28 January, 2015

Kristian Blak - a Music Man

Kristian Blak - Tutl itself!
The Faroe Islands have an extremely rich musical culture. The local shop in Thorshavn is a good place to start. Here I met Kristian Blak, who runs the record company with the same name as the shop, Tutl. It means the trickling sound of water in Faroe Language. Like the most tender sound of nature.
   These natural sounds are the sources of inspiration for Kristian when he compose. This guy is much like the hub in the musical life on the islands, a world traveller, singer, band organiser. Yggdrasil and Spelemennene are two of his groups. He simply lives for music - and he is a wonderful person to get to know. I will cut it short, and leave it to this weeks episode to show what a peculiar fellow I was fortunate to befriend.

As if Kristian was not nice enough in himself, the event Sommartonleikar brought me in touch with more musicians, that went on a tour to the most insane places for concerts, hardly inhabited. The musicians outnumbered the audience, even with a stunning 80% of the locals attending. There were local contributors as well as foreign, and I especially fell in love with the mainly Danish choir "Vokalselskabet GLAS".

Vokalselskabet Glas på Mykines ... and me ;)

Vokalselskabet GLAS

This choir is totally awesome, and Birgir Enni, captain of Norðlýsið took us to the caves and bird mountains of Hestur, where we made this rough, but I think beautiful video:

Vokalselskabet GLAS in cave in Hestur

Aren't they just something? And then one sunny day, a big black Irish boat, the  Galway Hooker" Mac Duach" came into port, with four beardy Irishmen that were in sorrow. A good friend of theirs had drowned back in Ireland the very same day. We decided to cheer them up, and got a night I will never forget. The ships hull was loaded with music and joy, in respect for their pal and of life. It went on and on and on ... bulgarian folk songs, the Beatles, Irish fiddle ... anything you could mention, Kristian, the girls or the Irish just performed. I have to admit I love this Bulgarian wedding song, you you decide the place you prefer, at sea under thousands of birds or in the old Irish boat. I must excuse the raw look, it is simply filmed with my pocket camera.

Like some kind of universal jukebox. What a night! Thank you all!

Safe roads and seas! :)

22 January, 2015

Tough Currents and Women

       (Please do click on these - and all other - photos in my blog, to see them bigger!!!)
Good guy...
the "harbour"
Mykines north face


"Today nobody gets away from Mykines," one of the elders said, overlooking the heavy swells that sent cascades of foam shooting up in the air. The small boat landing had the Atlantic delivering series of waves, making the bay white, breaking over shallows and cliffs.
    He did not know what a kayak can do.
tidal map
    "I will get out," I said, and pointed to an opening in the pattern of waves.
    "You might get out, but you will never get back," another old-timer commented in a factual voice.
    "You're right about that," I answered.

This is how people are on the Faroes. They know the sea. They do not express unnecessary worries. They trust your decisions. But as many islanders I have met in other parts, they care for you and help you, when help is needed. I assume this is an islanders specialty, and that it has always been like that out here, where you never know who will be in dire straits next.
    Today it is my turn, and I have to do my counting right.

the gorge with the rocks


Firstly, I need to get into the water without being washed in by the breakers. Secondly I must get out into open sea. Thirdly I need to analyse the rhythm of the bigger waves, in order to pass through a narrow gorge that split Mykines from Holmur (where the tunnel in the former episode runs parallel to this canyon). Last but not least, I need to do this in time to get along the north side of the island and back east, crossing the open stretch back to the rest of the Faroes during the change of tide. If I am too late, I simply do not know where I will end up.

I have rarely kayaked as hard as I did that day. Something went wrong with my calculations of the countercurrents on the north side of Mykines. Nevertheless I reached the town Vestmanna, where I got to know a wonderful bunch of Women, most notably Mia.


Can you sense the complete awesomeness?
Further north, I skirt the most hostile coast you can imaging, but under perfect conditions. Caves, cliffs, free standing monoliths and finally the small fisherman's village of Gjógv, from where their men has set out to sea in their small boats. Many would never return.

The route followed in this program more than any other, taught me that the best way - by far the best way - to experience the grandeur of the Faroes, is by kayak. See it yourself, and feel free to share or comment if you find it worthy.

It felt unreal to experience such perfect conditions.

Henk again

This weeks extra video is simply the lovely Henk again. He found this harmonica in a shop, in France I believe, and had to buy it. For weeks the instrument was at display in his cabin, before he got the courage to start and play. We had such a good time together in his boat. This is the kind of friendships you get, when you travel alone.

Safe travels!

15 January, 2015

Life on Mykines

Ten people live here. Only one tiny pier protect the boat landing from the open Atlantic, all other sides of the island are steep bird cliffs. It is simply an extremely extreme place, but ever so beautiful. Eight months of the year, plus stormy days in summer, they rely on helicopter to reach the bigger islands to the east. To the west, there's only the sea.

The houses in the village are mainly abandoned in wintertime. 

Tourists coming here are mainly those who can afford to be "grounded" a day or two in bad weather. It is of course a dream come true for ornithologists or the average adventurer, but even most faroese people have not made the effort to see this awesome place, where you can get a bed and some grub in Kristianshus. They only have 35 beds, so booking is a good idea in high season. Katrina will take well care of you.

The making of an art gallery and a studio, along with a small hotel are in the process, but I do not know how far the work has come. Anyone know, please add info in the comments, and I will fill in fresh facts here.

I visited the island at three occasions back in 2009, for the puffin hunting (see episode 1),  Kristians Blaks concert (episode 4) and as part of the circumnavigation. Kayaking out here was unreal, as conditions were very favourable. Even so, I had two of the most dramatic experiences I ever had in a kayak out here, you will see one of them in this episode, and the other in the next. I never intended to be a "first timer", but as you will see in the program, I went were no man has been before. Kind of by accident. I really did not intend to do it, believe me - but I was sucked into it, literally ...

An old breed of sheep thrive on the green hills.

This weeks scrap-video:

True to new habit, I'll give you a bonus video. This one comes with no subtitles, but it is hardly needed, as the hoisting of fuel barrels and peculiar stairway-elevator speaks for themselves.

As you can see, Esbern and Katrina are totally dedicated to life on their island - as long as the kids also like it - but they sure have a bucketful of challenges in their daily life. How they cope through long hard winters, with a new storm thundering in with each low pressure, is more than I understand. But they have personalities built to endure.

Thanks so much for your hospitality and help and good luck with building a Mykines for the future!

... and here's the short bonus feature:

08 January, 2015

Catching Puffins

Esbern í Eyðansstovu with dinner.
This video might upset you. As a matter of fact, if you are a nice and "human" human being, it probably will. I just hope for the right reasons, as I am a firm believer in hunting any kind of wild animal that are plentiful. Hunting for food, that is. In this episode we kill puffins, quickly and surely, but as years have passed, it is clear that this species is facing troubled times around the coasts of the North Atlantic.

Ronja drew me ...
On my visit to the Faroe Islands in 2009, the situation for the puffins were not as critical as it has later come to be, so the limited hunting that was going on, posed no threat to the population.
    What seems to be the problem for survival of this, and several other coastal birds, is the lack of prey in the sea. Overfishing may be the cause, or perhaps climate change. Possibly both ... to my knowledge it is uncertain. But what this story is about, is an old tradition of how to make do with scarce resources, done by the finest of people in the roughest of surroundings. As if the Faroe Islands were not isolated in themselves, this island is the the most remote of 'em all ...

If you're up to it, watch the episode - puffin hunting on Mykines - not for the faint-hearted!

As far as my experience goes, puffins hate solitude...

Mr. Oosterweijk's failed courtesy...

The Faroes is, no doubt, a tough place in more than one way, something my soon after good friend Henk Oosterwijk experienced when he sailed into Thorshavn in his tiny boat, flagging the "Dannebrog" - Danish banner - as his courtesy flag:

"Sogno de Oro" in Thorshavn.

    I spent quite a bit of time in Thorshavn, as you will see in later episodes. The town harbours (literally) a lot of interesting characters. Dutch Henk was just one of them. He continued around the world alone in his eight meter long (short) sailboat "Sogno de Oro".

He's looking at you, Henk!  ;)

07 January, 2015

Paul i Vesterled!

Finally! What else can I say. Years have passed without this series, that I am so proud of, could be shared here on my blog. It has been a long struggle with broadcasters and newspapers. To put it short, they seem not to find it "commercially interesting", so I hope you will judge for yourself and any opinion will be most welcome below. As I write, the programs are shown every week on TV8, thanks to the enthusiastic support of "Japan Photo", a great photoshop chain which is most inspiring to cooperate with. Do check them out, if you live in Scandinavia.

"Paul i Vesterled" translates "Paul goes west" or "Paul takes the western trails", which to a Norwegian would mean crossing the ocean towards the islands in the North Atlantic. These are closely related to us, both in the original language, which they have kept more of, and many other customs. This is one of the reasons why I want to shed a light on this cultural treasure.

And then there's nature. Nature like you would not imagine. Awesome is the perfect word for it, as I have time and time paused, in awe, just sucking in the splendour surrounding me on the trip.

Action has been a great part of the adventure. To be very honest, I am lucky to be here today. And somewhat skilful, as a couple of the challenges I met on this trip belongs to my top five list of experiences that could have been my last one.

Much more to come!

What more can I say. Here you have the promo for the series. I do have to admit that my later projects (you will find them on the bar to the right) have improved my skills in editing, sound and colour adjustment, but my guess is that you will not be disappointed and the stories are nonetheless powerful  enough to make the episodes more than worth viewing. Please do share your favourite with your pals on the web and help me reach out, as I think both the programs themselves and the exceptional characters in them deserve it!

IMPORTANT: Everything is high resolution, so choose HD! And I have taken the pain to subtitle everything, so choose English or Norwegian text as you like, on the right side of the bar just below the image.

This post offers the promo for the series. Tomorrow I'll give you the first episode, and every Thursday after that, for 13 more weeks, I will open up the world of the Faroe Islands and Iceland to you, with background stories and the odd cut away scene. You have something to look forward to!

... and a belated Happy New Year to all. Make it one to remember for something good.