If you draw a triangle between Iceland, Norway and the UK, the Faroe Islands can be found smack in the middle of it. The archipelago's steep, rocky shores are often passed over in favor of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, but this isolated cluster of islands isn't just an extension of its Scandinavian neighbors. An autonomous region of Denmark since the '40s, the Faroe Islands have a culture and landscape all their own. Here are eight facts about these 18 peculiar islands.
You're never more than five kilometers from the ocean
Due to the islands' egg-like shape, you can never be too far from the water. The white-crested waves of the Atlantic are a constant presence for those who live here, and their proximity to the wild ocean has shaped the way society developed on the archipelago. Whale, seaweed and shellfish are staples of the Faroese diet.
Fermentation is the traditional way of conserving food
Finding and raising food in this unpredictable climate proved to be challenging for the early inhabitants of the archipelago. Without refrigerators or certainty about where their next meal was coming from, they had to get creative. For centuries, meat has been fermented and dried in order to preserve it for months at a time. While this process has generally died out across the rest of Scandinavia, the Faroe Islands has kept the tradition alive due to its extreme isolation.
It's home to the original rooftop garden
The grass-roofed houses of the Faroe Islands are part of an ancient tradition, most likely dating back to prehistoric times. Long before going green was a trend, it was a way of life, and across Scandinavia people put sod on their rooftops in order to absorb rainwater and keep their homes dry.
There is no long-term prison
As one of the safest places in the world, the Faroe Islands has only one single prison, and it's reserved for those serving short sentences. Technically, the prison isn't even a prison, merely a detention center that can only house 12 people at a time. Those who commit more serious crimes are sent to higher-security prisons in Denmark.
It's home to the one of the world's oldest parliaments
Tórshavn, the capital, claims to have been the seat of government of the Faroe Islands since the vikings settled there in 9th century. The assembly was organized without a singular executive power, allowing families to make communal decisions. It was intended to be held in a neutral area, and at the time the capital was not inhabited and was a very central location. Although Iceland claims to have the oldest parliament in the world, there is evidence to suggest that the Faroe Islands may have founded theirs around the same time, if not even earlier.