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Nov 16 2007

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Care to dine with a view?

If branding the Faroes involves setting up some spectacular tourist attraction, Elin Heinesen presented what could become the ultimate experience for domestic and foreign visitors alike—a marvel of a Cold War museum offering a majestic view of the mountain tops.

By Búi Tyril, Faroe Business Report 2007

Before she had even started in her new position as managing director of the Faroe Islands Trade & Tourism Council, Elin Heinesen had heads spinning accross the islands. “Yes, we do have a magical country,” she said in a public speech in Tórshavn, on the occasion of the St. Gregor’s Mass, an annual spring day event celebrated on 12 March. “But how can we create truly unique experiences that could make this country even more magical for visitors?” Then she proposed what made the headlines: let’s convert the abandoned Sornfelli radar domes and the adjacent facilities inside the mountain into a world-class leisure, entertainment and cultural facility.

“We could think big,” Ms Heinesen suggested, “by, for instance, putting up some spectacular landmarks here for people around the world to become enchanted by. In fact, we’ve got some amazing opportunities, of which I’d like to mention just one, as an idea: 750 meters up in the mountains of Streymoy, there lies something which could become a truly unique landmark, unmatched anywhere in the world. The radar domes and the tunnels and caves carved into the Sornfelli mountain, now abandoned by NATO, are still there—like a secret fairy tale castle cut into solid rock, with the radar domes as towers rising on the summit. For many, many years, this fairy tale castle—like the castle in the tale of Sleeping Beauty—was unapproachable and the public was denied access to its experience; but now… at last we are allowed to see what’s hiding up there.”

Faroese media were quick to follow up on the the story and the daily newspaper Sosialurin printed the entire speech. During the following days and weeks, representatives from the tourism industry and the political establishment would weigh in, approving of the idea.

“This mountain isn’t going anywhere,” said Prime Minister Jóannes Eidesgaard according the the public radio ÚF. “Everything is possible if there is a political will,” he added.

Kent Christensen, a former marketing manager of Atlantic Airways and now head of a travel agency startup, observed: “Creating a leisure and entertainment center on Sornfelli is a good idea… Such a thing could come in handy when you promote the Faroes.”

Back at the speech, which turned out to be wholly devoted to the self-same subject, Ms Heinesen’s went on: “When the weather is clear the view from the summit is stupendous… also with the fog filling the valley down below… I’ve been up there myself once, together with a foreign visitor on a beautiful day, enjoying the sunset. He told me he had once scaled the roof top of the world in the Himalayas, where they would have to walk for days in order to reach the altitude that would afford them a view of the mountain tops—a truly breathtaking experience. ‘You are lucky,’ he said, ‘because here you just take a 15 to 20 minute drive from Tórshavn or half an hour from the airport to get a similar spectacular experience. Standing on the Sornfelli and looking over this vast array of mountains felt just as breathtaking as if it were in the Himalayas. This is pure magic!’ He found it unbelievable that we’re keeping this pearl so secret.”

Ms Heinesen mentioned the possibility of using the caves and tunnels of Sornfelli for cultural and educational purposes as well as a leisure and entertainment center.

“For instance, we could use the tunnels in there for exhibitions… as well as for concerts, congressional meetings, courses—perhaps even a Cold War museum, which could attract international attention… We could let someone build a restaurant up in the domes with a view over all the Faroe Islands…”

Regardless of weather conditions, the bunkers and tunnels are likely to attract many, Ms Heinesen said. Importantly, the construction is already in place and refurbishments won’t even have to be very expensive.

“The place is so intriguing in itself that merely being there offers a very special experience in any circumstances… And the best thing of all: We could in fact develop the site at relatively low cost inasmuch as it is already built. The road goes all the way up. There is an area leveled for parking. It couldn’t be more convenient.

“This could become a magnificent landmark for the Faroes—unique in the whole world—with its own history, international history.”

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