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Discovering the Faroe Islands

Text by Pietro Ienca

Photo Luigi Chiurchi & Trip in Your Shoes

The Faroe archipelago is an autonomous Danish territory with a population of about 50,000 inhabitants. It could also be addressed as the “land of shepherds and breathtaking landscapes”.

Approaching its islands means getting in touch with a world of its own. Landscapes, people, the ecosystem, all coexist in an amazing balance that makes these lands unique.

Tripinyourshoes is an organization aimed at promoting a new and innovative type of slow tourism, not concerning only the simple visit of a territory, but also its real discovery and understanding. That’s why we decided to specialize in the production of very high quality video and photo material in order to best convey the emotions that each single territory can transmit, in the hope of spreading a greater awareness of how important it is to preserve these places.

The Faroe Islands are famous for their breathtaking landscapes, but among those mountains overlooking the sea people live in close contact with the island’s endemic systems and it’s interesting to study how, over the centuries, they have established binding relationships with them in order to to survive. It is exciting to be able to observe ancient traditions and new customs get in touch in so little space, even if the consequences are not always positive.

These places, like many others in the world, have become tourist attractions, mainly thanks to their unspoiled nature. Unfortunately, this also hides many negative aspects, especially when tourism concentrates massively during certain periods of the year, creating serious imbalances. Precisely for this reason we decided to observe the Faroe islands in their most authentic and “wild” form, far from the tourist season, with the intention of reporting what the true potential of this territory is.

Globalization’s influence has also touched the coasts of this archipelago, causing an important change in the natural rhythms of the inhabitants: the islanders have based sustenance and economy on livestock farms and products of animal origin, especially in the fish sector. Obviously today the diet of these inhabitants has changed, influenced by global rhythms. Most of the products consumed by Faroese come from international markets and this has caused the abandonment of some traditions and customs related to the territories.

But not all is lost: in response to this “crumbling”, a community linked to the world of Slow Food has committed itself to safeguarding and preserving the products of the islands. At the same time, the inhabitants are testing some innovative agricultural methods, followed by a project, the Veltan Project, which could guarantee an important step forward for the inhabitants of these islands up to reaching independence and the return of some ancient balances.

Sunduroy is the southernmost among the 18 islands of the archipelago. It is probably the island that struck us the most: it has a “milder” climate thanks to its position and greater wealth, especially regarding the gastronomic culture. In Sunduroy we had the opportunity to go hiking on a trail that crosses the island from north to south which gave us the opportunity to appreciate that land in all its beauty.

In the northern islands the climate becomes more rigid and is characterized by strong cold winds that can cause sudden climatic changes, an aspect to take into consideration especially if you’re hiking. There we explored Slaeteranditur, the highest mountain in the archipelago, with its 900m high, from which we could see the typical Nordic landscapes of these areas that always hide a certain magic, especially from this point of view. Still in this area, we climbed another mountain, Tjornuvik-Saksun, 500-600m high; there we visited one of the rare rustic and ancient villages of these islands.

In this area, we were accompanied by a local guide, Johannush of Vagar, a 30 year old guy who works for the tourism development of the Faroe islands. We embarked with him on a journey through the traditions of the place, starting from the famous flocks of Faroese sheep. These sheep are mainly used for their meat and wool. During our excursions, we had the opportunity to help finding a mutton that had been freed for the period of reproduction, pushing it with our drone to return to the valley and with the rest of the flock, avoiding the mutton to get lost and die because of the cold. Another important tradition, now less practiced, is the capture of the Fulgur, a type of bird of the albatross family that nests on the coasts of the islands. This particular technique involves the use of a large screen, a particular speed and a certain ability to stay in balance. The Faroese coasts, as well as the hinterland, are home to a large number of bird species, making the islands an excellent destination for ornithology enthusiasts.

We will never forget how rich in nature such a limited space can be. The emotions and experiences lived on the Faroe islands were unique, also thanks to its inhabitants, who although at first they may seem a little cold, over time reveal a strong convivial spirit fueled by a great love for the land they live in.

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