Wednesday, 16 November 2022

Fámjin, island of Suðuroy - café and church in a Faroese village

Any place in the Faroese archipelago could do great as Ultima Thule !


Fámjin is a small community on the west coast of Suðuroy, the southernmost of the Faroese islands. It sits on a narrow slope between lake Kirkjuvatn and a deep bay on the North Atlantic Ocean.

A picturesque village on a remote - though European - location, Fámjin is a bit surprising for keeping so lively and demanded by travellers.

Fámjin, Suðuroy

Coordinates: 61°31'60" N, 7°7'60" W
Population: < 100

The church dates from 1876; it's the main building.

On the rigth side of the back wall, the first ever Faroese flag, designed by a Faroese student  from Fámjin in 1919. Yearly festivities run in April.

Votive ship on the wall, a traditional faroese slupp (sloop).

Tombstone on the churchyard.

The high slope behind the church has a pretty waterfall with a view point over a wooden bridge.


Left, the red Bygdarhúsið Vesturhøll Comunity Hall, right the Kaffistovan, a café serving also cakes and meals.

Owned by Eirikur Olsen, previously a sailor.

Fámjin viewed from inside

National holiday - Flaggdagur, Flagship day. Celebrations by the Bygdarhúsið.

A festive concentration on the sheds dock.

The string of boatshed along the bay is the best meeting point in Fámjin.

Small boat houses back the wharf

The modern borough, on the southern tip, seems to improve on comfort and wellness; at least one house here offers accommodation to visitors.

Lake Kirkjuvatn  (=Church Lake)

A popular place with hikers, with excellent walking paths.

Wonder what a slupp is ? Here is a beauty:

Westward Ho, a perfect faroese slupp

Sunday, 30 October 2022

Jäätee, the ice road to Kärdla in the island of Hiiumaa, Estonia

After the Viking era, as part of the Hanseatic League, Estonia has been occupied by Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Germany and lately Russia; permanently threatened, divided, fighting for independence, Estonia obtained it briefly between 1918 and 1940, then finally since 1988 - it's hard to believe how the country managed to keep its own language and national identity.

Being a small territory, Estonia is also hampered by geographic features - over 800 islands !  1500 lakes! What terra firma, is most of Estonia just water ? On the other hand, those islands and lakes and forests around are the most precious nature of the country. The largest islands, Hiiumaa and Saaremaa, need to be interconnected between them and with mainland. In Winter, that part of the Baltic freezes into a large pack ice, thick enough to allow traffic; this route over the ice across the sea is called Jäätee :

"In wintertime roads appear over the frozen surface of seas, lakes and rivers in Estonia. On these freeways , there is nothing but whiteness as far as the horizon, perhaps a fringe of dark conifers in the rear-view mirror, and total silence. This makes for an eerie driving experience on the route that runs for 26 km from the port of Rohuküla on the mainland coast of Estonia across the Baltic Sea to the island of Hiiumaa. "

" Here, on Europe's longest jäätee, there are a few markings to follow. A car spins along in the track made by previous vehicles, passing an occasional traffic sign or guided by large juniper branches, 'planted' upright like trees growing magically from the snow to indicate the edges of the road ."

"During the journey, which can take at least an hour, the traveller watches the cinematic view play through the windscreen, and it might feel as if they are driving off the edge of the world. A good soundtrack is recommended."

" It is both a relief and a disappointment when Hiiumaa's coastline appears, a faint shadow in the far distance. The meditative skyline and the slim silver jäätee are soon replaced by salted tarmac and slushy roundabouts, and all the messy dockside infrastructure of tollgates and Portakabins, streetlamps and telegraph poles.

Ice roads are open only during the hours of daylight, and even then snow flurries may decrease visibility. The road is a shortcut, as the crow flies, but no one should rush it - or slip into a dawdling dream. Drivers must keep to speeds of between 25 km/h and 40 km/h - the lowest limit is important. No stopping is allowed. This is a precaution against changes in the car's rate of progress causing wave under the ice; if such a wave accumulates it can be strong enough to crack it. "( ...)

    from Nancy Campbell, "Fifty Words for Snow"

Hiiumaa is a flat island, with nothing remarkable except a few old windmills of a type you seldom see elsewhere.

Kärdla is the main village, with a museum.

The old fire station, now tourist office.

Kärdla street in winter.

'Pikk Maja', the long house - a museum. 

Finally a warm comfy place: the museum's cafeteria. 

Inspired by:

Thursday, 20 October 2022

Under the stars with Matt Gaw in Arinagour, Island of Coll

I discovered the hebridean Island of Coll while reading Matt Gaw's Under the Stars. I´m giving here a small excerpt of his adventures.

Gaw stayed with his family in Arinagour, the wonderfully named main town, and from there he made night excursions watching the skies.

The treck to the beach near Arnabost, on the machair *.

The greatest revelation comes after a family excursion in the night, crossing the island till the west coast seaside near Arnabost. Suddenly...

"It is the first time too that they have seen the Milky Way. They gasp at its spray of light , and wrestle with the idea of how they can see the galaxy they are in. We try describing it together. Milk spray. Frost. Mould. Sea foam. Salt stains."

"Then the shooting stars begin. I hadn't told the children I was hoping to see Orionids as I didn't want them to be disappointed, but now they ahoop and holler at every flaring dusty streak. Red lights. A tinge of gassy green. We fall silent  between each one and I will the kids to stay interested. In my head I tell them, hold your nerve and let the night take you."

(...) "
I think of all the nights I've walked in. The snow, the cloud, the clear skies, moonlight and murk, starfall and dayrise. Each night, whether it contained happiness, wonder, fear or frustration, has been unique; each experience has shown me darkness on a different light."

Great book.

Night falls in Arinagour

One day soon I'll post about the Island of Coll.

(*) The machair is a low sandy plain formed mainly of seashells and supporting grass cover, often part of a dune system.