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As seen in Transitions Abroad Magazine November/December 2000
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Independent Travel

Travel on the Border of Poland and Belarus

The Wild Things Are Not So Far Away

Finding an “out-of-the-way” place doesn’t have to mean traveling to an obscure island in the South Pacific or a remote village in Africa or Asia. Some places in Europe teeter on the brink of being unknown, yet cater to the traveler better than some of the well-worn tourist spots.

One such unique find lies along the Belaursian-Polish border and boasts the last major expanse of virgin forest remaining in mainland Europe. Another of the Bialowieza National Park’s claim to fame is the largest population of European bison, at one time nearly extinct. The keen observer can spot not only bison but wolves, lynx, elk, deer, wild boar, tarpans, and the unique zubron (a cross between a bison and cow).

Horse-drawn carriages and bikes are options for travelers who don’t wish to take the trails on foot. A guide is mandatory in the “strict reserve” area. So is a small fee.

Before its establishment as a national park in 1921, the Bialowieza Forest was the hunting ground of Polish kings and Russians tsars. In the villages surrounding the park, small wooden houses with tiny but extravagant gardens look like relics of another age; so do the kerchiefed elderly ladies chatting on small groups on their roadside benches.

I found making advanced telephone reservations impossible but luckily unnecessary, even in the busy month of August. If you feel too uncomfortable venturing so far from home without a reservation, try one of the email addresses below.

Getting there is easiest and most convenient by car, but regular buses run from Bialystok, about two hours away, whichdrop passengers off at the Palace Park gate just opposite the PTOP (tourist) office. Day trips from Bialystok are very popular in summer.

For More Info

For bike, horse-drawn carriage, or bird-watching tours and possible accommodations try the following numbers:

PTTK ul. Kolejowa 17; 085-68-12-295, fax 085-68-12-624; puttkbialowieza@sitech.pl.

PTOP ul. Ciepla 17; Tel./fax 085-675-48-62; Ptop@falco.man.bialystok.pl.

Alternative Tourism Office “Zimorodek,” ul. Waszkiewicza 79; 085-68-12-457, fax 085-68-12-609.

Camping Grudki and Pension Gawra, Bajko Stefan; 085-68-12-804.

Hotel and Restaurant Zubrowka, ul. Olgi Gabiec 6; 085-68-12-303, fax 085-68-12-570.

Hotel and Restaurant Unikat, ul. Gen Waszkiewicza 39; Tel./fax 085-68-12-744.

Paprotka Youth Hostel, ul. Gen Waszkiewicza 6; Tel./fax 085-68-12-560.

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