It's Saturday. At the end of June, the afternoon goes with the night, both sprinkled by a small rain that, falling from low and dark clouds, leaves us confused as to how much the day is going.
We came from a good half-hour to appreciate and photograph the houses, the port and the scenery that surrounds Tórshavn, from a half-slope of the mountain that closes it to the northwest, the Húsareyn.
From there, close to the Foroyar Hotel that welcomed us, the city stretched down the verdant hillside, dotted with black roofs and facades of all colors that fitted the harbor's walled redoubt.
The blue sea channel of Nólsoyarfjordur separated the capital from Nólsoy, an elongated island that once freed itself from Streymoy, the one we were exploring, the largest of the eighteen that make up the Faroe archipelago.
We are tired of contemplating the heights. Hill after hill, We descend towards the urban heart of Tórshavn. As soon as we arrived at the entrance to the pedestrian street Niels Finsens Gota, the city that, from a distance, seemed to us an anesthetizing subarctic scene, shuddered with life.
Voxbotn's Drunken and Dark Music Festival
Voxbotn, a favorite music festival for Faroese youth, was taking place. A crowd dressed in black, blond and, for the most part, drunk shared shouts, hugs and other expressions of euphoria that clashed with the usual tranquility of the Faroes and the city.
They were excited by the ceremonial evasion of the event. And the semi-metallic rap rhythm of Swangah Dangah, a house duo, was almost all proud of, as a contemporary, irreverent standard of the Faroese nation, subject of the Danish monarchy, although, since 1948, autonomous and self-governing.
The anthem of the Faroe Islands is entitled “You alfagra land mitt", something like "You My Beautiful Land”. The Faroese are well aware of how special their archipelago is, a place of surreal scenery like the Sorvagsvatn of Vagar as they are aware of the historical protagonism that Tórshavn has preserved from the time of the remote foundation.
On other occasions, with Voxbotn already closed, on sunny days, we explore the heart of the capital from one end to the other: the old cathedral – the second oldest church in the archipelago – and the Bryggiubakki street blessed by it. Below, the Undir Bryggjubakka waterfront.
And separating them is a sequence of three-story wooden buildings and attic fronts lined by the Vestaravág marina, the western half of the port, almost always filled with sailboats, speedboats and other smaller vessels.
With the weather already out to sea, we find everything mirrored in the same colors and in perfection on the dark, icy and immobile water of that northern stronghold of the North Atlantic.
Hike to Skansapakkhusid Dead End
We continue along Undir Bryggjubakka. Reaching the extreme, we find the tip of Tinganes, the “tip of the parliament” of Tórshavn and the genesis of the nationality of the Faroees, arising from ancestral Viking democracies such as that of Thingvelir.
Today, it stands out from the rest of the city for the uniformity of white (on the bases), red (above, to the roofs) and green (on the roofs) of its secular buildings.
At the front of the architectural ensemble, on a prominent rock slab, an undulating flag impinges on those who reach intense faroesity of the place.
The first inhabitants of the Faroes may even have been Celts from Ireland or Scotland, hermits from those parts, as the Irish monk Dicuil confirmed in his work. Measuring orbis terrae. It is known, however, that around the XNUMXth century, the Vikings arrived and colonized a large part of the archipelago.
It was the norm among the Vikings to found the Parliament of the colony in an uninhabited place, in order to guarantee its political neutrality.
When they established it in Tinganes, in 850 AD, they built one of the oldest assemblies (Ting) on the face of the Earth, even older than the one in Iceland (Thingvellir), this one dated from 930 AD. And they also laid the political basis for the evolution of Thorshavn.
King Olaf, the Christianization of the Faroe Islands and the Viking Decline
Around 1035, the era of Viking discovery and conquest came to an end, dictated by the Christianization imposed by King Olav who, in the Faroes, washed ashore in Kirkjubour, by the forced abandonment of the colony of Vinlândia – on the current east coast of Canada (Newfoundland).
And for resounding military defeats, those of the battles of Stiklestad in which Olavo perished and others on British soil, those of Stamford Bridge and Hastings.
In Torshavn, the ting of Tinganes gave way to a casual market that developed until, in 1271, the Norwegian Crown turned it into an important trading post that traded permanently with Bergen, on the west coast of Norway.
Even so, remote Torshavn's development proved slow. At the turn of the XNUMXth century, there were only one hundred and one inhabitants in the village.
They were farming families, their servants, shopkeepers, government officials, and dozens of workers from other parts who, landless, flocked to the city, hoping to find work.
Tórshavn: From Tragedies to Prosperity
Life in Tórshavn was clearly improving, but unforeseen calamities held back progress.
In 1673, Thor, the god of war and thunder that inspires the city's name, decided to make his own. Without knowing exactly how, a magazine full of gunpowder exploded and spread a fire that destroyed many of the houses and buildings that had been built until then.
Already under the Danish Crown, in 1709, the trading post of Tórshavn began to serve a royal monopoly based in Copenhagen.
As a result of this benefit, the village was already home to three hundred inhabitants, but an epidemic of smallpox ravaged it. Less than fifty inhabitants will have survived.
However, the status of port of the Royal Monopoly attracted new residents and traders.
During the XNUMXth century, Tórshavn recovered at a good pace.
To the point of becoming a Nordic city worthy of the name, with its warehouses overflowing with goods that, by mid-century, could already be traded with all available and viable ports, not just those predefined by the Danish monarchy.
With time and the consolidation of the capital to its 21.200 inhabitants today – a third of the Faeroe Islands – the administrative peninsula of Tinganes has evolved.
Until it became the current urbanistic unit, the one because, we continued to circle, in absolute historical fascination.
Out of nowhere, three young friends, dressed in black as the city's youth fashion dictates, burst through the small peninsula opposite the one occupied by the Faroese flag, with the bows of the boats from the local shipyard and the silvery backlight of the sea in the background.
In the opposite direction, the well-lit one, two friends chatter and put their vitamin D levels in order, on a bench set against the stone backdrop of one of the state buildings.
We went up to the urbanized top of the promontory. We cross a small tunnel, enter the complex of buildings, some of them over five hundred years old.
Without haste, we learn about its configuration and functions. And we feel the peaceful life of the place flowing airy by the sea breeze.
Tinganes, the Political and Historical Core of Tórshavn
The building at the absolute end of the Skansapakkhusid peninsula, most exposed to the sea and the elements, was once the old fort of Skansapakkasini. And it is, today, the Lögtingid, the main building of the Faroese government, represented graphically by a ram with its tongue sticking out.
Inland, with its typical and picturesque grass roofs, is followed by the old Portugalid, a former prison and guard house. Nearby are the Munkastovan, a monastery where masses were held, and the adjacent Leigubudin, a royal warehouse.
Human movement is tenuous on these sides. Two men pass by, one in a suit and tie, which is unusual in the city, so we estimate that they head to the Lögtinget (Logting). We also came across some Danish holiday visitors. When the Reynagardur lags behind, the uniformity of red and green ends.
Right there, nestled between the white wall and her enchanting black house with a peat and grass roof, a lady takes care of her ground floor garden.
We proceeded to the base of Skansapakkhusid, through alleys and alleys. Without expecting it, we found the cathedral again. Before returning to Undir Bryggjubakka and pedestrian Niels Finsens Gota, we take a last look at the port's eastern sector, the Eystaravág.
From there, a fleet of young Viking descendants put rowboats into the sea, set sail down the peninsula, skirt the rocky tip and the flag of their nation and embark on a playful but committed navigation along the ferry route that connects Tórshavn to the island of Nólsoy.
Barbara's Legend, the “Barbara Fish House” and Other Gastronomic Experiences
In the meantime, far from dark, the day arrived at the time agreed to in these northern parts for dinner. With a table marked, we return to the old quarter at the base of Skansapakkhusid, arranged around a key artery, the Gongin.
We give entrance to the restaurant “Barbara Fish House”, installed in another of the many traditional peat-roofed houses in the area.
More than just sitting down for a gastronomic experience, we had inaugurated a new incursion into the past of the Faroe Islands.
In such an emblematic way that Jorgen-Frantz Jacobsen, a Faroese writer, made the narrative that inspired the restaurant's baptism one of his most famous works”.
The novel's plot takes place in the XNUMXth century. Recovers "Beinta and Peder Arrheboe” one of the famous Faroe.
Barbara she is the widow of two Protestant parish priests, seen by much of the community as responsible for their deaths. When the ship “Fortuna” docks, brings on board a new parish priest named Poul. Once landed, Poul is told about Barbara's past. Even so, he falls in love with the woman.
Barbara is interested in Poul but gives in to other men, sailors arriving on boats from far away. Barbara and Poul marry, but Barbara falls in love with Andreas and leaves with him. Andreas is confronted by Poul and is persuaded to leave for Copenhagen without Barbara.
The story ends with Barbara's despair trying to reach the “Fortuna”, in vain, already after the ship had sailed towards the Danish capital.
Between meals at other restaurants, at the “Barbara Fish House”, we ate a Fiskasuppa, Torskur and Jákupsskeljar: fish soup, with cod and scallops. Also an Oda, a pickled horse mussel.
The wine menu had Spanish, French and some Portuguese wines. We asked for an Alvarinho which the waiter, meticulous but unable to work miracles with regard to Portuguese, presents us as coming from Melgago instead of Melgaço.
We laughed a little between ourselves. Just enough to relax from the Faroese photographic frenzy that the endless days of the arctic summer intensified.
Nearly two and a half hours later, with the slow twilight beginning to blue Tórshavn and all the south of the island of Streymoy, we retreated to shelter almost at the top of Foroyar Mountain.
Several days, several Faroese islands neighboring Streymoy would follow. case of Kalsoy, with its remote Kallur lighthouse.