Monday, August 20, 2012

Denmark diary - day 7

We woke up late again today. I don’t think I’m exaggerating in saying I’ve never had such a series of late-rising days. Even when I initially wake up earlier, I just lie there and drift, instead of forcing myself to get moving as I usually do. Of course, vacations are meant to be different, but I usually resist that aspect of the difference. Anyway, we got out of the hotel by 11 am, so that's something, and then walked into town to check things out further – again finding more shops and restaurants than we did at first, although not that much more actual people - and to visit the information centre. A little coffee place has a photo outside of a visiting Bill Clinton, who made a speech here in 2007 – ever obliging, he posed for lots of pictures and said the coffee was great. Even more surprising perhaps is that Elton John played a gig here in 2010 – it seems he sometimes just likes picking quirky locations (the proof being that not long afterwards he played Hamilton, Ontario). We got the information we needed and set out to walk to the village of Kirkjubour, 11 km away. The trail is supposedly easy to find, but we had trouble locating the start of it and spent lots of time just wandering up and down different streets. Even worse, once we were on the trail, and heading into the fields, we rapidly lost track of it (it's meant to be marked by stone cairns, but maybe someone flattened the all-important ones at the start): we spent time trudging in two different directions, realizing each time that this couldn’t be right and retracing our steps. In the end we found the right one – by this time it was well after 1 pm, and the fog was fairly thick. We weren’t really sure we’d manage to do 22 km there and back, but we decided to start out and see what happened. Fortunately we’d bought some sandwiches and some almond cookie type things so we were adequately supplied.

Anyway, we did manage to do the whole thing. Except for a bit of ascending/descending at either end, it was mostly a fairly easy walk through the craggy hills – we didn’t see any other walkers, only a lot of sheep and a few birds (but not that many birds - mostly just sheep), and a friendly sheepdog early on. We did have a few challenges – I had on some good boots, but my seen-better-days socks kept rolling down and bugging me; Ally was only wearing sandals, which weren’t entirely up to the muddy trail, and she tore her jeans on a fence. Happily, the fog lifted halfway through and allowed us some scenery, layers of green and blue rolling away from us, and a mysterious black mountain edging above its own protective mist like a surfacing whale. For all the boats tied up at Torshavn, we didn’t spot any in the sea, just a single ferry. We felt quite triumphant when we saw the village in the distance. It’s a small but very pretty place, a collection of maybe twenty houses, most of them painted black with red windows, many of them with living green roofs, and with a white church at the end of it all, overlooking the ocean. There’s no apparent commerce, except for one little building with a window display of dresses, only a few picnic tables. Two other people were exploring, but they’d arrived by car (losers!).

We sat there for a while, enjoying our achievement, and then headed back. The fog was thicker now, and most of the sheep had disappeared. It wasn’t raining, but the mist, blowing in from one direction, rendered one side of our hair and clothes dripping wet, while leaving the other side untouched. We came back at a pretty fast pace, considering, but once we’d left the trail and hit the Torshavn streets again, it all caught up with us, and we covered the last stretch in a distinctly stiff and creaky fashion. We decided to eat right away rather than take our usual break in the hotel, and went to the Hvonn brasserie, cited as one of the better eating places in town. In fact it was just one of those characterless places which tries to excel simply by offering just about everything you can think of, rather than by doing a few things well. This did seem to confirm though an impression we have of the Faroes, that their location doesn’t seem to entail any great material deprivation or lack of choice – for example, it seems to have as many car dealers as you’d expect to find in any comparably-sized mainland location, and probably more. On some islands you sense how the separation defines the people and their identity, giving their lives a particular rhythm and contour that doesn’t exist anywhere else, but we haven’t really picked that up here. Of course, after a mere day of hardly very extensive research, this may be an entirely vacuous train of thought.

Anyway, we split a pizza and a pasta and then headed back to the hotel, again moving very slowly up the steep trail. It seemed as unoccupied as last night, and just as shrouded in mist – we still have no idea what the surrounding landscape might look like. We abandoned any idea of spending more time in the bar, and so were done for the night by 8 pm, which doesn’t happen too often. But it was a massively satisfying day - funny how walking yourself to the verge of death works that way. I fell asleep almost immediately (that is, after getting my daily fix of Ozu on the webcam  - as usual, he was in his favourite spot on the platform, looking pretty content) but woke up later and wrote this diary while doing my usual web reviewing. Ally is now reading Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, which she’s tearing through at a champion pace. I haven’t watched any movies on the entire trip except for our visit to Weekend, which was a planned vacation activity rather than something I was doing to feed an addiction. Of course, you might say that only an addict would ever feel compelled to point out that he’s not an addict, and there’s little doubt I’ll be back to my one-a-day pace as soon as we get home. But for now it feels like a very cleansing and somehow principled kind of withholding. Anyway, given our planned schedule for tomorrow, I’m pretty sure there’ll again be no time for movies.

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