Monday, August 20, 2012

Denmark diary - day 6

We thought we might manage a last morning walk around Copenhagen, but of course we moved too slowly. We did have breakfast in the hotel for the one and only time – even though it’s free, we'd never made it down there – and it was a good array of stuff too. Then we left for the airport and easily caught our flight to the Faroe Islands at 12.30. It’s fun occasionally to head to a virtually random destination, and that’s what this is – we decided our trip should include somewhere that would provide a contrast with Copenhagen, but since that basically could mean anywhere else in Denmark, it’s largely chance that brought us to this one. It’s largely because of the seeming oddness of the place – a cluster of islands, occupied by fewer than 50,000 people, closer to the Shetlands than to the Danish mainland…it seemed like somewhere that few non-Danes would ever visit. Ironically though, when I emailed a friend in Britain that we were going to the Faroes, he replied back that he’d also been there, on a cruise, and just last year. This instantly made it seem a little bit less adventurous. And then as soon as we got here we saw Rick Whiler walking down the street…no, I’m joking on that (at least for today)…

The flight was just two and a quarter hours (we gained an hour on the time zone though), and with surprisingly good food (you’d be happy to be served those meatballs anywhere), although we had to sit separately, because the plane was full of mostly elderly people, apparently belonging to a tour group. As soon as we got off the flight we knew we were in a different climate – several degrees colder, and with a pervasive mist. We took the bus into the largest town, Torshavn, about 50km away – a journey painted almost completely in green and observed mainly by sheep, taking us through one very long tunnel and past various small communities of no particular beauty. The bus dumped us at a terminal, where a map of the city indicated, a bit troublingly, that our hotel was far away from everything else – fortunately, there was a taxi station close by to get us there. Our initial impression of the hotel was a bit uncertain though – it seemed more than nice (very long and flat), with possibly the best amenities on the island (which is likely why we’d booked it, not that we really remember), but far away from everything else and shrouded in fog, we couldn’t help wondering if we’d made the wisest choice…Ally mentioned The Shining, which is the worst movie for a hotel ever to allow to enter the mind of a guest (later she said the reference wasn’t really justified, but I don’t know – long hallways, a sense of pervasive isolation, a crazy husband, it’s not so unfair...)

Anyway, we walked into town (supposedly the hotel provides grand sweeping views of the whole landscape, but in this fog we’d have settled for a grand view of our feet), which takes about twenty minutes, initially down a little footpath and then through a series of residential streets. When we got there, it added a bit to our concern – since there didn’t seem to be much of a there, just a lot of boats and a few bewildered people wandering round, presumably in much the same state as ourselves. But then we went round a corner and found some more activity, albeit still not much. The town is quite handsome in spurts, with some buildings bearing moss-coloured roofs and others painted in striking colours, but it’s very modest.

Anyway, we explored the downtown to some extent, including a little lighthouse on the edge of it, and then randomly set off walking for a while. Again, we saw more sheep than people, although they are quite handsome sheep, often with impressive horns, and it seems that each sheep is carefully allocated a generous amount of space, and maybe its own little wooden structure. Actually, in the prevalence of sheep, as well as in the appearance of the landscape and the particular kind of freshness of the air (sheep tinged), it reminded me of nowhere as much as the part of rural Wales where I grew up, although little as was going on in Torshavn today, it was still more than was generally going on in Wales. It was all quite mysterious though – we’d come in on a full flight, and not the only one that day, so presumably there must be plenty of visitors around (not to mention 48,000 residents), but I guess they were all hanging upside down in their closets. And the fog never lifted – as I write this, I have no idea what might lie outside the hotel window.

The sheer wackiness of it all became quite entertaining to us, so we were in a good mood as we walked back. The walk got pretty tough though as we entered the final stretch, so I don’t think we’ll be doing that too much at night after a big meal and some wine. It being Sunday, the hotel restaurant was closed today, but it has a bar/cafe open until midnight so we decided to eat there. Initially it was a bit stark, just the two of us and one other guest in a big space, but then as time went on it also became very entertaining. Our waitress, who eventually admitted it was her first night, was beautiful and stylish but also inept and careless, and after a while spent all her time staring out of the window and waiting for her boyfriend to come and get her, regardless of whether we might have had any further requests. At around 10 pm, the hotel experienced a strange peak of arrivals, which they were ill-equipped to process quickly – our guess is that there’s some corporate meeting tomorrow (they must love the manager who came up with that idea). And outside, it just got darker and foggier. When we were done (and had duly signed for our bill, not that they would have noticed if we hadn't) we went outside and walked a short way, and it didn’t take much for the hotel to be reduced to an abstract patch of light, which left us feeling as close to nowhere as we would ever likely be – out in the Atlantic on a barely material dot of land, with our only coordinates engulfed by the night. But of course, as long we we have wireless Internet, then we must be somewhere..

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