Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Two Islands Dressing

A long day lays ahead of us, when the heavy anchor chain of FRAM is rattling in the morning, for the first time during this trip. We are about a solid mile away from the tiny little harbour of Sark, certainly one of the most unusual Islands in Europe. Situated in the English Channel, but not too far from the Normannic side, this remarkable rock sits like a steep and cragged, but also lush and colour-boasting obstacle in the sea. It is time now to enter our Polar Circel boats and ferry over, while sun and clouds fight for their right in the morning sky. On approach we can see many gaping dark cave mouths in the cliffs. They are excellent hideouts, which is one of the reasons why the Channel Islands used to be the realm of Pirates in the old days, a wild place indeed. 

We, however, feel all but threatened by the friendly welcome they give us. Tractor transports bring us uphill where we have the choice to be happy, independent cyclists or equally happy passengers in the horse-and-carriages, that take us across the car-free roads of this very peaceful place. Those who venture over to Little Sark, a smaller appendix of the "big" island, only connected by the narrow bridge "La Coupée", experience a world outside the world; no noise, no rush, no worries. No streetlamps, either. This is why Sark has been appointed the worlds first "Dark Sky Community", only as of February this year. The Serquois, as the inhabitants of this bilingual evironment are called, are mighty proud of this darkness, that you otherwise find only in much remoter places, like a desert camp, for example.
Way too fast the hours pass by, but finally the bikes have to be returned, the carriages have to be left alone, and then we climb back into the boats to get back to FRAM, across a choppy sea. This was a visit in another world, everybody agrees.

It takes only a good hour to hop over to Guernsey, much bigger, much more traffic and with a real "skyline". But we should not forget that this used to be "Pirate Central" in the times of Brigantines and buckaneers, and in fact, some of the islanders are proudly claiming to be the descendants of former privateers. And who knows? Today it's ferries and busses and nice shops in a narrowly winding arrangement of streets that feel as if the cobblestones have just been taken away. On arrival, most of us jump on the coaches that leave for a three-hour extensive city tour with excellent guides who inform us about all the aspects of the island's history, from piracy benefitting from the huge tidal range (that we only can see manifested in a submerged landing pier), to the role of Gurnsey during WW II. So, everybody returns to FRAM tired, but happy and full of new information. A day to remember!