New Zealand: On the island of the smallest penguins in the world

Ddozens of moss-covered steps lead to the Ackers Point Lighthouse. Drizzle and wind make the ascent difficult. From the viewing platform in the east of Stewart Island you should have the best chance at dusk to see the bluish pygmy penguins.

A local had given me the tip the previous evening in the hostel. Once at the top, I have a beautiful view of the sea, but there is no trace of the pygmy penguins. Pass minute by minute. The wind gets stronger and with it the waves. I’m waiting.

The smallest penguins in the world are only around 35 centimeters tall. They swim and dive all day looking for fish on the coast of the New Zealand island. They are small, but perfect swimmers with up to seven kilometers an hour.

Stewart Island in New Zealand: pygmy penguins looking for fish

Excellent swimmers: pygmy penguins looking for fish

Credit: picture alliance / dpa / blickwin

They usually come back from the sea at nightfall. But you have to be patient when watching birds. Ian Miller had told that on a short tour. The guide took me across the island as soon as I arrived, where a good 97 percent of the area has been protected since 2002.

The island is still an insider tip in New Zealand

Stewart Island, the Maori call it Rakiura, is hardly inhabited. The only settlement is Oban with just 600 inhabitants. New Zealand’s third largest island is mountainous and overgrown.

Birds live here that do not exist anywhere else in the world, almost everywhere there is primary forest. This is an original forest that has been spared human influence: a wilderness.

Stewart Island: New Zealand's third largest island is densely overgrown

Stewart Island: New Zealand’s third largest island is densely overgrown

Credit: Getty Images / Craig Pershouse

Even if the number of tourists has increased to 55,000 from year to year, this island is still an insider tip. Located in the very south of the South Island of New Zealand, nature lovers will find plenty of opportunities here to immerse themselves in nature.

Submerge, that’s it. Maybe the pygmy penguins don’t swim on the surface in this swell? But do you have to show up at some point?

Where to see pygmy penguins on Stewart Island

As my eyes search the rocks, I spot a New Zealand fur seal. He lay down to rest on a rocky outcrop. I hadn’t seen him the whole time. I proudly point out another hiker to the chubby mammal. Ideal way to start a conversation.

As a thank you for my discovery, he reveals where I can see many pygmy penguins that evening: at the port of Oban. They are not shy, pragmatic, sometimes even breed under houses and adopt nesting boxes.

I hurry back to town. Although I run through the forest so quickly, I see a forest parrot and several Tui birds on the way: These black-and-blue feathered honey eaters have a white tuft of feathers on their necks.

I need only 25 minutes for the almost three kilometers. Arrived at the port, I immediately see two large diesel tanks that the hiker had described. They should be right behind it. Very idyllic.

Great white sharks are considered natural enemies of the penguins

And indeed: A dark blue pygmy penguin is just arriving, groping out of the water and waddling up a rock. His plumage shimmers in the light of the harbor lighting. It disappears in a crevice. But two more are already in sight and are coming on.

After a whole day of hunting in the sea, the approximately 40 centimeters small birds have to feed the young animals and then sleep well. They have nothing to fear in narrow holes in the ground and crevices.

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Their natural enemies are New Zealand sea lions and fur seals. The fur seal at Ackers Point earlier and I probably shared the same longing. Good thing we were disappointed.

Great white sharks are also considered natural enemies of the pygmy penguins. There are said to be a few of them around Stewart Island. However, the numbers have dropped after cage diving and therefore the feeding of marine animals off Stewart Island have been abolished.

Looking for a kiwi at night

It is now pitch black. It’s still raining. Just a little bit stronger again and the wind didn’t let up either. On Main Road I meet the nature guide Ian Herbert and a small group of other night owls.

You are looking for kiwi fruit. New Zealand’s national animal had no fear of natural enemies for many centuries – until humans came. After the first Maori arrived from Australia from New Zealand, kiwis were mainly hunted as food.

Stewart Island in New Zealand: The chance of seeing a Southern Blue Kiwi is greatest at night

The best chance of seeing a Southern Striped Kiwi is at night

Credit: pa / imageBROKER / Terry Whittaker / FLPA

The first European settlers exacerbated the problem. They brought in – often involuntarily – rats, martens, dogs and cats, which caused a drastic decline in the kiwi population. Today, kiwis have died out in many places in New Zealand.

About 15,000 of the flightless birds are still at home on Stewart Island. That is about a quarter of the total population. Therefore, you have a good chance of seeing the animals during a night hike. And this is where my path takes me after I have almost forgotten the time of the little penguins.

This type of kiwi is very special

Hardly anyone knows the kiwis on Stewart Island as well as Ian Herbert. The New Zealander has been bird stalking night after night for more than 20 years. During the day he is currently supervising a doctoral student who is researching the Southern Streifenkiwi on Stewart Island. Because this type of kiwi is very special.

Because of the southern location, the nights in summer are short. The nocturnal animal would not have enough time to eat. That is why the striped kiwis of the island are active during the day.

“However, the chances of seeing the animals are greater at night,” says Ian. But today everything seems different. “The strong wind prevents us from hearing the kiwis,” he explains. Neither the rustling in the thicket, nor their calls, whistling “Ke-weee, Ke-weee” with which they mark the boundaries of the areas, we will be able to perceive.

The search for the kiwifruit begins. At just 15 kilometers an hour, he drives through the area with his bus. He hardly has his eyes on the street. They roam left and right in search of New Zealand’s national bird.

A female is standing in a clearing

Ian parks the car in front of Lee Bay. This is where the three-day Rakiura Track starts, a hiking trail that is one of New Zealand’s most impressive hiking trails and leads through the huge nature reserve.

We walk hundreds of meters across wet meadows, past bushes and trees. No bird in sight. We should use flashlights in the forest. They are covered with red foil. “Because kiwis hate three things: cell phone ringtones, cameras and blue light,” he explains.

The red film on my flashlight creates a soft red light. The kiwis cannot see that. For them it is still pitch black and for us it will be safer on the forest floor.

Almost an hour passes before we leave the forest. I gave up hope when Ian suddenly asked us to turn off our lamps and stand still.

We finally see a kiwi in a clearing. The female moves like a chicken, constantly pecking on the floor. We have five to six minutes to watch it. Then the wind turns, it senses us and quickly disappears in the bushes to its peers.

Steven Hille is for his blog worldwide.

The research on Stewart Island was supported by the New Zealand Southland Regional Development Agency. You can find our standards of transparency and journalistic independence at


They discover 4,700 mounds built by the first settlers of the Amazon




Where we pass, we leave our mark, we change the landscape. Even what we consider a pristine paradise, the Amazon forests, not yet tainted by economic interests, have already been transformed by the first humans who inhabited them 10,000 years ago. And in a formidable way, as suggested by an international study in which the Pompeu Fabra University has participated. Researchers have discovered that these first inhabitants created 4,700 artificial mounds in the middle of the Bolivian Amazon savanna in which they cultivated wild plants such as cassava and squash for their consumption. The results appear published in the journal «Nature».

San Pablo Island – J. Capriles

The discovery of these “forest islands” has occurred in what is now Llanos de Moxos, in northern Bolivia, a savanna area that floods from December to March and is extremely dry from July to October. However, the mounds remain above water level during the rainy season and allow trees to grow. Were they done that way on purpose, so the crops wouldn’t get flooded? Javier Ruiz-Pérez, from the Humanities department of the Pompeu Fabra and co-author of the article, believes that it is a possibility, although he acknowledges that the reasons and the way in which these artificial areas were built “are not yet known exactly.”

“They probably formed as a result of the inadvertent accumulation of waste (for example, remains of gastropod shells after consumption) and activities they carried out in the settlement, such as burning organic matter,” explains the researcher in an email. to ABC. “But we also cannot rule out the possibility that they intentionally accumulated sediment or even that it is a combination of both scenarios. The mounds could offer protection against floods during the wet season and were ideal spaces for farming while hunting and gathering outside the ‘islands’, ”he argues.

The study consisted of an unprecedented large-scale regional analysis of 61 archaeological sites, previously identified by satellite, now patches of forest surrounded by savanna. Samples were recovered from 30 forest islands and archaeological excavations were carried out on four of them.

Cassava, pumpkin and corn

Using well-preserved plant silicified cells, called phytoliths, which are well preserved in tropical forests, experts documented in the mounds the first evidence found in the Amazon of cassava (10,350 years ago), squash (10,250 years ago) and corn (ago 6,850 years).

The authors believe that these plants were chosen because they were rich in carbohydrates and easy to cook, and they probably provided a considerable part of the calories consumed by the first inhabitants of the region, who also fed on fish, some meat and fruits obtained by harvesting.

Many important crops such as cassava, squash, peanuts, some varieties of chili and jackbean are genetically very close to wild plants that live in the Amazon, so scientists already suspected that this area could be one of the first places in the world where plants were domesticated. However, until now this theory has not been documented with archaeological findings.

Now, finally, the new research places the Amazon as the fifth area in the world where humans first domesticated vegetables about 11,000 years ago. The other four are found in China (millet minor, rice), the Middle East (wheat, barley), southwestern Mexico (corn), and northwestern South America (squash).

Although little is known about the origin of the first settlers of the southwestern Amazon, the evidence found shows that they formed itinerant or semi-itinerant groups that were not only hunters and gatherers, but colonizers that considerably modified the landscape by constructing mounds where they grew plants.


The Corona time bomb is ticking in the Greek migrant camps

Athens The northeast wind drove dark clouds on Friday from the Turkish coast over the island of Lesbos. Showers fell. As always, when it rains, the trails in the Moria refugee camp turned into mud deserts. The water flushes the garbage down into the valley, seeps into the tents, soaks blankets and mattresses. “We have to act before it is too late,” says Fotini Kokkinaki from the aid organization “HumanRights360”.

For years, helpers have drawn attention to the terrible conditions in which tens of thousands of people have to live in the migrant camps on the Greek Aegean Islands. Doctors kept warning about the risk of epidemics. The fear of the corona virus is now widespread in the camps. “If the virus arrives in the crowded camps, the consequences will be devastating,” Kokkinaki warns.
Curfews, closed schools, shops and restaurants: For weeks the Greek government has been fighting against the spread of the corona virus with new bans. However, the authorities initially paid little attention to the situation in the overcrowded migrant camps. The contagion drive there is particularly great because of the large spatial confinement in which people live.

So far, according to the government’s official statement in Athens, there are no known cases of infection in the migrant camps on the islands. But that says little, because there are no systematic tests at all.

The temperature is only measured for newcomers. According to official information from the end of this week, 40 703 residents live in the five so-called hotspots, the initial reception centers on the Aegean islands of Samos, Lesbos, Leros, Chios and Kos – crammed into camps that are designed to accommodate 8896 people.


19 283 migrants live in the notorious Moria camp on Lesvos, with space for 2757 residents. Because the official warehouse built from residential containers has been overcrowded for years, an estimated 15,000 people, including many families with children, live in the adjacent olive groves. They pitched camping tents there or made slats, cardboard and plastic tarpaulins.

Experts fear that the virus has long been rampant in Moria and the other camps, even if it has not yet been detected. The Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum is trying to ban the impending danger with a twelve-point plan.

Visits to the camps

This includes bans on visits to the camps. They also apply to employees of non-governmental organizations that used to play an important role in the care of people. The freedom of movement of the camp residents is also restricted.

So far, they could move freely on the islands. Now they are only allowed to leave the camps in small groups for shopping between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., but only one person per family.

Sports events and school lessons in the camps are discontinued. The sanitary facilities and common areas should be disinfected regularly. It is also planned to set up isolation stations. But it is difficult to imagine how this should be implemented in the chaotic camps.

With multilingual leaflets and loudspeaker announcements, the camp residents are informed about the precautions they can take to reduce the risk of infection. But the recommendation to keep your distance and avoid crowds of people must sound like a mockery to the camp residents.

You cannot avoid each other. Camp Vathy on Samos was built for 648 residents, but currently houses 7264 people. There are 816 places in the camp on Kos, but 2969 residents. The camp on Chios is five times overcrowded with 5363 residents.

Experts warn of uncontrollable conditions if the virus spreads in the camps. “Given the circumstances, it would be impossible to control the outbreak of the epidemic in the hotspots – thousands of lives would be in danger,” says Antigone Lyberaki of the aid organization Solidarity Now. “There is a time window to deal with the situation, but this window closes quickly.”

Government refuses to close camps

The human rights organization Human Rights Watch appealed to the government this week to immediately evacuate the island camps. The EU Commission asked Greece to take at least particularly vulnerable people, such as the elderly, the sick and families with children, from the overcrowded camps and to place them elsewhere on the islands.

The aid organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which tries to provide at least minimal medical care, especially for children, in the camps on Chios, Samos and Lesbos, demands a complete eviction: “The horrific living conditions are in the crowded hotspots on the islands an ideal breeding ground for Covid-19, ”says the MSF call.

The government has so far refused to close the camps and move migrants to the mainland. The reason: The virus is already rampant on the mainland. On the other hand, migrants are safer on the islands, as there have been almost no proven infections there, except for two cases on Lesbos, outside the camp.

Another reason why the government is hesitant to evacuate: Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis faces a problem that can hardly be solved. He doesn’t know what to do with the more than 40,000 migrants on the islands.

Because the 28 migrant camps on the mainland have long been overcrowded. The planned construction of new warehouses mostly meets with strong resistance from the population and local politicians in the affected communities.

Refugees Greece

Refugee women from the Moria migrant camp in Greece sew respirators.

(Photo: AFP)

There have also been local protests in the past against the accommodation of migrants in hotels and pensions that are now empty. The fear of the epidemic is likely to further fuel the resentment against migrants that is felt in many places.

The government in Athens has been calling for redistribution of asylum seekers to other EU countries for years – to no avail. In view of the corona epidemic, there is probably even less to think about than now.

After all, there is a small ray of hope: the reluctant transfer of 1,600 unaccompanied minors from the camps for weeks could finally get going, despite Corona. EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson hopes the move can begin next week.

Seven EU countries have agreed to accept the minors, including Germany. A total of around 5500 unaccompanied migrants under the age of 18 live in Greece. According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, around 2,000 of these are on the islands.

Regardless of the corona crisis, the federal government is in favor of quickly receiving minors from the refugee camps on the Greek islands. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer stand by his promise, said ministry spokesman Steve Alter on Friday in Berlin.

Looking at the organization of the EU Commission, he said: “According to our knowledge, there is movement in there.” He could not say exactly when it will happen, but “we also see progress”.

Whether Germany will eventually accept 250 or 400 minors is still as unanswered as the question of when they will leave Greece. “The Federal Government is in intensive exchange with the European partners to ensure prompt takeovers from the Greek islands,” said the Interior Ministry.

More: Greeks flee to the islands for fear of the virus: More and more Greeks are taking refuge on one of the islands. But the townspeople are not welcome there.


Greeks flee from Corona to the islands

Athens There is not much going on in spring, on the small Greek island of Symi in the eastern Aegean. At this time of year, the 2500 residents are usually among themselves. Most shops and pensions are closed, the narrow streets deserted. But now more visitors come than usual with the ferry that connects Symi with the port of Piraeus three times a week.

Mayor Leftheris Papakalodoukas believes he knows why they are taking the 16-hour journey: They take refuge from the corona virus on Symi. “We still have no infection on our island, but the way things are going will change very quickly,” fears Papakalodoukas. “We comply with government regulations,” the mayor reports in a mobile phone video on YouTube, “business people have closed their stores, we stay at home, but what does it help if the virus is introduced?”

Fear is not only about Symi. Thodoris Tzoumas, Mayor of the Sporades island of Skiathos, would also like to seal off his island community immediately. Skiathos is known for its beautiful beaches and exuberant nightlife.

In summer the island attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists. Most people here live from tourism. But now every visitor is suspicious: This week two Italians arrived from Milan, the next day two British, Mayor Tzoumas told the newspaper “Kathimerini”.

The strangers were asked not to move in public, “but they ignore it”. In a letter to the government in Athens, declared “urgent”, the local politician is now demanding that passenger traffic to the mainland be stopped immediately.

Many islands have not been affected by infections so far

Quarantine – no one likes to hear the word. But more and more Greek island communities are now calling for it. There are still only a few cases of infection on the 113 inhabited Greek islands. A case is known from the south of the Aegean island of Lesbos.

Zakynthos in the Ionian Sea has an infection center with four diseases. The other islands have not been officially affected so far, although there is a high probability that there will be undiscovered cases.

The Greek Ministry of Health officially reports 495 infected people, according to the status on Friday evening. However, the epidemiologist Athina Linou estimates that there are already 10,000 to 15,000 cases. Other experts expect 50,000.

The greater the fear of many islanders of visitors who could bring in the virus. Especially since many city dwellers are now thinking that they come from one of the islands. Quite a few have holiday homes there.

They usually come during the summer vacation in July and August. “But now we suddenly see people who have not been around for years,” reports Evanthia Papadatou from the island of Kefalonia. Four Athenians showed up in their village Svoronata this week. “To relax”, as they told the pensioner. But may they bring the epidemic with them?

Leftheris Karaiskos, mayor of the small island community of Amorgos, is also concerned. “More and more visitors have come from the mainland in the past few days,” reports Karaiskos. He hopes everyone will stay healthy. “Because on our island we have no way of treating serious illnesses,” says the mayor.

Practice with rudimentary equipment

In fact, there is often only a doctor’s office or a health center with rudimentary equipment on the smaller islands. Anyone who gets seriously ill on these islands must be flown to the mainland.

Larger islands such as Rhodes, Crete or Corfu have modern clinics with intensive care units and ventilators. But even there you would be overwhelmed in an epidemic. Especially since the islands have an above average number of older people who are now particularly at risk.

Local politicians in the island regions have therefore been appealing to the government for days to stop the flow of visitors. Giannis Plakiotakis, Minister of the Navy responsible for merchant shipping, responded on Friday.

From 6 a.m. on Saturday morning, only permanent islanders are allowed to use the ferries and visitors returning from the islands to the mainland. Truck drivers bringing supplies to the islands are exempt from the restrictions.

The number of passengers on the ferries is also drastically restricted: only one passenger is allowed on each ten square meter area in the ship’s lounge. “With these measures we protect our fellow citizens on the islands,” explains the Minister of the Navy. He advises the islanders to ministers to “take a boat trip only in urgent emergencies”. Plakiotis appeals: “We show a sense of social responsibility, we stay at home!”

Spanish islands cordon themselves off

The Spanish islands have already sealed off: the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands have blocked entry and exit since last Thursday and have largely closed their ports and airports. There are exceptions only for islanders who want to return home or for tourists who want to leave the islands. Freight transport is excluded from the regulation.

The islands themselves want to protect themselves from imported infections. The exit ban in turn is intended to prevent infected people from carrying the virus from the island to other parts of the country. There has been a curfew across Spain since the night of last Sunday. After Italy, the country is most affected in Europe.

Assistance: Sandra Louven

More: Corona and travel: If you have booked a holiday abroad over Easter, you will probably not be able to take it on due to the corona crisis. What is important now.


Islands near Venice: holidaymakers swarm, the inhabitants flee

Domenico Rossi lives on the picturesque island of Burano in the northern lagoon of Venice. The captivating charm of this place is deeply rooted in fishing – from the colorful fishermen’s houses to the traditional butter biscuits as provisions for the fishermen to the fine lace embroidery of their women.

Rossi himself is a crab fisherman – a family tradition that goes back to the proud days of the Venetian Republic. But a lot has changed in the recent past.

When Domenico Rossi, 49 years old, was a boy, 100 crab fishermen were still romping in the local waters. Now there are only 20 left and he is the youngest of them. So Rossi assumes that in a few decades no one will pursue this business.

Venice is becoming a kind of museum

The slow extinction of the traditional profession is part of a trend. Burano’s population is shrinking – similar to that of Venice, which is 40 minutes away by boat. And with that, the number of inhabitants who have kept the traditions and the economy of the island alive with their handicrafts is disappearing.

This is what brought Venezia Nativa, an association of entrepreneurs on Burano and two neighboring islands, to life. It tries to breathe new life into old handicrafts in order to attract new residents and encourage young islanders to stay. At the same time, it promotes sustainable tourism.

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... and today. After a long argument, the cruise ships will soon no longer be allowed to drive up here

Venice has long warned that it is in the process of being reduced to a kind of museum, a place that attracts crowds of tourists but where fewer and fewer people live. The number of residents who live permanently in the historic center with St. Mark’s Square and the Grand Canal has dropped to 53,000 – by a third within a single generation.

Every year, about 1,000 residents move to the mainland districts, where it is cheaper and easier to live. This changes the social fabric of the city, there are fewer neighborhood shops with local products and fewer public services.

Burano is said to become a tourist attraction

The effects of the population decline are even more visible on Burano and its two neighboring islands, Mazzorbo and Torcello. The population is currently around 2,700, and is decreasing by 60 people each year. 40 years ago there were two primary schools with about 120 children in each year, now there are only up to twelve each.

In the Venice lagoon: there are currently around 2,700 people living in Burano - but the number is decreasing

There are currently about 2,700 people living in Burano – but fewer are

Source: AP

Around 30 business owners on the islands are now betting on a revival of local trade and tourism that is steeped in old traditions. While Venice suffers from the burden of around 30 million visitors a year, only 1.5 million of them travel to Burano.

“We want to make these three islands in the northern lagoon a tourist attraction independent of Venice,” said Roberto Pugliese, Vice President of Venezia Nativa. This includes an offer that includes activities such as fishing or boat trips.

Venice lagoon: The Byzantine church of Santa Fosca on Torcello was built in the eleventh century

The Byzantine church of Santa Fosca on Torcello was built in the eleventh century

Credit: Getty Images / Maremagnum

The attraction of a peaceful life in the lagoon away from the places that have been attracting tourists so far should also be advertised. They include shops with lace embroidery, the Instagram-compatible backdrop of colorfully painted houses and the Byzantine cathedral on Torcello.

Islands reflect on their tradition

On the island of Mazzorbo, a winegrower from the Prosecco region north of Venice has reopened a long-standing vineyard – including a restaurant and hotel. Most of the 30 employees live on the islands.

Manufacturers of traditional Burano lace also want to breathe new life into their sector, mostly by focusing more on fashion items or art instead of decorative goods such as tablecloths or wall hangings as in the past.

Venice lagoon: fewer and fewer women in Burano still master traditional lace embroidery today

Fewer and fewer women in Burano still master traditional lace embroidery today

Source: AP / Luca Bruno

Yuka Miyagishima is a Japanese textile manufacturer. She is currently spending three months in a top embroidery shop in Burano to learn the handicrafts that are now only practiced by up to 100 women – most of them at an advanced age. However, Miyagishima does not want to stay on the island, but want to return home and practice the tradition there.

The fact that it is difficult to get people to move to Burano has a lot to do with the housing supply. Approximately 80 percent of the homes are picturesque fishermen’s houses that are admired by tourists for their bright colors, but are less popular with residents.

Venice Lagoon: The colored houses on Burano make good photo opportunities, but their residents live in a very small space

The colored houses on Burano make good photo opportunities, but their residents live in a confined space

Credit: Getty Images / Manuel ROMARIS

There are strict regulations regarding the extent to which the two-story buildings can be renovated. And it’s really just a house: each floor is just 20 square meters. So many of the buildings are for sale.

In the future, it should also be possible to combine neighboring houses into a single residence. That would be better for families. However, it remains to be seen whether this will encourage young residents to stay.

Federica Mohn and her husband run a bakery where they make the famous Bussolai biscuits. The biscuits are traditionally ring-shaped – so fishermen could hang them on their boat masts and nibble on them during long stays on the water.

Venice lagoon: Federica Mohn and her husband run a bakery where they make the famous Bussolai biscuits

Federica Mohn and her husband run a bakery where they make the famous Bussolai biscuits

Source: AP / Luca Bruno

Mohn’s daughter studies in Milan and wants to become a veterinarian. Her mother grants her that, but she hopes that one day her offspring will live on the island again. “When I hear about a young couple coming back, I’m happy,” she says. “And when I see blue or pink ribbons on Burano that herald a birth, it gives me the feeling that yes, we can repopulate the island!”

Coffee making at the Rialto Bridge – 950 euros fine

If you want to enjoy the view of the Rialto Bridge and prepare a coffee with your stove, you have to expect a hefty fine. But it is not only in Venice that fines are high.


Faroe Islands: “Why a raincoat? He has a car! “

The Faroe Islands

BThe Faroe Islands are 18 islands in the North Atlantic between the British Isles and Iceland. They originated from volcanoes that have long since gone out. The Faroe Islands are part of the Danish crown, but have been autonomous since 1948, largely independent and – unlike the Danish mainland – not part of the European Union.

The capital Tórshavn is clear with 12,500 inhabitants, with a total of 51,000 souls the island nation is one of the smallest in Europe. The Faroe Islands – also known as the Faroese – deliberately do not consider themselves as Danes, but as descendants of the Vikings who settled the islands at the beginning of the 9th century. They speak their own language with the Faroese.

Due to the northern location, trees do not occur in the nature of the Faroe Islands, and there are only a few mammals: gray seals and pilot whales; the many sheep were settled by humans centuries ago.

The most important economic sector is fishing, but tourism plays an increasingly important role – in the meantime, the islands are often visited on North Atlantic cruises, for example. And there is even a regular ferry connection: from the Danish port of Hirtshals to Tórshavn and from there to Iceland.

Faroe Islands (Denmark)

Source: Infographic The World

The quote

“What does he need a raincoat for? He has a car! “

The saying goes for the eye-catching love of the Faroese people: statistically, every island household has a car. In Autonation Germany, on the other hand, around 14 percent of households are car-free.

The high density of cars in the Faroe Islands does not have to do with poorly developed public transport, an astonishing number of ferries and buses operate, but above all with the climate. This is characterized by sudden changes in weather and abundant rainfall.

In the capital Tórshavn alone, there are 209 rainy days a year (for comparison: Berlin has an average of 99 rainy days) – a car protects better than rain from rain.

Cars in Torshavn in the Faroe Islands

Source: pa / Blickwinkel / S. Ziese

The happiness of the Faroese

Despite the often rainy weather, the Faroans are among the most satisfied peoples on earth. This can be seen, for example, in the fact that the islands have the lowest divorce and suicide rates in the Nordic countries. And the crime rate is so low that there is not a single prison for serious criminals – they are transferred to Denmark.

The islanders (and of course all the tourists on the islands) are also lucky due to a merciful mood of nature: no blood-sucking mosquitoes buzz around in the Faroe Islands, but at most a few harmless, orange-brown flies that like to mate on sheepskins.

No mosquitos

Source: Infographic The World

This cliff is a record in Europe

It rises 754 meters above sea level. Cape Enniberg on the island of Vidoy is the highest vertical cliff in Europe, the northernmost point of the islands – and one of the most important sights in the Faroe Islands. From the land side, the cape is difficult to access due to its impassability, the frequent, unexpected fog can make it even more difficult to climb.

The cliff has always been a breeding ground for one of the largest bird colonies on the islands and has long served as a hunting ground: the islanders caught puffins and petrels and collected eggs that ended up in the pots.

The islands of Vidoy with the Enniberg and the village of Kunoy, Faroe Islands, Denmark

Credit: picture alliance / imageBROKER

The ponies are in danger of extinction

Small, frugal and tough: the Faroe pony is perfectly adapted to the rough nature of the islands. It came to the Faroe Islands with Irish monks, probably in the 7th century, and served them as a riding and transport animal. The Vikings, who followed the Irish two centuries later, also appreciated the services of the miniature horse.

In 2004 it was determined by DNA analysis that the ponies were actually a breed of their own, which, however, was in acute danger of disappearing. Currently there is only a higher double-digit number of Faroe Islands ponies.

Faroe Pony

Credit: 500px / Getty Images

The sheep with the special wool

During the Viking Age, wool was an important export product for the islands. The Faroe Islands owe their name to the wool suppliers – in their Old Norse language it means something like “sheep islands”.

The wool from the Faroe Islands is particularly water-repellent due to its high proportion of lanolin – this wool wax keeps the sheep skin dry in all weathers. Wool has lost its importance for trade since the 19th century, but knitwear is still produced today – especially the classics with the typical small-format cross pattern.

Faroe Islands: sweater with the typical small-format cross pattern

Source: Infographic The World

A bloody custom

670 pilot whales are killed on average in the Faroe Islands – an internationally criticized practice that is considered a national custom on the islands. The whale meat is distributed among the population, in larger places it is also available in supermarkets or restaurants. Whale bacon in particular is considered an island delicacy alongside sheep’s head.

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Expedition to Greenland

This waterfall “flows up”

A hobby filmmaker on the Faroe Islands has taken a spectacular shot. Because of strong winds, it looks like a waterfall is flowing back up instead of into the sea.

Whimsical, record-breaking, typical: You can find more parts of our regional customer series here.

This text is from the WELT AM SONNTAG. We would be happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.

WELT AM SONNTAG from February 9, 2020