The Białowieski Forest National Park in Poland. Tourism here developed no worse, bison just as powerful. The nature of the middle European strip blooms with meadows, rustles with oak trees and murmurs with the purest rivers, reminding of native lands. Add to this unique cultural objects – and you get a world-class recreation area.
Many observers confuse the settlements around the reserve, indicating only the nearest major city in the Podlaskie Voivodeship – Bialystok. In fact, the park surrounded by dozens of villages and forestrie. But the main tourist destination remains the village of Białowieski south of the central gate. It here that there are excursion sites, the main attractions and modern hotels, where numerous guests accommodated.
The protected area of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha can rightly be considered. The cradle of Eastern European civilization, archaeologists still find confirmation. That the first man came here already at the sunset of the Stone Age. Presumably, in the local forests could live and Goths – the famous Germanic tribes that challenged Rome. Evidence of this abounds – ranging from small finds, to ancient necropolises in the vicinity.
The next important milestone in the history of the lands is the Middle Ages. When the Grand Duchy of Lithuania gained enormous power over the region. In 1409, Vladislav Jogaila approved a decree that closed these forests to everyone except the royal family. So began the era of royal hunts, which almost destroyed the entire ecosystem of the region. According to chronicle reports, court nobles shot bison and deer by the thousands, caught wild horses.
The era of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth brought other laws – huntsmen settled in the forest. Who specially raised animals for slaughter to kings. Bison stopped shooting for the sake of meat reserves. But such bloody entertainment carried away dozens of animals annually. Which could not but affect the number of inhabitants of the forest. The first to stop the barbarism ordered by Catherine II. But the ban on hunting concerned only the bison. Because of which by the middle of the XVIII century deer completely exterminated.
The grandson of the Empress Alexander I continued to protect the ancient land. The Belovezhskaya Pushcha gradually became the fiefdom of the Romanov dynasty. In 1864, several sexually mature red deer brought here from Germany. The royal hunt turned into leisure, where the aristocracy tried not to harm nature. However, this did not prevent the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II from returning logging. Which destroyed up to 20% of hundred-year-old trees.
The first draft of the reserve published in 1918 immediately after the proclamation of Poland’s independence. But the authorities faced a colossal level of poaching. In order to finally stop logging and illegal hunting, forest inspections created, dividing the territory into cordons. It took almost 15 years to drive illegal farms out of the forests. And by 1932 the Białowieski National Park opened its doors to the first visitors.
Sights of belovezhskaya Pushcha
It is a mistake to believe that there are only natural recreational areas in the protected area. Within the village of Białowieski alone, tourists can visit a dozen exhibition centers, open-air museums, nurseries. Relax with the benefit for the mind and health.
Museum of Nature and Forest
Not only in Belarus there are modern sites dedicated to the natural heritage of the forest. The Polish Museum is the starting point of most excursions. Because it is located on the territory of the former palace of Alexander III. Who built it specifically for his hunting forays. But the huge residence of the Russian emperor burned down in a fire in 1944. Leaving only the Tsar’s Gate from the majestic architectural monument, as the sign says at the entrance.
Unfortunately, this is where the main interest of the guests ends. Inside they are waiting for a typical and unremarkable local history exhibition. In the exhibition halls it is dark, photographs are obtained in the presence of expensive optics. Stuffed animals look doubly sad, especially considering that on the street they are all looked at alive. If desired, you can climb the observation tower and take a few memorable pictures with views of the forest thicket.
Despite the fact that “European bison” move freely around the neighborhood. Several pens have been created for them at the entrance to the park area. Initially, only those animals that needed help brought here. But after nursing, the owners of the forest got used to regular nutrition. Veterinarians so much that they now prefer to live here. Stable care allowed to breed offspring, and small calves – the decoration of aviaries.
Next to the corral, a small exhibition center with a multimedia exposition was built. Guests greeted by a full-length bison skeleton and screens with documentaries and colorful photographs. If you go a little further, you can see enclosures. With other inhabitants of the forest – moose calves, red deer, wild boars and even gray wolves. Real zoo conditions have been created for animals, they do not need anything.
Employees have not forgotten about the entertainment infrastructure. While adults stare at the huge bison, children can walk to the playground. It is small – a couple of swings, sports equipment and slides, but it helps to pass the time. With souvenirs, too, everything in order – the store sells figurines of animals. Sof the region, ubiquitous magnets and even jam from local confectioners, which not sold anywhere else.
Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker
Coming to Belovezha, many surprised by the absence of a language barrier. The thing is that 40% of the village’s population EN-speaking parishioners assigned to the Orthodox Church. The Church of St. Nicholas here almost the central attraction. A high brick vault and golden domes contrast sharply with classical Polish architecture. Services held regularly, which does not interfere with numerous excursions.
The church itself has a difficult fate – in 1915, all valuable icons. Other Orthodox relics taken away from the halls. The Second World War brought enormous troubles – the domes collapsed from bombs. Later, the Nazis used the square in front of the church for demonstration executions of partisans. The restoration took decades and fully completed in 1991. Returning the shrine to the flock, and tourists – the most interesting museum.
Church of St. Teresa and the Infant Jesus
There is also a Catholic parish in Białowieski, which is much younger than its Orthodox counterpart. But this does not reduce its importance. The temple began to be built in 1934 so that ethnic Poles could baptize children. Without leaving for neighboring farms and cities, but the war that began 5 years later thwarted all plans. The occupation authorities not going to give money for construction. The final decoration of the church completed 40 years later – in 1971.
Today, the parish of St. Teresa is a large building in the Renaissance style. Which can accommodate up to one and a half thousand people. Surprisingly modest decoration inside is crowned with an unusual altar of oak branches. A symbol of the crown of thorns. The memory of all the victims who shed blood for their native land. Recently, a polyphonic organ has also appeared here – music sounds at weekly masses and on big holidays.
The house, built for the governor of grodno county, decorated the palace park of Białowieski in the 1830s. Makes it the oldest building in the vicinity. Miraculously surviving and surviving two world wars. The estate in the pseudo-Russian style still surprises guests with its carved shutters, high pediments and attics. Inside there a permanent exhibition about the life of Russian nobles and a seasonal farmer’s exhibition of Belovezhskaya mushrooms.
The area around the mansion is a kind of educational center in the open air. On the windows you can see a herbarium with samples of trees. The courtyard of the estate is equipped with a manual. Which an encyclopedia of the flora and fauna of Polesie. A separate attraction is the bronze benches in the shape of bison. The seats in which are located not anywhere, but inside the mighty figures guarding order near the mansion.
Museum of Wooden Architecture
It is proposed to complete the tour of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha in Skansen. A museum of the culture of the Eastern Slavs. The local population has long called it a “Russian park”. Because the main emphasis of the exhibitions is on the life of Orthodox peasants. There is a working windmill, blacksmith’s workshops, a baker and several huts.
Bison is the real owner of the Białowieski lands. About which tourists are warned by numerous signs immediately at the entrance to the village. Animals can block the road, walk quietly along the houses or relax in the shade of trees. It is strictly forbidden to approach the animal close at this moment. It does not pose a danger to humans only when it is calm. Frightened bison are unpredictable, like any wild inhabitants of the forest.
Unlike the Belarusian part of the reserve, on the Polish side it is impossible to enter the thicket so easily. There are two official routes with a length of 7 and 12 kilometers. Allow you to see the national park from the inside. It is allowed to move along them only accompanied. By a local guide or ranger who will explain the safety rules. And how to behave in an unforeseen situation or when meeting with a predator.
On the way to the forest you can see a relict oak tree surrounding the main tourist trail. The age of the local trees exceeds 200 years, but not only this they are famous among wildlife lovers. Each oak tree is numbered and has a name. The Poles decided to immortalize in them the legendary historical figures, writers, musicians and artists. For example, there is a tree named after the first king of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Władysław Jogaila.
How to get to the Białowieski Forest in Poland
With the delivery of excursion groups to the main gate of the national park, no difficulties arise. You just need to buy a bus ticket from Warsaw to Białowieski. Transport runs without interruptions from about 14:00 to 19:00, the travel time is about 5 hours. Stops along the route will be enough to rest and replenish supplies. The only nuance is that during the holidays and Christmas holidays, the schedule will have to be specified in advance.
Popular taxi services, including Uber and Kiwi, have been operating in Poland for a long time. And for trips from neighboring cities this is a good option. It is better to order a car 2-3 days before departure. So that there is a chance for preferential tariffs, promotions and discounts. There are no offices of local carriers in Białowieski, the Poles protect the ecology of the region from exhaust gases.
Independent travelers can go on the navigator from anywhere in the country, indicating the coordinates – 52.700709, 23.866797. Despite the modest size of the village – there are many parking lots, and for hotel guests they are completely free. The main task is to follow the rules of the road and carefully look around, passing by bison.