The Faroe Islands, Tourism, and Self-Catering

While we generally had a great time in the Faroe Islands, especially on the culinary front, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the broader Faroe Island dining scene from a tourist’s perspective. The Faroe Islands themselves are rather small (about 60,000 permanent inhabitants), and aside from the occasional festival or special event (the Klaksvik Summer Festival or the 2015 Solar Eclipse being good examples), aside from Tórshavn (which gets the occasional cruise ship and regular stops by the Smyril Line ferry between Denmark and Iceland), the tourism amenities drop off precipitously once you leave Tórshavn (with a minor exception for Klaksvik, the second largest town). Indeed, there are quite a few towns where the dining options, and heck, even the food options like stores, are limited. So it’s always important to plan ahead a bit.

Such was the situation we found ourselves on our third day in the Faroes. There are a certain number of recommended attractions in the Faroes, one of them being Vestmannabjørgini: the Vestmanna bird cliffs. West of the town of Vertmanna, the western face of the island of Streymoy is basically a series of tall sea cliffs (some approaching 2000 feet tall) and sea stacks (tall offshore spires of rocks) that also serve as nesting grounds for the puffins, guillemots, fulmars and kittewakes that make their homes in the cliffs and grottos. Taking a boat tour of the Cliffs is highly recommended, and indeed, we really enjoyed our trip out there.

But returning to the town of Vestmanna, we discovered a few things about a Tuesday afternoon in Vestmanna. The economy of Vestmanna is based mostly on two things: the bird cliff tours and fishing (it used to be a major ferry terminal offering service over to the neighboring island of Vagar, but the 2002 opening of the Vágatunnilin road tunnel pretty much ended that business). At lunch time, there’s really only one place to actually eat, the cozy Fjørukrógvin restaurant inside the Vestmanna Tourist Center. And, the two buses full of tourists from the Smyril Line ferry that had come in also had the entire restaurant booked up solid.

With that in mind, it’s worth talking about the other option for the Faroe Islands tourist: self-catering. Luckily, one thing Vestmanna has is a rather nice FK, one of the larger grocery stores in the Faroes (the other large one being Bónus, a branch of the well-known Icelandic chain). So we got to have one of my other pleasant experiences, which is experiencing how subtly different grocery shopping can be in a foreign country. A trip to the grocery store shows one of interesting aspects of the Faroese culture: most everything is imported, and in the case of groceries, this means imported mostly from Denmark, or, in a distant second and third place, Iceland or Scotland. But that means a fairly good selection of stuff making for a decent picnic lunch: a variety of Danish sausages (mostly variants of salami with some interesting items mixed in, like peppers, asparagus, or potatoes), a variety of breads, and potato salad (with an interesting curry-spiced sauce) were easily obtained, as was some pickled herring. Oh, and a few cans of Sisu, a Sprite-like beverage that’s one of the two main sodas native to the island (produced and bottled by the Föroya Bjór brewery, Jolly cola being their other brand). Walking over to the nearby park, we got to enjoy our lunch watching the next round of Bird Cliff Tours departing down the harbor.

Overall, a good lunch. And, quite frankly, a good way to save some money over the generally expensive restaurants of the Faroes as well. So, sometimes the Offbeat way of dining is to just do as the locals and get something from the grocery store.

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