Saturday, 29 November 2014

European Bison Reserve in Białowieża

Last time I have promised to show you the most special thing about Białowieża. I am sure that you have already guessed what I mean. Białowieża Forest is the house of the 10% of the total population of European Wood Bisons. In the national Park they run freely and it is not so easy to meet them. You could still try by following this camera view. To make it easier for tourists, a few bisons are kept in a special Reserve. I will take you there today.

The reserve is surrounded by a high wall. The inscription says "Beware of wild animals, entering inside may cause death or injuries".

The Reserve is the house of many species, not only bisons. For each of them you can find an information card with details of their lives and habits. Do you know who is the hero of this one?

Yes, it is the wolf. I hope the Red Riding Hood is not wandering in Białowieża right now.

In some cases these information cards are really necessary to even guess which animal is inside. Like here - any clue who is inside?

Well it is a wild cat called wildcat (really, that is the official name!).

Look! I think we have found the bisons! To be honest I am a bit disappointed this one looks a lot like a bigger cow.

Luckily the information card helped again. It is not a bison but a hybrid between a bison and a cow. They call it "żubroń". I challenge you to pronounce it correctly.

Who may live in this large meadow?

This is the house of deers.

Just look at these antlers! What a fantastic stag.

The ladies (called does) are smaller and seem a bit nicer.

Did I hear well she reminds you of roe deers? Well it is definitely a different species. But roe deers are also present in the Białowieża Reserve so you can judge by yourself.

Feels like Valentine's Day, with everybody kissing, doesn't is?

And these are not the last representatives of the deer family. Any guesses who is relaxing in the back?

It is a moose of course. It may seem small when it lies down but when it stands up it is really huge.

Yes, I know, you are waiting for the bisons. But I just want to show you one more inhabitant of the Reserve. Be quiet so that we do not interrupt its lunch.

The females of wild boars are very protective over their piglets so we'd better not come too close.

Finally, here they come. On the map you can see places where the bisons live freely in the Białowieża Forrest. There are around five hundred animals on the Polish side and roughly a thousand on the Belarusian side of the border.

When you look from a distance they look just like home cattle.

But when you look closer you realise they are much more. Real kings of the forest.

European Wood Bisons were close to extinction as a result of heavy hunting. When the scientists decided to reintroduce them into the Białowieża Forest there were only twelve animals left! All currently living bisons descent from these twelve ancestors. Let them move on with their lunch peacefully.

I must admit now honestly that the main reason why I came to Białowieża was to meet my cousins, the tarpans.

They are wild horses who live freely. Unfortunately they are not too kin on travelling so it is always me who needs to visit them. This time I came to meet and greet the younger one. So cute!

I hope that this visit in the bison reserve was fun and instructive for you. And that you did not get a cold - the late autumn is well established in Poland already.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Białowieża Forest

Today I will show you a very special place. Białowieża Forest (large part of which is a National Park) was amoung the eight sites to be inscribed on the list of World Heritage in the first session held by UNESCO, back in 1979.

Białowieża is a small town in North-East Poland. Let's start by checking the news in the Information Center.

Alright, we need to pass the lake ...

... and enter though the main gate.

In the middle of the bridge over the lake there is a monument. It commemorates the hunting party of one of the Polish kings, when numerous animals were killed.

Obviously hunting is now strictly prohibited in the Park. But in the old days, Białowieża was the favourite hunting spot for many monarchs. In the nineteenth century, when this part of Poland was part of the Russian Empire, the tsars used to have here a small palace.

It was burnt down by nazis in 1944. Only a small part of it remains, being one of the gates.

The main area on the former Palace Hill is now occupied by a modern building.

It is the Museum of the Białowieża National Park, including an observation deck.

Let's enter inside. Unfortunately in most of the exhibitions it is forbidden to take pictures. So I can only show you a glimpse of one of the temporary exhibitions.

And this bee yard, a type of beehive inside a tree. This one dates back to the middle of the nineteenth century.

Alright, time to go up the tower onto the observation deck. From the top you can see the lake that we have crossed when we came here. Just a few kilometers in this direction is the border between Poland and Belarus. Unfortunately, we do not have a visa so we will not be able to take a trip to the Belarusian side of the forest.

On the other side of the observation platform you can see the main part of the forest.

I propose we go down and take a walk there.

Since we are in a National Park it is not allowed to cut trees there. If one falls then, well, it is fallen.

I am sure you have noticed that one part of the tree is green. It is moss. The unusual thing about moss is that it grows only on the northern part of the trunk.

The Białowieża Forest hides some special places of course. The one that I have liked best was the Trail of Royal Oaks.

Generally the forest roads are meant more for wild animals than for tourists.

But the trail around the Royal Oaks was organised in a very convenient way, with a pier-like path that makes it accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs.

The oaks are very old, some more than 400 years old. Each of them has a small "identity card", with its name and dimensions. This one bears the name of king Władysłam Jagiełło, the winner from Grunwald.

They are many impressive oaks there, I will only show you a few.

Here two oaks grow close to each other.

This one has a whole close to the ground that is big enough to accommodate two school children.

Next to the oaks runs a little river populated by beavers.

We need to run now since I want to visit the Białowieża post office before it gets closed - my Postcrossing friends count on me.

I hope that you have enjoyed this walk through one of the most magnificent forests in Europe (and maybe in the whole world). But we are not done with Białowieża yet. If you would wake up any Polish girl or boy in the middle of the night and ask them "what is Białowieża famous for?" they will give you one answer. You do not know which? Then you will have to check next week. I now leave you only a small hint.