Blog 3. First period

BigDoor

Can you imagine that feeling when you don’t own any keys? Well, we did have the key to our car, but it was the only one we had. And no other keys to anybody’s property – neither neighbors nor family. Indeed we had only the car key, when we were sitting in the car, parked on the street nearby our just sold apartment. It was a special feeling and we never before thought that the keys could have such a big meaning – a key symbolizes a relation to some place. Not having a key means you don’t have a physical relation to any property. 

It was a plan to start this blog from day one after we reached Big Lake Village. But in reality our minds were exposed to so many new things around us and it was no chance to have a clear feelings about what was happening during the first period. So it is actually first now, one year after our arrival, our minds have used to a new situation, it is possible to see the whole picture from aside, and so we can start telling this story. And one year after we went through that huge change we can understand today, how big that change was. 

The first period on new place was filled with many practical things, sometimes frustrating and ridiculously complicated. Such simple things like opening a bank account and paying bills were not that simple as you can imagine. But it was also time of great experiences. 

We arrived to Big Lake Village on November 1st, in our car with trailer, filled with things- only those of the first priority. Including 10 pairs of my high heels shoes… They were brought all way up north just because I forgot to deliver them to the temporary storage of our things and furniture In Denmark. But later on those shoes got their positive role. The first thing we did on our arrival was to start the fire wood oven and prepare big portion of cheese fondue as well as to open a bottle of red wine. It was a long 13 hours drive and we were really tired. We were sitting in front of each other, euphoric and exhausted, and no doubt we both were thinking: “what the hell are we doing here? What have we done?”… But at the same time we were excited about the future. By the way, the house was kindly prepared for our arrival- the owner took a long way from where he lives in southern Sweden to make the house ready for rental. For us it was easier to have an overview of the property. 

Cheesefondue
Cheese fondue on arrival

Next couple of days we moved all unneeded furniture and things from the living space we wanted to use. We decided to live on ground floor, and moved a lot of things on first floor. Living on ground floor was in our opinion more practical and could help us reduce costs spent on heating during cold winter months. Here there is a beautiful old firewood oven in the kitchen and electric heaters in small rooms. And in such old and energy inefficient house you can end up with high bill for electricity in a cold winter with temperatures below -40 degrees Celsius. In addition, our dogs don’t like stairs. Lastly, I love living in small space. The first floor we use for our things and for drying washed clothes, as well as there is a room for guests. We live basically on 50 square meters as well as we have a garden of approximately 2.000 square meters. 

HouseDress
Inside of the house

We decided to let us be “free” the first month – just to have time to acclimatize on a new place and observe surroundings, not being disturbed by any other activities. And of course to have time for the basic practical things – for example to find out where we could buy fire woods for winter season, which already had been started.

Firewoods
Ready for winter

We landed at new place in November, where local people were already prepared for winter, but we were absolutely not ready for that. Basic thing like opening a bank account took a lot of time and efforts. Before you apply for bank account in Swedish bank you have to have a Swedish Identity card, and the Identity card can be issued only after you have got a Personal number from tax authorities. To get your Personal Number you have to wait some period after your application is registered. So, when you have your Personal Number issued, you can apply for the Identity Card, and after two weeks you can be lucky to get it and, after that you have to visit a bank office in person and apply for the smart thing, called the Bank ID (your digital identity). We chose our bank just because their office was closest to Big Lake Village – 165 km. We had to meet with bank guys couple of times, before the whole setup was ready to be used. So in practice it can take up to two months before you can optimally function as “digital citizen” with digital signature in the “digital society”, so you can order mobile broadband and basic things like to pay your bills. Thanks to my cousin during that long period – she paid all our bills, while we transferred money on her account. Maybe it is the same process in Denmark and elsewhere, when you are a new in country, but it feels complicated and unneeded bureaucracy, especially when we talk about digitalization of public services.  

Many of you probably wonder if we have Internet connection. Yes, we do have it. We were actually impressed by the fact that Sweden has done great job for cohesion in the society, so nobody feels isolated. Even the smallest villages have good mobile network coverage. Of course, we had to purchase an external antenna for better signal, and it works fine so far. Though we don’t stream TV, but it’s not relevant for us – we have never watched TV. I actually was thinking, that I would watch TV after moving here, but it was only an idea.  

Houseboats
Library in the living room

We have to admire, that we had some prejudice about local people in the region, before we arrived, and we were convinced, that it was the same way back. There were for sure rumors about two Danes’ arrival to the village. Approx. 90 people live in the village, so everybody knows each other. Most of inhabitants are born here and most of them are hunters, and suddenly we together with our two dogs are moving here directly from Copenhagen. I was grown up in the countryside in northern part of Denmark, where people can be really unsocial, so my prejudice was based on that, and I expected that it would be the same here – even more extreme. But in reality it was absolutely opposite. We were welcome here from day one and almost everybody was open and curious to know more about us. And we could feel so much helpfulness  – it is something you almost have forgotten it did exists after many years of life in Copenhagen. Here in Big Lake Village you don’t ask about help – here you think about what you could do for others to help them. As example – your neighbor comes and asks you, when you are back after a short trip, so he can get the snow off from the entrance to your house and you can get drive in late in the darkness when you arrive. Or in summertime you come back home and you know that flowers in the garden were taken care of, because neighbors took initiative to help you. This is a gesture, you value really much. We did also things in order to be open. One evening in the middle of December and 6 weeks after we moved in, we invited three closest neighbor families to our house to have some Danish typical before Christmas drinks and cookies. It was nice “ice-breaker” and cozy evening. And our fridge was quickly filled up with moose meat – invited guests here don’t bring flowers to hosts, but 1 kg of meat. I am vegetarian, but Otis was really happy as he before our move dropped his attempt to become vegetarian. 

Knogler
Non-vegetarian street view

Another episode, which was important for us, happened the Christmas evening. We did choose to stay here for Christmas against of traditions. We have a small family – my parents are not alive anymore, and Otis has only his mom far away in Ukraine. So we were sitting alone, but suddenly somebody knocked on the door. It was one of our neighbors, who came to us with a little present for us. He excused because presents were not wrapped in, but we were so impressed by the thoughts of care about us, especially when you are new here, sitting alone Christmas Eve. 

On the other hand we had a naïve idea about, how fantastic it would be – to just open the door and let our dogs run free around the house. When you have lived most of your life in apartment, and finally you got your garden, it was really exciting to think about that freedom for dogs. But there was no fence around garden, and it took about just one week for our dogs to find out, that there were parts of moose (bones, head etc.) hang up in the trees by neighbor in order to attract wild foxes closer, so he could shoot them. Of course, no way, that our dogs can run and eat that old meat, as they also get sick of it. And as it became obvious later on, there were many old rests of moose bones around in the area in the forest. Every time our dogs came proud with new found bone, we had to take it from the and place up in the tress, which was not easy, as our dogs are tall enough to reach bones up in the trees. 

We know, that many wonder about the financial side of our adventure. What do we do for living in this place? We will touch that side of our life in the next blog.

Sunshine
November view
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Blog 2. Relocation

Packed Car

The road from the first house in Dalsland to the second one in Jämtland was unusually long. Those 700 km took almost 12 hours and as longer we drove up north, the longer distance between populated areas became. It was a feeling, that we were slowly leaving the civilization.

Lunch on the way
Lunch break on the the way to Jämtland

Reindeers were standing just on the road, while moose could be seen along the way, and the road itself became unpaved, before we reached the last destination. It was a long trip through endless forests, and during that trip you could feel, how far away you got. After many hours of driving we see streetlights and we understand, that we have arrived to Storsjö Kapell or Big Lake village. A little village, surrounded by almost endless forests and with mountain views in all directions. It was easy enough to find the house, because we saw couple of pictures, but we were a little bit surprised because the house was located relatively close to another house. And there was another surprise, when we went inside the house. We were offered to stay for one night in that house and we were told where to find the keys. “To be surprised” in this context doesn’t mean, that we got the keys to the cozy and beautiful house with unique location. It was almost the opposite meaning. Inside there was a strong smell of old house, unused for a long time. At the same time it was almost impossible to move around in the house, as it was filled up with old furniture and tones of books everywhere. Obviously the house had a function of a warehouse, where one family collected and stored things from several generations. In any case it was not a cozy country house, as we imagined. 

Furniture of any kind, huge floor standing sound speakers from 80’th, kitchen equipment, cloths, panels from the old shower cabin and, again, tones of books. Water in the house had a brownish color and taste of iron, because nobody used the house for long time. The larder room and kitchen were filled with old food; bottles and many other things with suspect fluids inside them, so we were afraid even to touch them. But, on the positive side, there was an old beautiful wood-burning stove in the kitchen, and it turned to be very efficient, as we discovered later on. 

We made some space for our sleeping pads between furniture and when we woke up in the morning, we knew both, that we will choose this house, despite all those less positive feelings about it. Partly because of that real wild, untouched and tough nature you can find in Jämtland region. That type of nature, you obviously won’t find many other places in Europe anymore. Maybe in Finland. And partly because we wanted to face some challenges in our life, both physical and mental. If you choose to make such an extreme move in your life, as we did, than it’s worth to get as far away from your “comfort zone” with well known surroundings and habits, so you can experience everything in a new way – with widely opened eyes and all senses activated. There are long distances to anything from this location. Very long distances. It’s challenge to realize, that the closest bigger supermarket is located 70 km away and the road to it can be closed due to extreme weather conditions in wintertime. The other “closest” supermarket is about 164 km away. Though there is a little food store nearby offering the basic food for survival. Forget organic food and fresh milk and be prepared to cook something with canned corn and tomatoes instead of fresh vegetables. You learn how to ferment and how to plan a huge shopping lists for your trips to supermarkets and these “skills” will be described later on. The closest veterinarian is also far away – this was also taken in consideration before our move. In some critical cases and hard injuries the only solution would be to find a local hunter to shoot your dog. But on the opposite and positive side you won’t find in neighborhoods wired fences, which can be dangerous for a dog running with speed up to 60 km/h. Here there is no traffic on roads and most of the time our dogs live close to the nature and what reminds about their original natural environment in Russia. These factors were also important in our considerations. Another positive side of this location is winter season.  Yes – it can be really cold here, but in our opinion you will find the perfect winter here. Even with very low temperature the air is dry here and this makes you feel better and warmer in your cloths than in a humid air. Winters are long here and lakes are covered with strong ice. Wintertime is a separate chapter in this blog and will be covered later on. 

All those things were prioritized in our considerations and there was not doubt for us in saying yes to this place. Bad smell in the house will disappear as well as taste of iron the water, and all old furniture will be moved into the separate room, so we could get some space for living. And of course now we could have a reason to buy a bigger SUV car – our little city car wouldn’t be efficient enough here. 

Back in Copenhagen we had one month for packing everything down, find a place for storage of main part of our things and to decide, what we could bring with us for winter. At that time we were still thinking about living in motorhome during summertime, so we had to really be careful with amount of things, we should take with us. We had to find some place to store our things in Denmark. Obviously there is high demand on storage space in Denmark and you can find plenty of self-storage hotels around Copenhagen. But in rapidly growing market prices were too high, while storage conditions were far away from our expectations. So it was not an easy task to find something safe and affordable. Fortunately one of my former colleagues had an empty room in the basement, dry and safe. And ready for use. We were really lucky to have that chance coming at the right moment. It was naïve of us to believe that we could “pack all our life” in the roof box of our car. My cousin and her husband live in Swedish city Gothenburg and they did so much for us during the whole relocation phase. We could officially register our Swedish address with them, so we could purchase our “Swedish” car and the huge 500 liters roof box mounted on top of it. Despite of that volume we had to drive between Copenhagen and Gothenburg many times. The evening before the last night in our apartment we realized, that we couldn’t have rest of our belongings in the car, so we had to drive an extra tour to Gothenburg and back again early next morning. Next day we had to clean the apartment and pack the car for the last time. And at that last moment I found out, that I had 10 pairs of high heel shoes left in the wardrobe. The last thing you really need in the wilderness is high heel shoes. But there was no choice – they had to go with us in the car, filled with lots of other things. It was a really comic situation – after the apartment was officially handed over to new owners we were running around the car, pressing our socks and underwear in the empty spaces under seats and dogs’ bed.  The new owner of apartment ran down on the street, saying that I forgot something. It was Orest’s hunting cap – the man put cap on Orest’s head and said: “Good luck”.  We were laughing on it afterwards, but we looked like a gypsy family, who packed their camp in a rush and were on the way to a new location – without any idea what the future will bring us. And basically it was in real.

High heel shoes and cheese fondue in our bagage
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Blog 1. The Beginning

Blog1_image

Our little family consists of my husband (Otis), myself (Lykke) and our two dogs. Last year we chose to make a “jump” and move far away from central Copenhagen and find a place to live somewhere in the northern Sweden. That decision was a real surprise for many, but our closer friends knew it well that we talked about moving into the nature for many years. Probably for the last 10 years we had talked many times about making a decision, but we were always stopped by questions like “how?”, “where?” and “how will we earn for living?”. The answers / thoughts about the last question will be touched in the separate blog. 

But one day it was absolutely clear for us, that if we shall do it, it has to be now. My husband quitted his job as geophysicist at Maersk Oil without having any other alternatives. It was naive to think that it should be easy to find another job in growing sustainable energy industry after 8 years of work in one of the best and respectful Danish companies, but the reality turned to be different. And after every refuse of job applications the dream about making decision and moving into the wild became stronger and stronger. About myself – I am a visual artist graduated from the Danish Royal Academy of fine arts in Copenhagen. And as it is well known, artists don’t have guaranteed and stabile earnings. So I had to work more and more at that period, and suddenly my flexible job at Danish Design museum became full time job. Our two dogs, Russian sight hounds (borzoi) – not an easiest breed – generally they had it fine, but no doubts that they would love to have more of outdoors life than we could give them. 

Basically, we were 4 individuals, who actually didn’t have much fun in that situation, but it was not the feeling of sadness and life failures as one could expect, but rather feeling of being thankful to be able to clearly feel and see, what we want and don’t want in our life. And a great feeling of satisfaction because of taking the situation in your hands and acting according to that taken decision. 

And one day, while I was cycling home after job, I got a such clear view of the situation, that I “flew” into the apartment and said, that we put our apartment on sale and we are going to move. At that time Otis started at one job, which was far away from the dream job, but still with time it could have become an interesting one. But the decision was taken and in a short time the apartment was officially put on sale. It was hard to keep feelings for the moment after the contract with real estate agency was signed, because we loved that apartment and it was really beautiful one and only one of its kind. A light Copenhagen apartment, with high cellings in the middle of the cozy Østerbro district. Even if it was hard to leave it, there were no hesitations about the taken decision, but of course we had strong fears of becoming homeless and without any guarantees – only money in bank and shaky plan for the future. The sale of apartment took only 12 days. And we got 2 months to find a new place to move to. 

The fact that we ended up so far north was actually a coincidence. We travelled a lot in Sweden for years, hiking and canoeing, and we had a clear idea about, where we preferred to live. We were in love with Dalsland region, with its numerous lakes and channels system connecting those lakes. We travelled in the region only in summer time and we had many positive memories from there. The first thing we had to do, it was to make a search for a place via our network and social media. I participated in several art exhibitions in Sweden as well I have family, living in Sweden, so we had a hope, that via those channels we could reach opportunities to rent a summerhouse or country house for a shorter period. I mentioned a “shorter” period, because we had a naive and unclear idea to travel in RV Camper during summer months. An idea that died shortly after its birth, because it was just unreal in our case, as we realized that later on. Back to the network – we got really great response on our request via Facebook and obviously there are many out there, who have country houses, which are not used in wintertime. We chose two houses, which seemed to be something for us, and which we wanted to visit and see in real. One house was in Dalsland (mid Sweden), and another in the northern Sweden, in Jämtland region. The “Dalsland” house was really what we wished (in our fantasy). Beautiful classic old Swedish house, located in the forest, but, when we came to the place, we hardly could imagine ourselves living in it. It was end of September, and we were afraid of winter without snow in that relatively southern region, what could make winter days even darker and with lots of mud. In addition the house was located 12 km from the midsize province town Åmål. Northing wrong with that town, but both of us got the felling of lacking some real challenges, because of having “civilization” just around the corner. It was the feeling that with the same success we could just had moved to some island in Denmark. Unsatisfied with that, we drove further up north to Jämtland region, where the second house was waiting for us. And where we chose to stay. In the next blogs I will describe the house far away and in the region, known as the coldest place in Sweden, about little village and people living there. Also about our move from Copenhagen, which can be compared with gypsy relocation.

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