The Great Migration North
lright, finally time for a new blog! As we've stated before, this blog will be about dogs and travelling, and this time we'll combine the two. We recently had an amazing 5 month stay in Slovakia, but like a flock of migratory birds, the winters up north called us back. We said our good-byes to Janas Mom, Pani Sladka (Thomas gave her that nickname, Candy-lady, because she utterly spoiled our dogs with treats) and the rest of the dogs adoring fans down there, and hit the road.
The trip clocked in at a massive 3654 km. That in itself isn’t too daunting, but for us, Thomas is the only one driving, so we had to plan in a few breaks along the way. Also, there’s the issue of giving the dogs enough time out of the car, without sacrificing too much time to rest in the evening. Also, we’re slightly picky about where to rest our heads. Given that autumn was starting fully, tenting was pushed far down the list, but AirBnB came to our rescue. With Janas awesome powers of planning on point, we set to work.
The first leg of the journey ended up being relatively short. There’s a place in the Czech Republic called Krkonoše National Park, a stunning place with a climate similar to the north of Europe, and there we discovered a Tree House accommodation called Hacienda ve Vetvich (derived from a Czech word meaning branches), we decided this was a must-try. Being only a five hour drive away, we set off. As usual, our GPS was set to avoiding highways, which meant that we would be taking the scenic route through many smaller villages. This way we got to see many hidden gems: It could be old buildings, amazing landscapes or beautiful alleyways of old trees, maintained for generations. Keep in mind though, Slovak and Czech drivers are, as a rule, fairly crazy. Almost everyone will want to pass you, and accidents are very common here. We took it slow, and in some cases, pulled over to let other cars pass.
Towards mid-afternoon, we started closing in on the borders of the national park, and as we climbed higher, we felt like we were back in the Tatras Mountains. Deep valleys and long villages started appearing, and soon we came to the one we were staying in, Velka Upa. The cabin itself was very spartan, with thin walls, three beds and a table, but the location was magnificent. Hidden among tall pine trees and lifted off the ground, for us it was worth it. It was a slightly cold night, but waking up in the morning and experiencing the first sunrays shining through the trees was magical. After a slow wakeup, some breakfast and many pictures, we headed off for the Polish border.
With the border being less than an hour way, soon we were travelling through the Polish countryside. Our goal here was a city called Swinoujscie, where we would take a ferry overnight to the Swedish town of Ystad. We planned it this way so we would get a good nights rest, along with saving us a good chunk of driving through Denmark and Sweden. This turned out to be a very good alternative, as we even got a pet-friendly cabin on board the ferry.
The trip through Poland was fairly uneventful. Some roadworks in the south, a long drive along a highway in the middle, but with some nice landscapes and quiet country roads scattered in between. Our goal after reaching Sweden though was more tempting: An old house alone in the forest, close to a small place called Grythyttan. We chose this place mostly because of it’s beauty and location, while it also helped that it wasn’t too far away from Ystad. Arriving in the late afternoon, we had time to relax and let the dogs stretch a bit in the woods around. The weather was fairly rubbish, and we needed to conserve the power of our cameras for the next location, so we have no photos of the house. It was fairly old and worn, with a rustic charm that suited the location. Someone had definitely called it home at some point, and with a fire going in the stove it soon felt cosy. We didn’t sleep too well on the ferry on account of all the noise, so we turned in early. We were also looking forward to the next location, where we would spend two nights.
Here’s an important point to notice for anyone travelling to Norway or Finland with a dog (or even a cat): You have to have the dog (or cat) treated for worms, especially one called Echinococcus. They are not dangerous for animals, but can be deadly for humans, and Norway and Finland are considered free of them. Getting caught without having it done on the border might result in a huge fine, or at the least you will be denied entry. It has to be administered at a vets office, so we took the opportunity to stop halfway to the next overnight stay, Ytterhogdal. Here we had booked a small log cabin next to a lake. After some difficulty finding it, we arrived at a beautiful location, complete with a rustic log cabin with no electricity or running water.
Here we spent the next day and a half resting, fishing, photographing and walking in the woods, regaining our energy and acclimatizing. We enjoyed beautiful sunsets, almost caught a small pike, picked blueberries and relaxed with a roaring fire in an open fireplace. It was just what we needed to prepare for the longest leg of this journey, all the way north to Steigen.
What followed was 998 kilometers of mostly northern Swedish wilderness. We were greeted by a pair of Deer just before we turned on to the main road again, where we would see mostly pine trees for the next 7-8 hours. The driving was smooth though, and the time passed very quickly, so soon we found ourselves at the Norwegian border. Making short work of the rest of the drive, before nightfall we were back at the cabin we have visited many times in the last few years. After treating the dogs for the worms in Sweden, we had a window of up to 120 hours where we could pass into Norway without re-treating them, so we spent an extra day in Steigen, picking more blueberries and relaxing before doing the last drive to our destination.
With the 120-hour window of the worm-treatment, we could take the short-cut back into Sweden instead of follow the winding Norwegian fjords up north, and as we are writing this, we are back on our old stomping grounds just outside the village of Karasjok. So far we’ve had absolutely excellent autumn weather, with prominent visits from the Northern Lights already. The dogs are getting plenty of exercise, and all we can do now is enjoy the scenery and wait for the first snowfall. We can already feel our sledding-muscles itching in anticipation.