Torshavn, Faroe Islands.

Torshavn, Faroe Islands,  August 21, 2017:  Holland America assured us that they loved whales but wanted to warn us.  “Holland America expressly disassociates itself from whaling.  We cannot control the cultural of the areas of the world to which we travel.”  The line told us that if anyone had booked a tour through Holland America and wanted to cancel it and not go ashore they would refund the cost of the tour.

Apparently, Faroe Islanders had, just two days before, driven some whales onto a beach near where the ship would land and the line was concerned about upsetting some of its passengers.  By the time we got to Torshavn the beach had been cleaned up.  The meat divided, and whatever remained towed out to sea.   The line was also concerned that passengers may get caught up in protests around whaling.

As it happened, there was no whaling the day we were in Torshaven although I did get a description from a couple of people I talked with, including a discussion of the division of the meat and blubber.

The Faroes are an isolated set of islands in the North Atlantic between Norway and Iceland.  I have been fascinated by them ever since I first learned of them while going to St. Olaf more than 50 years ago.  They were probably originally settled by Celts but the Norse ultimately moved in.  The local joke is “Our ancestors got seasick and couldn’t make it to Iceland.”  The islands were self-governing with a parliament, the Alting, meeting annually at Tinganes Peninsula, a rocky outcropping that grew into Torshavn and still has government offices.  In 1035 the islands became part of Norway.  When Norway was absorbed into Denmark they became Danish.  They remained so until the allies affected a “friendly occupation” during World War II to keep them from German hands. (The Germans had occupied Denmark proper.) They are now a self-governing realm of the Danish Kingdom although they are not part of the EU.  They do not like EU fishing restrictions.  Independence is a periodic discussion at the modern Alting.

The islands used to live off cod fishing and became very wealthy, having, in the 1980’s one of the highest standards of living in the world.  Now they engage in fish farming, fishing mackerel and some cod and sheep raising.  Tourism is growing, but there are periodic protest and boycotts over the pilot whale hunt.

This is just the type of place that fascinates me.  Often when you have dreamed of visiting a place for a long time, when you get there it disappoints.  The Faroes did not disappoint.  I had lively discussions with locals (including on whaling.)  These treeless (except for a few “forests” planted in people’s front yards) islands are mystically beautiful.

For more on the Faroe Islands click here for the story of a farmer and here for scenic pictures from the water

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