The Faroe Islands; 0.2% of Faroese are Polish

Just when you think that you have these islands sussed, a headline such as this will appear, and abb another quirk into the fabric that these naugha-Viking islands weave.

The Faroe Islands are a touch odd; it is their very eccentricity that attracts and it is their sometimes quirky approach to life that mesmerises. Life is a blend of new; of course the islands boast contemporary communications, cutting-edge design and a wide selection of modern wines, but at the same time, one sees people dressed in traditional Faroese clothing; one sees fishing villages that still launch their boats in ways that are clearly evolutionary developments from the ancient days and not revolutionary.

Don’t get me wrong, these are no backward people. Their livelihoods depend on fishing (and the generosity and (one has to believe the wilful blindness) of the Danish taxpayers; and in each endeavour, they are quite resourceful and successful.

The Faroe Islands are not a part of the EU. They keep outside, as does Iceland, principally because of their fishing industry. They believe that opening their fishing grounds to the unprincipled plunderers of the southern fleets will cost them far more in both the long and short-terms than staying outside will do. And, I think that they have a point. The fishing industry protects the evolution of an ancient life-style, admittedly aided considerably by Danish largesse, but nonetheless, it is evident from the number of full laden semis that boarded the ferry I am on in Torshavn that their Viking sea-based heritage is alive and well.

I was in the islands for business. There is annually a trade show for those whose travel businesses work heavily with operators in The Faroes, Iceland and Greenland, and this year it was in Torshavn. Next year it will be in Reykjavik, and after that it will be Greenland’s turn to host the event. Rather sadly, they have, for their last couple of turns, held it in Copenhagen, which has always struck me as an odd nod to their colonial past. We live in hope, though, of 2013 being back in their wonderful, northern home.

It is a great event; a chance for new tour operators, guest houses, bus routes, restaurants, hotels and other vital components of the travel business to show off their new products; in turn, there are about eighty-five buyers from around the world (in addition to my participation, there were buyers from Australia, China, Japan and Russia in addition to their more traditional European markets) looking for new products to sell.

And we found a lot. There are some fabulous community groups in South Greenland offering new programs, a new combination coach program in Iceland that will offer independent travellers another choice in touring there, and some new air-routes around the region offering us wide new opportunities to design some terrific products for the 2012 season. Watch the website!

Air Greenland, Air Iceland, Icelandair, Atlantic Airways and the redoubtable Smyril Line all work closely with the travel trade, and their complex and interwoven route network opens up this area for exploration. There is accommodation to suite all budgets, and the friendly faces, welcoming smiles and marvellous stories of the Atlantic Islanders will all combine to make a perfect and memorable vacation.

Which brings me to Poles.

The current copy of Atlantic Airway’s flight magazine highlights a fascinating statistic. The Faroese population, according to this August organ, comprises 92.7% Faroese, 6% Danes, and 0.3% Greenlanders with only Norwegians and Poles getting a mention at 0.2% each before “other” who make up 0.6%.

Now, given that their population is about 48,000 people, this means that there are about 96 Poles; a small number to be sure, but measurable. Further evidence of this diaspora was to be seen at a dry-dock boatyard where the various boxes for differing selections of waste products were indicated in Faroese, English and Polish.

The Polo-Faroese migratory movement is not one of the world’s most studied, but it is a bit interesting.