hidden europe 18

An icon of identity: the Faroese flag

by Nicky Gardner


Fámjin is all the better for being difficult to reach. It is a tiny place, a mere pinprick on the map of the Faroes. But Fámjin has something of the Faroese soul about it, for it here that the national flag was first flown. We look at some places that enshrine icons of national identity.

Places that appeal to the soul of a nation are always interesting. Take Mount Fuji and Japan. In the USA, Fort McHenry in Maryland inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star-Spangled Banner. Today it has all the qualities of a religious shrine. So what of Europe? Are there similarly iconic spots on which the heart of an entire nation pivots? Well Slovakia has certainly invested a portion of the national psyche in the small town of Levoca, which is for Slovaks what Fort McHenry is to Americans. It was here in the hills of eastern Slovakia that the Slovak national anthem was composed. Levoca is conveniently picture perfect and also has an impeccable pedigree for its early involvement in the Slovak National Uprising in 1944. So many are the coachloads of Slovakian schoolchildren who are taken to Levoca, there dutifully to sing Nad Tatrou sa blýska ('Lightning over the Tatras').

In Poland, Wawel Hill in Kraków with its fortress and cathedral asserts the appeal of a Fort McHenry or a Levoca, but sadly cannot claim to be the spot where the Polish national anthem was written. Mazurek Dabrowskiego, the Polish anthem, was actually composed in Italy.