TORSHAVN (Faroe Islands)
More than 600 miles (nearly 1,000 kilometres) from Denmark’s west coast lie the Faroes, a triangle of eighteen windswept islands, seventeen of which are inhabited. Only 48,500 people plus some 70,000 sheep roam these remote lands. Much of the islands’ heritage reflects a medieval past, beginning with the arrival of farmers from western Norway who settled here in the 9th century. Evidence of this Scandinavian heritage is preserved through centuries of isolation; ancient structures can still be seen in villages clustered around old churches. Sheer cliffs and waterfalls carve Streymoy, the largest of the islands, where Torshavn is one of the world’s smallest capitals with about 12,400 inhabitants, plus another 5,000 living in the suburbs of Argir and Hoyvik. Visitors find interesting museums, churches, monuments and all the amenities of a modern town and thriving harbour here. The world’s oldest, still active parliament was founded in the Viking age. Today, it houses the main offices of the local government. Many of the attractions are found outside of Torshavn in the rugged beauty of Streymoy. There are fields with grazing ponies and sheep, tiny hamlets where residents live in half-timbered houses topped by green grass roofs, and dramatic rock formations. Birds by the thousands populate the craggy seaside cliffs, which make an ideal stopover for migratory gannets, guillemots and puffins. The Faroes' climate is generally wet and windy. Because of the Gulf Stream, the temperature is a good deal more moderate than the latitude might imply; it also helps to keep Faroe harbours ice-free year-round.