Culture and sightseeing Faroe Islands

Culture and sightseeing Faroe Islands

Secondary islands

The tiny mountainous island of Koltur (2,5 km²), floating southwest of the great Streymoy (where Tórshavn settled) is emblematic of the Faroese way of life. In the 4th century, at its peak, it had up to 2000 farms. There is only one left today, classified by the government in the year XNUMX. It testifies to the permanence of a way of life for more than a thousand years centered around sheep breeding, haymaking, of some food crops and artisan traditions.

Further south, between the big Sandoy and Suðuroy, float two other very small islands, even more rugged: Stóra Dímun (Stóra = the Great) and Lítla Dímun (Lítla = the Little One). They are both clad in cliffs all around! The first, accessible only by helicopter, is inhabited by some 80 puffins, 000 storm petrels, 30 sheep, a cow and… two brothers and sisters with their families (ie 000 people), heirs of eight generations of breeders! They also produce… turnips.

A few cables away, Lítla Dímun (0,82 km²) has only winged or four-legged residents… It is the only uninhabited island of the archipelago. To gather the sheep in the fall, you have to wait for unusually calm seas and use ropes moored to the cliffs to succeed in reaching the upper plateau ...
In general, about forty people participate in the maneuver. Once the sheep have been gathered in an enclosure, they are restrained and lowered onto the boats, five by five, using nets, before being transferred to a larger boat! Do they have sea legs? Mystery.


This is a damn central bug in Faroese culture! The first sheep were undoubtedly imported into the archipelago immediately after its colonization by the Vikings in the XNUMXth century. The climate, anyway, does not allow many other activities ... 

From the 1600th century, the Seyðabrævið regulated the breeding. Later, around 1860, the herds were wiped out by an unidentified disease and new animals had to be imported from Iceland, Shetlands and Orkney Islands. We have since realized that these new strains, more resistant and richer in meat, have completely taken over. The last of the dimunarseyðurin, the original sheep, was slaughtered in XNUMX on the island of Lítla Dímun (hence its name). His cousin from the Scottish island of St Kilda, lost in the middle of the Atlantic, is the last survivor of the breed.

Today the archipelago counts between 70 and 000 sheep. A golden horned ram (and armed with a red tongue!) Appears on the archipelago's coat of arms and another serves as the emblem of its main brand of beer. Of course, lamb figures (very) prominently on Faroese menus, in all its (funny) forms (see cuisine in the Faroe Islands).
And, to make itself better known, the tourist office had the idea, in 2016, to launch SheepView360 °. On the pretext of a lack of coverage of Faroese roads by Google Maps, sheep were equipped with a webcam powered by solar energy to broadcast images of the country live! The buzz has worked and Google Maps has landed ...


Ah, by the way, if you are wondering how Faroese mow the grass off their roofs, look no further ... Here, mowers have 4 legs.


Fishing (and, once, the seal hunt) has been essential to the survival of the Faroese throughout their history. But it was not until the end of the XNUMXth century, with the introduction of British schooners and smacks, that it took on a commercial dimension. 

The first naval school was established in 1893. For half a century, the islands experienced a real social revolution, marked by the growing involvement of women in canneries - even if the shipowners managed as long as possible not to pay them. than in goods ... 

La whaling, driven by the Norwegians from their seven Faroese bases, further contributed to development, as did the launch in the 1920s of a steamship company. It was now becoming almost easy to join or leave the archipelago. Many local sailors then joined the Danish merchant navy.

The maritime sector really exploded in the years 1950-60, with theintroduction of longliners and side fishing trawlers, which soon skimmed the seas of the world - beginning with the icy waters of Greenland and the banks of Newfoundland. The reduction in catches and the establishment in 1977 of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles, however, partially pushed the Faroese to regain their domestic waters, which they now defend tooth and nail against the appetites of Irish fishermen, French and, above all, Spanish! 

A fisheries agreement links the archipelago to the European Union, but the latter intends to continue to set its own quotas in its EEZ - a provision at the origin of much friction with Brussels (the most recent, in 2014, nicknamed the "herring war", saw Faroese ships banned to unload their catch in EU ports for one year…). One thing is certain: for the Faroes, when the fishing is good, everything is fine. And when the fishing doesn't go well, nothing goes ...

At the same time, more and more islanders are working for major shipping groups, on the oil rigs or in theaquaculture. The Bakkafrost company is today the 9th largest producer of farmed salmon in the world.


Incredible but true ... barbarians went back to the Faroe Islands! In the summer of 1629, two pirate ships plundered Hvalba, on the island of Suðuroy, and kidnapped more than XNUMX women and children. Unable to pay the amount of the ransom demanded, the islanders never saw their relatives again, sold as slaves in the markets of Constantinople. 

Little consolation, one of the two Turkish buildings sank in a storm, taking with it some 300 invaders. They were reportedly buried in the dunes of a beach now called Turkagravir. Two anchors, many cannonballs and several pieces of artillery were recovered, including 2 cannons installed at Fort Tórshavn (itself reinforced after the attack).

Even before this episode, many other pirates scoured the local waters, notably the Scotsman Klerck in 1579, which emptied the coffers of the archipelago ... In reaction, a certain Magnus heinason, son of a priest and merchant, turned into privateer with credentials from the King of Denmark to recover the royal assets and his ... His favorite targets: the pirate and English ships. Not white, the Faroese!

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