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Visiting the Faroe Islands

Visiting the Faroe Islands

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Old Aug 8, 16, 9:16 pm
  #31  
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And, finally, a hike down to the lagoon looking back at town:



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Old Aug 8, 16, 9:17 pm
  #32  
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After that, it was time to go clean up, put on some nice clothes, and head back down to Koks, easily the most upscale and expensive restaurant in the Faroes, that recently moved from the hotel in Torshavn (and Copenhagen before that) to a renovated house in Kirkjub°ur:



Koks is a fine dining restaurant that prides themselves in (like many other fine restaurants) local ingredients and traditions. It's just that here, chef Poul Andrias Ziska is using the local ingredients and traditions of the Faroes, which are quite interesting indeed.

They've gotten a rather large number of awards, including multiple wins of the "Best Restaurant in Scandinavia".

It's quite the elaborate tasting menu, with 7 appetizers, 6 main courses, and basically three desserts.

The food was interesting, to say the very least.

I'll have to say, the view itself was awesome in itself:



After settling in the tasting menu with wine (which turned out to be one of the most awesome wine pairings I've ever had), they launched into the appetizers.

First up: greytur, or "porridge", but in this appetizer, the porridge has been deep-fried in little cubes. This worked surprisingly well:



Next up: Kufiskur. Mahogany clam with dill oil auce and thin slices of radish. This was absolutely delicious (and I don't usually care for clam):



Then, our first divisive course: Oda. A shaved, dried horsemussel served over a "cracker" of dried cod skin. Despite my generally dislike of such things, I actually enjoyed it a bit. Carol rather disliked it.



Next, one of the big attractions: I finally got to try a variety of Skerpikj°t! Here was it served over a bed of dried reindeer moss. This was another divisive dish. While I thought of the Skerpikj°t as "extremely gamey" and not really my thing, and the reindeer moss texture being odd, I actually enjoyed this dish a little. Carol? Not so much.



Next was an odd little dish: Fermented leek slice served up with greens. This is hard to describe, it tasted kinda like eating a rotting onion, but in a good way. I actually liked it:



Next up: Garnatalg. One of those little dishes where the description defies simple translation, basically, this is a spread made from fermented lamb's fat mixed with cheese and topped with dried fish flakes. I enjoyed this way more than I thought I would:



Usually when I go to these sorts of fancy restaurants, there's one course that has me going "That's it?!". In this case, it was two nasturtium leaves with a dollop of rhubarb compote. Not bad... but also something I literally have at home.



This one was bizarre but good, but almost impossible to capture with a photo. Razor clam, pea puree, and greens, under what was described as a "burnt leek cracker". Which was exactly that. Very much to my surprise, this actually worked really, really well: the clams were delicious and tender, and the little bits of burnt leek actually worked a lot like caramelized onions. Alas, once you started picking at it, you couldn't really photograph it any more.



Steamed crab with puffed buckwheat and elderflower: again, a perfectly cooked bit of crab with an interesting sauce:



And here was the masterpiece of the meal. They brought out a pair of covered bowls, each containing a langoustine, an actually burning chunk of dried spruce, and several hot, wet rocks. This was absolute perfection: I've never had a more delicious and perfect piece of langoustine, and the soft spruce smoke notes add just the exact amount of smokiness:



And skate with peas and lovage pesto. Not one I'm use to trying, this was cooked to absolute perfection:



For some reason the next course was served up with a traditional Faroese whale knife, even those the dish itself was halibut (and, didn't really need a knife, it was fork tender). Still, the knife was neat:



And the halibut with nettles was absolutely delicious as well:



Then, there was the Fulmar.

I'll stop here and mention one of my biggest mistakes as a food photographer.

I forgot to photograph one dish, and it was easily one of the most memorable dishes I've ever had: fulmar breast served up in a nest of beetroot and rose hips.

Memorable in a bad way, mostly. I say this, because.... Fulmar (a seagull-like bird inhabiting many of the cliffs of the Faroes) is seriously one of the most disgusting bits of bird I've ever eaten. It was like bad grouse reeking of urine and rancid mackerel. Way worse than puffin. Uggh. I will definitely be tasting that for a long time.

Interestingly, Carol thought it was okay.

Since several other diners have taken pictures of the dish, I'll have to find one of theirs for my review. (You can look here for another diner's photo a week later), although I can't seem to deep-link it: http://www.lifeandall.org/?p=283 )

Meanwhile, this lemon verbena tea was quite pleasant, and *almost* washed the rancid nasty taste of fulmar out of my mouth.

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Old Aug 8, 16, 9:17 pm
  #33  
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Closing out the meal was a nice sorrel ice cream:



And this really weird dessert, made with fermented blueberries, dulse (a seaweed they literally pick up from the beach), dried chocolate, and a few other things.

Taste-wise, this was awesome. Texture-wise, it as a bit like a fruit rollup:



This wasn't a cheap meal (around $300pp after conversion, one of my most expensive non-Thomas Keller meals), but it was memorable for many reasons, both good and bad, and the good items were seriously good. I'd do horrible crimes for more of that langoustine.

I wouldn't hesitate to come back, although I may grovel for a substitution for the fulmar.
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Old Aug 8, 16, 9:18 pm
  #34  
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One of the main attractions in the Faroes is the island of Mykines, the westernmost island.

The island is only lightly inhabited, with a single village (also called Mykines), that's a cluster of about 40 houses, most of which are only vacation houses now.

And some of the best bird nesting grounds in the world, especially for puffins.

But getting there is fun; it's one of the few islands that's not reachable by road. Your options are the twice-a-day ferry from S°rvßgur (that books up well in advance) or helicopter from Vagar airport.

Both are subject to cancellation due to high winds (indeed, helicopter flights were canceled most of the time we were out there), or high waves.

They also warn you to bring some cash, basic toiletries, and patience, since it's not unknown for people to get stranded for days at a time on Mykines due to helicopter and ferry cancelations (the author of my guidebook got caught out there for 7 days, and there's an entire Danish novel and miniseries about a doctor whose wife left him while he was stranded for two weeks on Mykines)

Despite the extreme winds (40 mph gusting to 70, which isn't apparent in this photo) and rough seas (4' swells coming out of the harbor), we were able to catch the ferry:



Here's a nice view back at S°rvßgur from the ferry, which was shockingly stable despite the wind and 4' swells.



Between Vagar and Mykines there's a cool uninhabited islet called Tindhˇlmur (and the sheer amount of salt spray that covered me in this shot is the cause of my camera later having problems with some of its selector buttons... )



But about an hour after departure, we arrive in Mykines' harbor, a surprisingly compact little harbor behind a small breakwater:



Mykines also had one of the better funiculars for hauling stuff up from the harbor (these and boat winches weren't uncommon)

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Old Aug 8, 16, 9:19 pm
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The side of the harbor was our first clue that Mykines is absolutely full of birds, since almost the entire cliff wall of the harbor is covered with Kittiwakes (another cousin to the seagull, these distinguishable by their black feet):



The main activity people like to do is to hike down to the end of Mykines and cross over a small bridge (that's semi-jokingly called the Bridge over the Atlantic, since, well, it sort of is), and down the next islet called Mykinesholmes to see the lighthouse and the birds nesting out there. Here's a view of the basic trail:



But we started with a brief exploration of Mykines proper:





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Old Aug 8, 16, 9:19 pm
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The hike quickly ascends from the NW corner of the town, and you are soon given a rather nice view down on the village:



And shortly after that, a view that goes all the way back to Vagar (and note the heli-pad):



The skies were generally very cloudy that day, but every once in a while we'd get a clear stretch and have an awesome view:



Until you get to this: a simple monument that memorializes.... all the people that have fallen to their death on Mykines. Makes you watch where you step:

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Old Aug 8, 16, 9:21 pm
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By the time you get up to the Memorial, the winds are really strong, around 40 mph, pretty much swirling around the top of the hill.

In this wind, you frequently get buzzed by... puffins. Literally thousands of them, swooping through on the wind, occasionally diving into the water for fish.

It's an amazing sight, especially since I never realized puffins were so nimble and aerobatic:



There's no shortage of puffins. At least 250,000 this year (the population fluctuates and has been seen as large as 1M puffins):









Many of them even had dinner ready:

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Old Aug 8, 16, 9:22 pm
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As the hike continued on down the island...



I wondered what this guy was seeing:



Turns it, it was more puffins flying around in the updraft (meaning that from my perspective they were almost stationary):





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Old Aug 8, 16, 9:22 pm
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The fun thing about Faroese sheep is that since they have zero natural predators, they are pretty mellow about people. Here, this sheep is checking out why the other photographer is lying down looking over the cliff at the puffins:



From that spot, the lighthouse was getting pretty close:



What's nominally one island is actually two: Mykines and Mykinesholmur, separated by a sharp cleft that's about 200' tall:





Luckily, there's a bridge (an enclosed one, since the previous bridge was the source of about a third of the names on the memorial):



Again, as I approached the ridge above the bridge, got another of those brief moments of direct sun:



And then noticed that the puffins were swarming again. Pretty much every speck here is a puffin:

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Old Aug 8, 16, 9:23 pm
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And here we come to the bridge:



What I didn't capture is the fact that the little chasm is pretty much the only interruption along the entire ridge of Mykines and Mykinesholmur, so the wind through that gap is incredibly strong. I could easily get blown off this bridge if it wasn't mostly enclosed.





And hey, the chasm was covered with fulmars. My favorite!

(It was someplace around here that I commented that I had a theory that the old Norse translation was wrong, and that "Faroe" really means "birdsh*t")





Interestingly, few puffins and fulmars nest past the bridge, instead it shifts to the much larger gannets:



Here's the final approach to the lighthouse:



And my version of the famous Mykines Lighthouse photo:

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Old Aug 8, 16, 9:23 pm
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Again, the walk back had a nice moment of direct sunshine:



Although the wind was strong enough that it was often literally blowing the wool from the sheep:



But we soon found ourselves crossing the Atlantic again:



Then descending to Mykines:



And having one last good look at all the puffins:

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Old Aug 8, 16, 9:24 pm
  #42  
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Next, it was time for lunch.

There aren't a lot of options for lunch in Mykines, and we hadn't been organized enough to hit the grocery store for a picnic lunch on the way there.

Indeed, there aren't a lot of options for anything in Mykines. There are two guest houses, and exactly one place serving food, the Kristianshus guest house:



Here's pretty much the entirety of the place:



But you know what, the fish soup (reminded me a lot of Iceland's Kj÷ts˙pa, but with fish balls instead of meatballs) was quite tasty:



As was the not-terribly-photogenic grilled ham and cheese:

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Old Aug 8, 16, 9:24 pm
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After lunch, we still had about an hour before the ferry came (note for the future: spend more time out at the lighthouse!), so we roamed about the village checking out some of the nicer sights, like some of the neater houses:



Sheep pens:



The village swimming pool:



This odd house with miniatures of itself in the grass next to it:



The downside of remote living: most of the power in Mykines comes from oil-fueled generators, so there are a lot of oil drums lying about:



Looking down on the harbor again:



And watching our ferry approach:

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Old Aug 8, 16, 9:25 pm
  #44  
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Another item that is on most "Faroes Bucket Lists" is a trip to Kalsoy, one of the northern islands that still requires a ferry from Klaksvik to access

You actually get a nice view of Kalsoy as you drive across the island of Esturoy, emerging from a tunnel into the town of Leirvik (that used to be the ferry terminal for Klaksvik before the tunnel opened in 2002), getting this view. The western slope of Kalsoy is uninhabited, while the eastern side is a series of fjord-like valleys.



One of the biggest changes to Faroese life (after the tunnel to Vagar) is that, since 2002, the Nor­oyatunnilin connects Leirvik to Klaksvik. A rather cool tunnel, it's 6km long and averages a 6% grade. At the bottom, they put these cool trippy lights:



And when you emerge from the tunnel, you immediately get a nice view of Klaksvik, the second largest city in the Faroe Islands, with the island of Kunoy in the background.



We had to hurry along, since most days there are only two ferries to and from Kalsoy, and we didn't want to miss the boat:



They run an efficient operation, packing the vehicles in tightly:



And right on time, the ferry left the terminal:

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Old Aug 8, 16, 9:26 pm
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The trip over to Kalsoy gave us some phenomenal views:





Here's Kalsoy on the left, and Kunoy on the right:



Our destination in Kalsoy: Sy­radalur

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