The airport at Reykjavik is tiny. The plane that I board here is tiny. The length of the flight to the Faroe Islands is tiny. Everything except my luggage is tiny and easy to navigate.
As my plane approaches the Faroe Islands, it filters in and out of thick clouds, and I catch quick glimpses of green and blue when it does. It lands on the island of Vágur (pronounced Vah-oo-er, I think), smack dab in the middle of an otherwise grassy, wind-blown pasture filled with grazing, unaware sheep. There is no gate waiting, so I take the stairs outside to breathe in my first breath of the freshest air I might ever encounter. Grassy cliffs and fog hang in every direction around me. A light mist spits from the sky. Though I’ve spent long weeks planning this trip, I’ve never seen anything like this place in my research or life. I quickly accept that it is incomparable and brace for beauty.
I have plans to stay at an Airbnb in Torshavn, the world’s smallest national capital city, so I make my way to the island of Streymoy (Stray-moy) where it is. My drive winds around uninterrupted mounds of green, while clouds swallow the ends of roads whole right in front of me. When it rains here, water cascades down the sides of hills in a million tiny waterfalls, and I witness this phenomenon firsthand. Sheep hang at the edges of cliffs and gather at the corners of the main road. Clusters of tiny villages appear and disappear just as quickly. Takk pours through my rental car speakers. I am here and I am wondering how these tiny islands have always gone on existing without me.
Torshavn charms me. Most of the homes I pass are monochromatic black and white with surprising pops of color (like yellow painted doors and bright red benches). Grassy roofs wave hello in the wind, kindly welcoming me.
The first Faroese man I meet is Flemming. He is blue-vested and beaming. I’ll make his (bright/minimalistic/clean-lined/comfortable) house (with a view!) my home this week. He asks with genuine curiosity why I chose the Faroe Islands over any other country on the planet, and I still haven’t quite found the words to match my enthusiasm. He gets it, though, because he moved here from Denmark twenty years earlier for the same reason.
Flemming leaves me to explore the tiny city, and I make my way to a local grocery store and the SMS (the main shopping center of the islands). I’m captivated by how foreign all of the products here feel to me. Even familiar foods have slightly different English names. The cashier calls out totals in the thousands, and I pretend to feel less than floored every time I hear her do it.
The sun has long been set and most shops are now closed, but I still pass pairs of people and a few buzzing lights as I captain the city streets. It’s not long before I find a takeaway pizza restaurant with yellow walls, dangling Christmas lights, and an uncanny sentiment of the Chicago suburbs where I grew up. If not for the rocking harbor down the street and Nordic accents behind the counter, I’d be afraid that I hadn’t made it past Orland Park, IL.
I test my memory and find my way back home. I feel safe here. In that safety, I quickly find sleep.
When I wake up, I’m chock-full of plans. First on my agenda is Kvivik. More specifically, igloos. It’s not hard to spot them from the road, and it’s not hard to spend too much time examining them from every angle. The only thing that’s hard is talking myself down from building one in my head.
Vestmanna is next, and it’s not far. (Most of the Faroese destinations I have planned are within an hour’s driving distance.) Here, I board a boat tour and head for the bird cliffs. I see my first puffin, and my next forty, as well as my first Faroese elephant: a rock formation resembling a green elephant (I love that). When I return to shore, I survey the rest of the town and press on towards Saksun, the last village on my list of Streymoy stops.
It’s more than lightly raining now, and I follow a one-lane road that feeds between two mountains. I pass seemingly wild horses, and equally liberated fishermen. I know what I am looking for, but am dumbfounded when I happen upon it.
In the rolling fog at the end of my route, lay a white, grass-roofed church at the edge of the world. It’s surrounded by a moat of mud, but I’m soaked, freezing, and unfazed. I step in and out of puddles, jacket wrecked, until I reach the brim. I’m alive. I’m keenly aware of it. There is no place like this on earth.