiculous 4 m along the Norwegian coast near Haugesund.

All this was enough for the first day and we returned to our cabin. With much delight we discovered that we could receive any number of German radio stations. On the long run Danish result in a certain brain knotting. At first we also had WLAN via the mainland connection but this would change soon, of course.

The Norrøna is a ferry of the Faeroese carrier Smyril Line. She connects the Faeroese with ports in Denmark and Iceland. The former connections to the Shetlands, Scotland, and Bergen in Norway was given up in 2009 - pity.

If this isn't a little stowaway after we passed the Norwegian coast. He probably will stay on board till the mooring, there will be food enough. 

Sunrise about 5:30 h, smooth sea, almost like a mirror. We move in the light rhythm of the ship. Every quarter door shows another fish, also our cabin door is decorated with some native sort of fish.

The alarm clock which during holidays should be unnecessary, shrills at 6:30 h as breakfast was to start at 7:00 h A nice buffet and lots of coffee and if anything was missing, charming young ladies were there quickly - in all the total crew was very attentive.

8:00 h on deck and we see the first and up to now only porpoise. All those sea animals are living rather undercover but we are used to this from our tours to Norway and Scotland.

9:30 h: A film about the Faeroese resp. info regarding our oncoming excursion. Late in the afternoon we shall see the northern tip of the Shetland emerge from the mist, later on we had a good view at the lighthouse. 

Depending on the weather, the captain of the Iceland-ferry chooses a northern route, passing the cliffs of Muckle Flugga, or he takes the southern course. 

He does us a favour and we approach the Shetlands with their hall mark, the lighthouse of Sumburg Head. The Shetlands come into view at last.

Plans for the tower, which after a building time of more than two years was put into service in 1821, were made (as so many in Scotland) by von Robert Stevenson from Glasgow. He was the granfather of the famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson.

We then fall on the 3 courses menu. After dinner back to the deck.

We are taking pictures, wait, and smoke because now we are approaching the Shetlands. A small porpoise is passing by and towards evening we can see the Shetlands, Great Britain's most northern inhabited islands, and we look over longingly. Another one of our destinations to come, I think, because we have been in Scotland so many times and so often have from Thurso looked over to the Orkneys. 

The Shetlands however are quite a distance further up. By the way, also that is a culture deeply rooted in the history of the Vikings. The Norrøna ploughs on through the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, passing some unknown building, I guess it to be parts of the SaxaVord Spaceport, the Scottish spaceport under construction. The first start is scheduled for this year.

Now finally the highlight, the most northern point of Scotland, the lighthouse of Sumburgh Head.

In the early morning we get closer to the Faeroese in cloudy weather and 10-11° C.

The Faeroese (or Faeroese Islands) are an autonomous part of the Danish Kingdom and consist of a group of 18 islands in the North Atlantic between Sotland, Norway, and Iceland. They were discovered and settled in medieval times. With the exception of the smallest island, Lítla Dímun, they are all permanently inhabited.

The over 54,000 island population of Faeroese mostly don't see themselves as Danes but as an independent people, descended from the Vikings on Faeroese. They speak their own language, rooted in the Old Westnordic.

Highly delighted, we get up at 5.30 h not to miss the tour starting after breakfast. Astrid, the local guide, welcomes us in German and takes us to a short shore leave towards Tórshavn. This is situated right at the port and Astrid informs that we are now are going to se the Faeroese Government of the Capital. In 874 the Norwegian Vikings settled on Iceland. In 930 they made the country a republic and founded a parliament. This was named Althing is is the oldest parliament of Europe.

We are not really dressed for a state visit and there really is no need to be. There are a few red timber houses with grassed roofs which do not much appear like government buildings to us. Certainly no billions were spent here. Except very few details one house looks like the other. Astrid explains that the red houses belong to the government circle, contrary to the black houses - or the other way round...

All doors are closed, so the security measures do work and somehow we were after all fascinated by the simplicty of the whole. If the first inhabitants of the Faeroese, Irish monks, were living as small groups of recluses, the colonization by the Vikings made it a real population, levelling out at about 4,000 inhabitants and up to the 18th century never went beyond 5,000. Around 1349/50 half the population died of the Plague. A new wave of settlers from Scandinavia by and by did compensate this loss.

The Head of State is Queen Margrethe II. of Denmark, the Danish Government is represented by the Kingdom's High Commission. Chief of the County Government of the Faeroese is the Social Democrat Aksel V. Johannesen. His center-left-government since September 15th, 2015 consists of Social Democrats, Socialists, and Liberals. 

Lýðveldið Ísland

The parliament is called Løgting. On October 25th, 2007 the seven Faeroese voting districts (following the seven regions) were merged into one voting district. Beside their own parliament, the Faeroese like Greenland send two deputies to the Folketing to attend to the Faeroese interests in Danish parliament matters.

By the way, I found that on the Faeroese I have excellent internet reception. 

The we proceeded, passing the famous football stadium where in 1990 the greatest success took place, the 1:0 victory against Austria. Who ever can forget that?

We then reached Kirkjubøur, the most southern part of the main island. At the Olavskirke, a ruin, the sun came through at last.

In the south of the island of Streymoy right at the coast the Magnus Cathedral is located beside the ruin the rebuilt of which is still delayed. Also this is connected with quite a dark story. The Faeroese Saga tells how Sigmundur Brestisson came to the islands and converted the Faeroese to Christendom, more or less one after the other. 

In the home of his first convert, Tróndur í Gøtu, he was attacked and got himself to safety by swimming to another island. In the end he was killed by a farmer for his gold jewellery. The still inhabited Viking farmstead of the 11th century is the highlight of the place. We could visit it and were invited to coffee and cake. Well fortified we proceeded.

On our way back the almost forgotten mist comes creeping in again. Astrid repeats to us an old Faeroese saying: If you don't like the weather, just wait for ten minutes. 

On our return journey, at the next stop on the island, we would learn more about this. At the end of this tour we admire the view from Velbastaður, a bit more to the southwest.

Back to the ship. Next day  we shall meet Astrid again. In the Duty Free Shop we buy some post cards and stamps at the reception and post them at the ship. Now we continued with coffee and cake again and then went out to take a few pictures of Tórshavn.

On our journey back we shall spend another day on the Faeroese.

The scheduled Bingo afternoon we skipped - that's something for oldies. Instead like the good old Vikings we fall on the Duty Free Shop. Then we leave the ship and a short time later start an excursion accompanied by Astrid. 

Going ahead through deep clouds. It somehow reminds us of smog, especially as the rush hour has started. First of all we take the Eysturoyartunnilin were naturally it is dark. The fog at least has gone which had welcomed us. This submarine tunnel connects the two biggest islands of the Faeroese.

The 50,000 inhabitants of the Faeroese are living on 18 islands. Anyone wishing to get from one place to the next has to take long streets full of bends along the fjords. Most people are working in the Capital Tórshavn and depend on the small car ferries. If they fail due to bad weather there is no way to cross by car. For this reason the government of the autonomous island group began to change the traffic concept decades ago. Since the Sixties the Faeroese are building tunnels, more than 20 by now. The Eysturoyartunnilin up to now is the biggest and most expensive infrastructural project of the islands.

The route from the northern fishing harbour Klaksvík to Tórshavn then only takes a half instead of one hour, from Runavík to the capital it only takes 15 minutes. In former times the commuters needed more than an hour. Building the Eysturoy-Tunnel cost 360 million Euro, financed by the Faeroese Government and investors from the mainland. In the years to come this shall be compensated by fees, a passage will be about 10 Euro. Today however we get through for free.

After a few kilometers we do not see the light at the end of the tunnel but some blue or green gleaming construction which according to Astrid reminds one either of a space station or a giant jellyfish. We are all attention.

After this enlightening tour we reach Runavik in the Nes Community. It's lovely here, many small houses, and much green and much mist.

Our next stop is with Ole Christian. His hobby is sheep breeding. We get some explanations about it, for instance that the typical sheep year starts in January when the rams come from the mountains, and the lambing begins in May. In June/July the shearing starts. For this Ole shows us a pair of scissors and says that one never should block the way of a ram. 

My thoughts fly back to Loch Shiel in Scotland when my son and I met Allen who travelled the area as sheep shearer. He invited us to help him. So we gripped one ram after the other and Allen shore them. In this an uproar amongst the rams occured and they ran towards me. Due to the fact that I am a superior species I was certain to be able to stop them. The silly brutes seemed to know nothing about the fact so that I spent the rest of the afternoon limping and regarded each of these animals as my private enemy whom I took by the horns and dragged him to Allen. Ole was all too right...

In December the rams go back into the mountains. Ole offered us a little sheep meat on bread before we travelled on to the wool mill of Novia. If anyone is interested what happens to wayward, aggressive sheep, this is the link:

Now we go back through the Eysturoyartunnilin and Astrid motivates the driver to make an extra turn at the lit roundabout.

So he does and at about 18.45 h we are back at the ship.

Arriving there, we see fire engines and smoke. What's on here, do we have to stay on the Faeroese? I shouldn't mind much because I can well fancy to live in this part of the world. We inquire and learn that the cause of the fire was an e-car. This just was a test during which a burning battery was extinguished.

This made us inquire if e-cars were transported at all. Yes, Heðin said, but only in a special area of the ship which is equipped with temperature controls. There is to be a tank with -18° C salt water, sufficient for an extinguishing time of 80 minutes. If a battery is burning, a so-called thermal runaway is created which causes a chain reaction. The temperature of the battery rises extremely fast and the energy stored is abruptly released. A patented lance-system will be inserted directly into the battery, cooling down the single cells. Inflaming of these cells is consequently stopped and the system taken back to normal. This aimed insertion of the extinguishing agent means an efficient cooling with little water requirement. Bad luck for other cars standing near-by, but it saves them a car wash.

Why 80 minutes? Because the car's battery is then empty anyway says Heðin.

Dinner is waiting and we don't wait but munch till the buttons burst.

Rather cool on deck, the wind is cold and now the mist returned. Close to midnight we call it a day and we say farewell to the Faeroese and its 12-14 degrees.



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