Rockin’ The Smyril Line Ferry to Denmark

After bidding farewell to the Faroe Islands, I joined Johnny A and a half-dozen other motorcyclists who decided to stopover in the Faroes, to board the Norröna and tie down our bikes in the middle vehicle bay. The ride to the Faroe Islands was smooth and this time of year the ride to Denmark was just as easy.

On our last night aboard and after another wonderful meal at the Simmer Dim Steakhouse aboard the ship, Johnny A convinced Rani Nolsøe, the Faroese folk singer who had been entertaining passengers in the Naust Lounge during our trip, to take a break and let me bang out a couple tunes for the nearly full house crowd enjoying late night cocktails and entertainment.

I’m typically a bit shy and less confident in my musical abilities—but always happy to get in front of a crowd and speak. That night aboard the Norröna I was a bit nervous and forget words to my own songs. I do think the crowd got a kick out of my performance and enjoyed the rap. Thanks to Rani for letting me indulge a few originals on his stage.

Check out the video below—not the greatest sound, but you’ll get the idea and see WorldRider in action with a guitar, instead of a motorcycle. Thanks and kudos to Johnny A for setting up and recording the performance.

As I mentioned in my earlier post about the Smyril Line service to and from Iceland and Hirtshals, Denmark via the Faroe Islands, if you’re thinking of spending time in Iceland and want to explore Norway, Denmark, and the Faroe Islands, take a close look at the service offered by Smyril Line. I think there’s no better way to make an Iceland, North Atlantic and Scandinavian adventure.

G! Fest — Rockin’ The Faroe Islands

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IMG_0379Now in its 13th year, the G! Fest music experience, referred to the the Woodstock of the North Atlantic, is a three day music festival set in on the beach in the village of Syðrugöta, which has a population of just 400, on the island of Eysturoy. Two of the three stages are built on the beach against the backdrop of the Faroes’ jaw-dropping fjords‚ a landscape dominated by grass-carpeted mountains. According to the G! promoters, the festival is “caught between the peaks and the ocean, in a break between the cliffs skirting the coastline, Syðrugøta is set in an unrivalled natural amphitheater.”

It was here in the 11th century where the legendary Viking Tróndur í Götu confronted the Norwegians who were focused on Christianization of the Faroe Islands. Tróndur pronounced a curse against Christianity, beheading those who got in his way.

Things have changed in Syðrugøta. Now peace-lying and sustainable practices by green-thinking and acting citizens dominate the landscape among an eclectic mix of local and global musicians.

There is even a special beer made for the G! Festival and a unique carrier to take a 5-pack back to your group!

There is even a special beer made for the G! Festival and a unique carrier to take a 5-pack back to your group!

 

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An amazing venue for the Woodstock of the Faroe Islands.

Syðrugøta on Eysturoy and with a population of barely 100 people, hosts the annual G! Festival in the Faroe Islands— An amazing venue for what they call the Woodstock of the Faroes.

IMG_0296-1Sponsors of the festival include local taxi companies who usher festival goers between Tórshavn and other towns and Gull, a local brewery that from the many vendors pouring fresh beer, I was amazed to see the optional 5-pack carriers allowing the ease of transporting multiple beers from tap to stage. Certainly in the USA vendors will demand IDs from anyone attempting to buy more than two beers. Yet here in the Faroes, a five-pack carrier is common and convenient.

IMG_0297As the hot pots are the rage in Iceland and the north Atlantic, festival goers also have the opportunity to enjoy a steaming hot pot and a cold plunge into the arctic sea. Yeah!

Johnny A and I decided to take the local bus to the G! Fest. Later in the evening, after the bus service stopped, we shared a cab with a couple Brits and enjoyed the conversation discussing Brexit and the impending election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Life is interesting, the music fun and interesting. Nothing like landing on a remote island and enjoying the music from the latest music festival in the Faroe Islands. We got to hear several locals and international acts including Lucy Rose, Sakaris, and Faroe Islands favorite Annika Hoydal.

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Lucy Rose from the U.K. plays Faroe Islands G! Fest July 2016

 

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Sakaris plays Faroe Islands G! Fest July 2016

 

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Folk singer Annika Hoydal plays Faroe Islands G! Fest July 2016

Watch Sakaris live with some legendary Johnny A dancing thrown in — an Allan Cam capture from the Faroe Islands July 2016 at the G! Fest.

Where In The World? The Faroe Islands?

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Looking out of my hotel room, there’s an amazing unusual break in the weather. The streets still wet from the pounding rain, but for a brief moment I get this view!

As I reached out to friends and colleagues, I quickly learned that not many people have heard of the Faroe Islands, and even less had any idea of where they were located. t’s a tiny archipelago located southeast of Iceland and north of Scotland, west of Norway. It’s technically under government rule of Denmark, yet the Faroe Islands has its own government, school system, and even flag. Yet Denmark currently supports the Faroe Islands with military and police.

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One side of the port in the Faroe Islands. Fishing rules the economy.

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Turf filled roofs provide extra insulation for the cold climate of the Faroe Islands

The economy of the Faroe Islands is driven by fishing. “Norwegian salmon is no good,” a local tells me. “Faroe Islands salmon is the best in the world.” There’s no question that the locals in Faroe Islands, despite there relative anonymity on the world stage, have a passion and nationalistic pride for their small island nation. Like Iceland, it was the vikings that ultimately settled in the Faroe Islands. Torshavn is a small town and the government is housed in traditional centuries old buildings with turf growing on the roof—serving as insulation and protection from the elements.

Not the best conditions for a motorcycle joyride

Not the best conditions for a motorcycle joyride

Someone in Iceland joked that “there are only 7 sunny days a year in the Faroe Islands,” suggesting maybe I didn’t think through my choice to explore the tiny archipelago nation. Sure, I was soaked and bitten by cold through many days in Iceland, but I had a network of tunnels that connect the islands together to look forward to, at least inside the tunnels I’d find reprieve from the rain.

True to form, my arrival in Tórshavn in early AM was met with misty rain. Our hotel in the downtown area looks over the harbor and, even in this small town, centrally located.

Doc gets soaked in front of our hotel in the Faroe Islands. Thankful we're not camping.

Doc gets soaked in front of our hotel in the Faroe Islands. Thankful we’re not camping.

Waking up to more rain, I’m less motivated to hop on my bike and more eager to walk around. There is a music festival happening this weekend, the G! Fest, so we’re trying to figure out whether we want to ride or take a bus to the festival that’s happening on a beach in one of the other islands. Considering it’s usually apropos to have a beer or three during a music festival, the idea of riding with a belly of beer ih the rain is less intriguing.

We do find a quiet restaurant, “11” that is connected to a night club. After a delicious meal of reindeer for me and locally raised lamb for Johnny A, we retire to the club for a glass of pilsner and a set of cover songs by a singer accompanied by a local guitarist.

Johnny A tastes the Cotes du Rhone wine we'll have with our meal.

Johnny A tastes the Cotes du Rhone wine we’ll have with our meal.

Fresh seared scallop salad

Fresh seared scallop salad

The sappy songs we can only take so much, so we move across the street to another pub where a local and legendary Faroe Islands folk singer, Holger Jacobsen, is performing live to increasingly inebriated locals. Holger seems unfazed by most of the crowd that treats the local legend as mere background music. Though when he charges into a local song where everyone knows the lyrics, the entire bar sings along with him.

As the clock ticks on and chimes 3AM, Johnny A and I are still with beers in hand. As in Iceland, this is no problem. No bouncer forces us to down the beers and march out. Instead, they pour our beers into plastic cups and usher us onto the street.

Welcome to the Faroe Islands. Here, at least, at 3AM the skies are clear—no rain—and it’s not dark, yet!

Faroe Islands Bound: Smyril Lines ferry cruise

When I started planning my Iceland adventure many months ago, I knew that getting my motorcycle to Iceland would be a significant endeavor. Plus, to ship a bike for just two weeks to one island isn’t cost-effective. I wanted to see if I could ship the bike by plane or boat to Europe and have an opportunity to explore Europe as part of a summer 2016 adventure.

It didn’t take long to find an ideal solution for an Icelandic, North Atlantic and Scandinavian adventure. Smyril Lines, a Faroe Islands-based company offers weekly ships on the comfortable Norröna from western Iceland (Seydisfjordur) to Smyril Lines, a Faroe Islands-based company offers weekly ships on the comfortable Norröna from western Iceland (Seydisfjordur) to Denmark (Hirtshals) via the Faroe Islands.

The Smyrill Lines ship, the Norröna, is a modern cruise ferry built in Germany sailed its maiden voyage in 2003. The massive ship is 165 meters (541 feet) long and 30 meters (nearly 100 feet) wide. The first part of the voyage to the Faroe Islands takes just under a day, while the voyage from the Faroe Islands to Denmark takes about two days. The ship has 318 passenger cabins and accommodates about 1500 passengers and 118 crew members. The ship has ferry space for 800 cars and cruises at about 21 knots.

I had booked a modest inner cabin for John and I and so after the great last supper with the film crew, headed to Seydisfjordur the next morning. The hour-long ride winds its way through a mountain pass, meadows and spectacular alpine scenery. We were about the only ones winding through the landscapes as waterfalls tumbled roadside and rivers rushed by.

The road from Egilsstaðir to Seyðisfjörður in rugged eastern Iceland.

The road from Egilsstaðir to Seyðisfjörður in rugged eastern Iceland.

 

The view of Seyðisfjörður as we wind down our way to the lovely Icelandic city where Smyril Ferry brings and takes passengers, vehicles and cargo to and from Denmark and the Faroe Islands.

The view of Seyðisfjörður as we wind down our way to the lovely Icelandic city where Smyril Ferry brings and takes passengers, vehicles and cargo to and from Denmark and the Faroe Islands.

As we descended into the tiny port of Seydisfjordur we were greeted by a large gathering of motorcyclists outside a local café. WE learned that the ferry, scheduled to depart at 10:30am, would be late and depart sometime after 12 noon. Here we met Frank, an aussie in his mid-sixties who has been traveling round Europe for the past two years, on and off between return flights to Australia. Riding a similar bike as Johnny A, Frank called his R1150GS “the pig”. When I asked if he kept a blog or writing on his travels he flatly stated, “No, I don’t get involved in any of that rubbish.” Ok, Frank, tell me how you really feel. Yet he did say he shares a group email among friends. I’d call that a blog-like email journal. Nonetheless, over the next few days sailing on the Norröna, we found Frank to evolve from his crumudgeonly first impression to a man with lots of knowledge, who when pressed would share.

I found all the employees of Smyrill Lines to be friendly and helpful. In the office in Iceland I met Svein, one of management team responsible for seeing that the ship is unloaded and loaded promptly. With no accommodations booked for our two nights on the Faroe Islands, Svein got on the phone and called his wife who manages one of the local hotels near the harbor in Torshavn. She promised we’d have a room and he assured us that it would be easy to find in the tiny town.

My bike is marked, I'm going to Denmark on Smyril, but first a stop in the tiny but legendary Faroe Islands.

My bike is marked, I’m going to Denmark on Smyril Ferry, but first a stop in the tiny but legendary Faroe Islands.

Dozens of bikers patiently await the arrival of Nöronna to take them and their bikes to Europe. The cost of ferrying a bike to or from Iceland to Europe is reasonable and the only way to truly get a sense of Iceland—car or bike.

Dozens of bikers patiently await the arrival of Nöronna to take them and their bikes to Europe. The cost of ferrying a bike to or from Iceland to Europe is reasonable and the only way to truly get a sense of Iceland—car or bike.

 

My new Faroese friend, Svein who manages the loading and unloading of the Nörrona in Iceland and on the Faroe Islands.

My new Faroese friend, Svein who manages the loading and unloading of the Nörrona in Iceland and on the Faroe Islands.

Norröna I’ve never been on a cruise ship. I prefer to ride motorcycles or travel overland. Not that I’m against cruise ships, I just like to have space to move. Yet I was surprised out how much I enjoyed the short cruise to the Faroe Islands and Denmark on Smyrill Lines Norröna. The ship has three restaurants, including a steakhouse, diner and an incredibly impressive buffet. There’s also a duty free shop, two bars and general store. One of the bars is on the upper deck of the ship and just below there’s a deck fired with three hot tubs—or hot pots as they are known in Iceland and the Faroe Islands. What’s more, there is a small movie theater and game room for kids and a few one-armed bandits, slot machines, for those who wish to gamble a bit.

Doc is ready for the cruise to Faroe Islands and Denmark

Doc is ready for the cruise to Faroe Islands and Denmark

With my motorcycle safely tied down in the auto/cargo berth, I had to enjoy a hot pot while cruising the Arctic Ocean. The hot water took the chill out of the arctic air, though isn’t too hot, I would have preferred hotter water. Even so, after a nice toasty soak we enjoyed a couple cold beers, pint drafts from the “Gull” brewery. We later dined in the steakhouse and enjoyed a nice bottle of an Italian Super Tuscan wine before retiring to the bar where live music is played until well after midnight. The cruiseferry ship is very comfortable, the food tasty and with enough options to satisfy any taste and top that with good beer and wine, I would do it again. Keep in mind this is basically a three day cruise. And that’s probably enough for me—especially since the cruise is broken up with two days in the Faroe Islands. Not everyone opts to stay in the Faroe Islands, as the boat departs just a few hours after unloading, the Norröna heads to Denmark.

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While I didn’t get to try the buffet aboard Norröna, I did get to check out the room and the massive spread of fresh and cooked eats. Next time, I’m going to indulge in the buffet.

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Table service is available aboard Norröna in the steakhouse. I was impressed with its wine list.

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What else would you order from a steakhouse? I opted for the Wagyu ribeye and mushroom pepper sauce—other sauces are available. Tasty!

IMG_0570 Live music plays until past midnight in the bar. A happy hour is offered with discounted drinks.

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While there is an elevator that whisks passengers up and down the eight decks of the ship, it’s nice to get exercise wandering the ship and taking the grand staircases on the major three decks.

 

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Nothing like a toasty “hot pot” aboard the Norröna as we cruise the Arctic Ocean to the Faroe Islands and Denmark

I wanted to explore the little known Faroe Islands, so Johnny A and I disembarked the Norröna and spent the next two days trying to understand and discover the Faroe Islands.

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Disclosure: Smyril Lines did sponsor me for the passenger ticket and ferry transport for my motorcycle. All other expenses were my responsibility and this is a completely honest report of my experience with Smyrill Line’s and aboard the Norröna.