The Faroe Islands -
the world's best kept secret!
The Faroe Islands - a group of 18 islands - is located midway between Iceland, Norway and Scotland, and the 48,500 inhabitants speak the Faroese language. This language is linguistically close to Icelandic, and is spoken by nearly 60,000 people in the world. The capital city of Tórshavn has 19,000 residents, making it one of the smallest capitals in the world. This population swells in the summertime, when many international travelers visit the Faroes and attend many of the various summer festivals. There is a vibrant music scene in the Faroes, and the town of Klaksvík hosts the Summar Festivalur (Summer Festival), which is the largest music event in the country held every August. It's a three day event, and attracts many local and international artists.
Another good time to visit is at the end of July around the time of the national holiday, Ólavsøka (St.Olaf's Day). This is on July 28th, and the celebrations start two days earlier. In the daytime, there are sporting events (i.e. soccer matches and boat races), speeches, parades and other activities for families. The bars are open all night, and many people hang out in the streets of the capital city until dawn. At midnight on July 29th, hundreds and hundreds of people lock arms in the streets and perform traditional chain dances, which are sung to the tune of sea shanteys. People dress in their national costume, said to be the oldest preserved in Europe, and often approach people by saying "Góða Ólavsøku," which means "good Ólavsøku."
The Faroes played a large part in World War II, and were defended by British troops just three days after Denmark was invaded by the Germans. Many Faroese people lost their lives by floating mines and in Luftwaffe attacks. As much as 220 Faroese people died in WWII, and it's said that more Faroese people died in the war in proportion to the population than any other country except for the Soviet Union. There are still many relics from this period on the islands as well and a lot of early viking history.