The Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands - population 49.000 - is one of the smallest nations in the world. It consists of 18 rocky islands in the middle of the North Atlantic. Their position is approximately 602 km west of Norway and 310 km northwest of Scotland. This tiny country, which formed during the Tertiary and got its characteristic profile in the Glacial Age, rests on a gigantic underwater mountain range, reaching from Scotland to Greenland.
The once volcanic islands have a total area of 1400 square km. The landscape is marked by horizontal basaltic layers that form terraces and ledges on slopes and mountain-sides - and shelves in the perpendicular coasts, which serve as nesting places for millions of sea birds and as footpaths for undaunted and omnipresent flocks of sheep.
Presumably, the country was discovered in the 8th century and colonialized in the 9th century by Vikings from Norway or Norse colonies on the British or Irish isles.
Up until the 20th century the Faroe Islands were very much isolated from the outside world. The inhabitants led their own lives in close contact with the magnificent nature of the islands. The sea, abounding in fish, and strong treacherous currents in the fiords and passages, which partition the country, have marked the outlook and the living conditions of the people throughout centuries. The isolation contributed towards the preservation of old traditions and is responsible for the remarkable buoyancy of old cultural traits in modern day life.
Sun, wind and showers
It is hard to imagine a place in the inhabitable world where daily life is influenced by the climate to such an extent as in the Faroe Islands. To every decision or plan the Faroese make, they have to add a cautious: "allowing for weather". The weather can best be characterized as enormously changeable. During the course of one day you can experience snow, sunshine and rain, wind and calm weather, thick fog and such atmospheric clarity that mountains in the distance of 50 km seems to be right in front of you.
Today, the economically most important part of the Faroe Islands is the one hidden in the depths of the sea. Valuable resources are to be found here, which can only be detected with echo sounders and sonar instruments. With fishing limits being extended to 200 nautical miles, this area is reserved for the Faroese.
Parliament and government
The Faroese parliament, Løgting, is probably the oldest in Europe. On the historic promontory Tinganes, which divides the capital Tórshavn in two parts, the Løgting was founded over 1000 years ago. The Faroese self-rule is administrated by the Løgting and the government, which is appointed by the Løgting. The Danish state is represented by an "Rigsombudsmand". The Faroe Islands are not a member of the European Union.
The Faroese language belongs to the Nordic language group. It is closely related to Icelandic and certain Norwegian dialects, but has developed its own characteristics. Through the centuries it has unified the small nation. A rich epic-lyrical and narrative tradition, in combination with the isolation of the small villages, has been the decisive factor for the preservation of the language.
The name Faroe Islands means sheep islands, and rightly so. The visitor will meet with sheep everywhere, from the mountain-top to the coast. In the spring sheep are in some places lowered onto completely inaccessible precipices where there is plenty of grass. They are allowed to stay there for the summer and grow big and fat. Come autumn they are hoisted up for slaughter.