National Parks in Poland: Tuchola Forest [GUIDE]

One of the most extensive forests in Poland, Tuchola Forest (Bory Tucholskie) stretches from the Kashubian Lake District in the north almost to the outskirts of Koronowo in the south. Vast woods criss-crossed with dirt roads and paths, a profusion of lakes of various types (about 900 in all), winding river valleys, sandy wooded plains, peat bogs and swamps make the Tuchola Forest one of the most alluring spots in Poland. You can walk or pedal through the forest for tens of kilometres without seeing any human settlements. While kayaking or boating on the lakes, you'll be delighted by their picturesque sandy shores and small, shallow coves teeming with crayfish.

Towns and villages

Situated in the southern part of the region, Koronowo is a lovely town of ten thousand along the River Brda. The main square is small but handsome, with a cluster of neoclassical and Art Nouveau houses dominated by a rather modest neoclassical town hall on the west side.

Climb the high Góra Łokietka (Łokietek's Hill) west of town, where traces of a medieval fortified settlement are visible. The top affords a panorama of all Koronowo. The largest sight (literally) is St. Mary's Church, begun in the late 13th and completed in the 17th century, in the height of the Baroque period.

North and east of Koronowo stretch the vast (2400 ha) flood plains of the Brda, encompassing lakes Koronowskie, Lipkusz and Białe which in summer are immensely popular with sailing enthusiasts.

Other worth seeing points in Koronowo : 19th-century synagogue , a half-timbered house from 1728, Devil's Mill.

The biggest town and the best base for exploring the region is Chojnice (40,000 people), where the streets are filled with the Kashubian language. The historic centre is compact and somewhat cramped, with hardly any courtyards, but this is compensated by parks and large belts of greenery. The Old Town is sheltered from the west by a long line of walls, five metres high and reinforced by 6 towers. The most impressive remnant of the old defences is the lofty Człuchów Gate, a 5-storey Pomeranian Gothic construction pierced by an arched gateway.

The tiny, sleepy village of Zamarte , about 12 km south-west of Chojnice, boasts a former Bernardine monastery. The narrow grey church built in 1766 is graced by a pilastered tower crowned with a Baroque cupola.

The main reason for visiting Człuchów (15,000 people), on the western edge of the Tuchola Forest, is the striking ruins of a Teutonic castle, which seem to hover above the town. The mighty rectangular fortress, whose ramparts exceed five metres in height, is perched atop a sizeable hill between two lakes. Standing at the castle's gate, you have a remarkable view of the town, though an even better panorama can be had from the tower.

Hiking and biking

The Tuchola Forest is ideal for both relaxing walks and more challenging cross-country hikes. Rich flora and fauna provide photographers with bountiful opportunities.

The Blue Brda Trail - running throuhh the charming Brda Valley, it takes in the most interesting sights along the river, such as the Mylof dam and power plant, the peat bog reserve on Lake Kozie and a plant reserve on Lake Zdręczyno. More than 20 km of the route is encompassed by a nature reserve.

The "Struga Siedmiu Jezior" Trail - starting at Charzykowy, it runs to Chojniczki and continues north through 7 lakes. There is the 600 years old oak among many attractions on the trail.

For bikers - Three best routes are the "Struga Siedmiu Jezior" nature trail, the blue trailand the black trail.

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

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