This past week, I traveled with my class to the Faroe Islands. If I had to choose a motto to describe the trip, I’d say “expect the unexpected.” Nordic Culinary Culture is a new course this summer, so the Study Tour to the Faroe Islands was also new. This meant that sometimes things didn’t go perfectly to plan on the trip – but that sure kept things interesting! While we were there, we learned that unpredictability is something Faroese people have grown accustomed to. The weather changes many times throughout the day, sometimes drastically, and can vary greatly from one island to another. One of the locals we visited told us that sometimes one might invite a friend to come over at 2:00, but if the weather’s bad they might just show up 3 hours late, and that’s totally okay!
We got to try a lot of Faroese traditional food, which is quite unique. Not many plants can grow in the Faroe Islands (there are no trees!), so historically their diet relied heavily on proteins, fats, and the few root vegetables they are able to grow. Specifically, dried/fermented sheep meat, whale meat and blubber, seabirds, fish, and potatoes were staples. Those traditional ingredients are still very present in their food culture today, especially outside the capital of Tórshavn.
Tórshavn, where our hotel was located, is the largest “city” in the Faroe Islands, with a population of 7,000. The total population of the Faroe Islands is 50,000. I underestimated how small and remote a place like this would feel. We visited many villages that have less than 20 inhabitants, including one called Gásadalur. Before a tunnel through the mountainside was built in 2006, the people of Gásadalur had to hike two and a half hours each way up and down the mountainside to reach a harbor where they could fish or a larger village where they could buy other goods.
Photos of the Faroe Islands really don’t do them justice. Everywhere we visited, the first word that came to mind was always “unreal.” For our Study Tour journals, one of the questions our instructor, Jonatan, wanted us to answer was whether the Faroe Islands remind us of any other place we are familiar with. My answer to that question was a resounding “no” – the Faroe Islands are unlike any place I have ever experienced before. If anything, the landscape reminded me of something out of a fairytale or a fantasy movie.
The remarkable beauty of the islands made our “struggles” there worth it. We hiked for nearly five hours up and down a mountain – quite the task – but were rewarded with views more beautiful than anything I could have ever dreamed up myself. And after surviving several hours on an old sailing vessel in the freezing, pouring rain, we were (literally) tossed into a dinghy, in which we headed into a magnificent cave in the side of one of the islands. Once inside, one of the crew members played a somber tune on the trumpet, while we enjoyed the temporary reprieve from the punishing rain (and seasickness). It was an experience and a feeling I will probably never forget.
One of the most satisfying things of the trip was tasting the hot meal the captain prepared for us after our boat trip, fresh fish (which I helped scale and fillet) with onion, garlic, and potatoes. He prepared all kinds of other seafood for us to try as well – including sea urchin. Having such fresh seafood was amazing; in my Study Tour journal, I described the food the captain prepared for us as the most memorable “taste experience” of the trip.
Anyway, that’s all for now. I’m already so sad that my time with DIS is coming to an end soon – it has truly been the summer of a lifetime. Vit síggjast! (That means “see you later” in Faroese!)