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.

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