Sometimes, it’s just about being alone. In the open countryside, in close communion with nature. Our valley. No cars, no dress code, no meetings. Instead: the vast heavens and the evermore whispering sound of winds, creating a universal feeling of togetherness, even though no one is around. Later that afternoon: Friends and a hot wine punch by the fire. What more could a heart desire?
Taking a walk, to a place where lake and ocean meet, alongside the largest lake of the Faroe Islands, called Leitisvatn or Sørvágsvatn. Size 3.4 square kilometers, located on the island Vágar. It makes sense, since it’s not a smart idea to go hiking in the mountains at this time of year (the hare hunting season takes place, annually from 2 November to 31 December). Therefore, Leitisvatn is a good choice. The amazing cliff in the background of the picture is Trælanípa. And before we turn round and go back the same way that day, we will reach Bøsdalafossur, a 30 meter vertical drop, the famous waterfall flowing directly into the North Atlantic. A peaceful scenery bathed in purple winter light.
This time round, it’s exactly two events that motivated me to come up with the following blog entry. First: I finished watching Netflix’ gothic horror series „The Haunting of Hill House“. Second: calendar date, suggesting that many people around the globe are currently preparing for next week’s Halloween. Fog of anxiety, supernatural powers and the relinquishment of logic. That’s all very well, but when it comes to getting the creeps, I also prefer the old-fashioned way. Like: stepping outside and stepping right into a creepy gothic gray scenery. Premise: being in the Faroe Islands, and fitting weather conditions. For the rest: All you have to do is use your imagination.
The shot above features our village and boat houses in pale October light. Legend has it that Marmennilin, a mischievous merman with long fingers, human shape but smaller, lived right here in Elduvík, on the bottom of the sea, they say. Now, that’s an odd thing. Didn’t I just catch sight of wet footprints leading towards the triangle-shaped shed at center? The haunting of boat house! Strange, though, no trace of wet footprints as I check my pictures afterwards.
Puzzling. Another nasty deed of the marmennilin, as far as I’m concerned. An unpleasant fellow who used to bully all the fishermen by stealing bait and messing around with hand-lines and fishhooks. Anfinn the farmer managed to get hold of the marmennilin in legend, until such time as the merman escaped again. Where to? My guess: bottom of the bay and boat house. The merman’s vacation rental: most probably located on the curvy road Oyndarfjarðarvegur, a place I named „The dark lake“, correct name Á Klettum, a remote spot enveloped in weird, ghostlike light.
Just for the record: While Halloween in the Faroes is far from being as big as it is, for example, in the US, it’s slowly becoming more popular. Therefore, My Faroe Islands, Anja’s blog, decided to present an appropriate bonus picture. A Halloween classic. Fog. In this particular case: The village of Bøur on the island Vágar in misty conditions.
If everything goes according to plan, a marmennilin statue will be set up in our village Elduvík next year. Further information on the legend, the mischievous merman and the project: Marmennilin
“You are looking for Sverri? Down there, that’s his house. Park your car in my driveway and follow the narrow path. That’s the shortest way.“ No sooner said than done. The second I walk towards the back of the old house, I know that something doesn’t add up – for whatever reason. Soon, I’ll find out. Within the private home, Sverri Steinhólm is about to pour home-made pancake batter into hot iron pans. “Welcome to Uppi í Beiti“, he says – loosely translated: welcome to a place that’s called “up at the pasture“; where the cows were grazing in the olden days.
Uppi í Beiti, a turf house with walls made of giant rocks and wood, located in Viðareiði on the island Viðoy, the northernmost of the Faroes. A village (about 350 inhabitants) built on an isthmus, high mountains both to the north and the south, linked to the regional center Klaksvík by tunnels and a causeway.
An old farmhouse? Too vague. Because it’s actually two houses we are in, one part dating back to 1890, the other to 1926. That’s the impression I got but couldn’t put into words when I walked towards the back of the house in the first place: slightly nonparallel floors and walls. And with that said, we are right in the middle of our story featuring Sverri and his wife Armgarð. Preserving culture, tradition and history: That’s what it’s all about.
This summer, Sverri the pastor poured 200 liters of home-made pancake batter into his small iron pans. For guests, when Uppi í Beiti turned into a unique five-week-pop-up-café. That’s how Sverri spent his summer vacation. Running a café, collecting money, in order to be able to persistently restore the building(s), accurate in every detail.
During the week, Armgarð is the head of the infrastructure department of Landsverk, the Faroese institution that consults, plans, carries out, runs and maintains main roads, harbors, buildings and helipads. In her spare time, she carefully sands 128-year-old window frames. Tórshavn is their main residence, Uppi í Beiti their second home, the place Sverri and Armgarð want to live in one day, once they retire.
Vestiges of the past everywhere. A dictionary of foreign words, published in September 1837. A 1869-bible. Also old ropes, tools, buoys and a bird-catching net in the former roykstova. In olden days: the room without a ceiling board and with a smoke hole in the roof ridge; where the hearth (grúgva) was situated. Shortly after, we are sitting at table, having cake, whipped cream and delicious pancakes made by Sverri.
He grew up in Toftir on the island Eysturoy, with 6 sisters and 4 brothers. In the beginning, he worked as a fisherman and ship’s cook for many years – then he went back to high school and college in the mid-eighties, studied theology in Copenhagen and became a pastor of Fólkakirkjan, the Faroese Evangelical Lutheran Church.
How come? “I’ve always been strongly rooted in faith. But then I had a car accident. Which meant three months in hospital. Broken legs, broken back. I had plenty of time to think. I decided that I wanted to do something meaningful, something that helps and serves others.“ Tórshavn cathedral, hospital, prison: As a pastor, Sverri meets „all those who are sorely in need.“ His additional mission in his free time: preserving Uppi í Beiti. The old farmhouse in Viðareiði that’s actually two houses. Before I leave, I’ll take a few more pictures. This time, in front of the house. As clear as day. Floors and walls: nonparallel. Two doors. And worthy of preservation.
POP-UP CHRISTMAS CAFÉ: Sverri will have another pop-up café at Uppi í Beiti. This time, the house will turn into a cozy Christmas café. The dates are: 23 - 25 November. 30 November - 2 December. And 7 - 9 December. All days: open from 1 in the afternoon to 7 in the evening. Hot and cold beverages, pancakes, Christmas almond cream rice pudding, sweet biscuits and much more. Guests can also bake cookies. Details and booking via Uppi í Beiti on Facebook.
The house is a private home and so far not available for vacation rental. All the same, companies or private persons willing to genuinely support the preservation work are welcome to contact Sverri via Uppi í Beiti Facebook.
A slice of heaven. Oh please, can I keep it?, he said. First, I didn’t have an answer. Then I said: It’s a rainbow. It will vanish. You can’t keep it. But don’t worry. It’s the Faroe Islands. It won’t be long until you see the next one. Ælabogin, the rainbow. That day, building a magical bridge between the villages Hellur and Oyndarfjørður (left) on Eysturoy.
Two schoolboys, jeans, jackets, sneakers, sitting face to face, table by the window, rhythmically swinging their legs, eagerly playing around with their drinking straws. Room: walls and ceiling covered with wood paneling. Furnishing: lime green sofa corner, checked retro floor lamp, museum piece-like map of the world, large chalkboard, more wooden chairs and tables, people sinking into vintage armchairs. The old school of Hvannasund, having turned into a super cozy café for some time past, lavishly decorated with handcrafted products. Music playing: Frank Sinatra’s ‘The Lady Is a Tramp’.
A few steps away, in Hvannasund harbor, the ferry puts out to sea and sets course for the outer islands Svínoy and Fugloy. Inside the Cafe Old School, Myrna Lind Jacobsen unwaveringly heads for the next table, takes the orders, cuts chocolate cake, brews beverages and serves freshly baked waffles, whipped cream and home-made rhubarb jam. Together with Hallgerð Akurstein, Signa Ellebye, a few other local women and some local teenagers, Myrna – coincidentally a teacher – runs the Cafe Old School. Voluntary work. Only the young get a little bit of money for the commitment. A unique café as the result of a municipality competition in search of a new utilization concept for a former village schoolhouse.
Stirring my tasty coffee, ensconcing myself in a ruby-red armchair, looking around. Right here, in 1983, local kids attended class for the very last time. Afterwards: Different types of use. Office. Bible study. Kid’s playroom. Daycare moms’ “hangout“. Here and now: most well-liked meeting place, popular among well-informed tourists and villagers.
“The locals are glad about the café, and they are proud of it“, Myrna tells me. At her school, the Skúlin á Fossánesi in Norðdepil on the other side of the sound, she teachers i.a. math, geography and Danish. The connecting dam road between Hvannasund (located on the island Viðoy) and Norðdepil (located on the island Borðoy)? Construction work. “The dam road was built in 1974“, Myrna says. “Before that, anyone who wanted to cross the sound had to row. Children on their way to school included, in all weathers, a lot of times using one oar only, because of extremely strong currents. That’s what my parents told me.“
In connection with my visit, Myrna sends me several pictures afterwards, one of them being a black and white shot, showing a man and a woman, both sartorially dressed, at a certain place. Myrna’s note: “My grandmother’s brother and his wife. The picture is from the late 50s or early 60s.“ Clearly visible in the background of the photograph, at center: what is now a café and stage for experienced boys’ drinking straw artistry that day – the old school of Hvannasund.
The café on Facebook: Cafe Old School. Sundsvegur 31, Hvannasund, currently open from one thirty pm to half past five every day. Last day of this year’s summer season: Sunday, 30 September 2018. If everything goes according to plan, the café will be open again at Christmas time. Local history footnote: Over the decades, the local school has either been located in Hvannasund or Norðdepil.
The kind of picture taking that leaves damp and dirt on your camera lens, pics and video footage efficiently adorned with sea spray and tenacious salt water drops, an occurrence that starts with brilliant image sharpness and ends in shaky fuzziness. How it's done? Like that: Being onboard a Faroese fishing boat, waters between Kalsoy and the northern tip of Eysturoy, heading for Gjógv.
Take a look: The red ball of wool on the map below, that’s us. We have already been sailing through the waters of Funningsfjørður, as you can plainly see, passing this spot called Múlin (close to the little ruby red wool fiber boat position mark on the map). Status so far: camera fine. Pictures clockwise: map showing i.a. Kalsoy and the northern part of Eysturoy, the village of Gjógv as seen from our vessel and the rock formation of Múlin.
A little later, so to say around the stony „corner“ Múlin, that’s when the real fun begins. All of a sudden the kind of sea I like – the one in motion. Wind, waves, sun, straddle-legged fisherman at work posture and an all-embracing feeling of happiness. Sea foam on my camera lens? You bet. Also a thick, compelling salt water spot clouding the video footage. Another and yet another. Frankly speaking? At such a moment. Who cares!
Boat and waves in motion video link: https://vimeo.com/287693803