Part 1 - Nature Preserves and Parks - Białystok
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     Eastern Poland - the Podlasie and Lubelskie districts - is predominantly flat and agricultural. However, here you find some of Europe's finest nature preserves and national parks. There are also a number of well preserved magnificent palaces.


     In summer time the nature parks of north-eastern Poland provide hundreds of miles of trails through pristine forests and great kayaking areas on lakes and along peaceful rivers. The people of Warsaw go to the Narew river which is less polluted than the Vistula. Beaches are less than an hour from the city. However, for the tourist the less crowded and quieter areas that are farther away are more desirable.
     Biebrza NP The Biebrza National Park provides an ideal location for observing nature, especially from June to the end of October. It is the largest national park in Poland, with over 500 km of hiking trails, 135 km of kayaking routes along the Biebrza river and its tributaries. Observation towers overlooking the protected swamps provide a magnificent venue for bird watching. Camping is available in several locations and there are limited spaces in hostels and small hotels, see the map. The railway station Osowiec, at the middle of the park, can be reached from Warsaw by train in 3 1/2 hours via Białystok.
      Nature trips are available for 5 to 10 days, they include hiking, kayaking and bird watching. Pick up and return is by bus in Warsaw.

     The Augustów Forest of about 1500 stretches north from the Biebrza river to the Lithuanian border and east of the towns Augustów and Suwałki. At its northern edge lies the Wigry National Park with 150 of lakeland for the kayaking or sailing enthusiast. The largest of the 41 lakes is Lake Wigry itself. There are direct trains from Warsaw to Suwłki and Augustów (just over 5 hours). Hotels and pensions are available as well as many camping sites. There is a magnificent kayak trip from Lake Wigry, down the wild Czarna Hancza River. It is possible to continue on through the Augustów Canal, then down the Biebrza to the Narew River (total about 200km). Sailboats and kayaks may be rented on the lake and in Augustów town.
     You may also enjoy staying for the night in an 18th century monastery right on the border of the lake. The monks' cells of the beautiful monastery of the Camaldolite Brothers have been transformed into pleasant, but simple, hotel rooms. Wigry
     Hiking and kayaking trips of up to 10 days are available to both these areas. Overnight stays are in hostels. They start from and return to Warsaw by train or bus.

     The most prestigous and oldest National Park protects the primeval Białowieza Forest. A favorite hunting ground for Polish kings and Russian tsars, the forest was designated a "strictly protected area" in 1921 and became a National Park in 1932. Then it was much larger, because it included the major part of the forest which now lies in Belarus and now is not accessible. It was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1977. Some of the oak and spruce trees are almost 500 years old. There are about 250 European bison which were saved from extinction. Tourism in the park proper is only allowed in supervised groups. Close to the Lodge there is a public hiking trail 4km long. However, there are several hiking and riding trails through the adjacent protected zone of the forest, created in 1996. Hotel rooms are available in the Hunters' Lodge. The adjacent village of Hajnowka is accessible by train from Warsaw via Siedlce (about 3 1/2 hours), with a bus connection to the Lodge.

     The large city Białystok is worthy of a visit primarily to see the Branicki Palace. This extensive Baroque mansion was orignallly built in the 17thC. by the immensely wealthy Branicki family. In the 18thC. it was extended by Count Clemens Branicki and a park was built following the model of Versailles. The palace was burnt down by the Nazis but was faithfully rebuilt after the war.
     The center of the city was laid out by the Branicki architects in the early 18thC. The triangular market square is dominated by the town hall with its four corner alcoves, today a museum. There are several elaborate late 19th and early 20th century houses of the owners of the textile mills.

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All photos courtesy of Mark Wojciechowski - - except where noted.
Bialowieza N.P. ,
Europe's oldest forest.
Biebrza National Park
nature, hiking, kayaking
Wigry National Park
lakes and forests.
Wigry Abbey
Stay in an Abbey on the lake (Polish text)
Guide to Białystok
11500 photos from Poland by Mark Wojciechowski.
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