National Parks in Poland: Bia這wie瘸 Forest and around

Remote and unspoilt by civilization, Podlasie is a hauntingly beautiful region north-east of Warsaw.

The Bia這wie瘸 Forest

The Białowieża Forest is the last patch of primeval woods that once extended across the European lowlands. Today it attracts thousands of visitors, nature lovers, mushroom pickers, anglers and cyclists. Captivating Orthodox churches and colourful wooden houses contribute to the unique atmosphere characteristic of Poland's eastern fringes. The centuries-old coexistence of various nationalities (Poles, Belorussians and Ukrainians), cultures and creeds manifests itself in religious architecture, traditions and customs. Accommodation is available - and well worth seeking - in many small villages surrounding the most popular destinations.

Hajnówka

The biggest town in the area and one of the region's youngest settlements, Hajnówka is the gateway to the Białowieża Forest. Most of its 25,000-strong population are Orthodox. Hajnówka's best-known sight is the fine Church of the Holy Trinity, arguably one of the most original modern religious constructions in the world. Its striking exterior of curving concrete surfaces, irregularly shaped domes and an unusual bell tower is just a foretaste of what awaits you inside. The two brightly coloured levels of the church boast a magnificent ceiling polychrome, striking stained-glass windows, a beautiful iconostasis and enormous chandelier in the shape of the Orthodox cross.

This old village tucked deep in the woods has a predominantly Orthodox population of more than two thousand. At the centre, where wooden architecture prevails, stands the brick Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas the Miracle Worker. Go inside to see what is most likely Poland's only iconostasis made from Chinese porcelain.

Bison Show Reserve

The Bison Show Reserve is a kind of forest zoo with spacious enclosures providing habitats as similar to natural ones as possible. The main attraction is the bison (you can watch them through a wire-mesh fence), but there are also roe deer, deer, żubronie (a cross of the European bison with cattle) and Polish horses. Outside the reserve local craft is sold at several stalls.

Source: Poland - an ilustrated guidebook. For more information look at Pascal

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