I haven't been to Bialowieza for a few years and it will now be even harder for me to get there as it is such a long way from Gdynia, where we moved two years ago. So I was thrilled to discover a website where you can watch the European bison when they come to feed in Bialowieza forest in wintertime. The view from the webcam is available only until March so hurry up if you want to see those magnificent animals at large.
Here is the link to the web page:
And if you like them, you may want to come and see them right here in Bialowieza. They are worth it!
I have never been to Bialowieza in the winter but this year my cousin went there with her friends for the New Year's Eve. They seem to have enjoyed it enormously, especially the bonfire and the fairytale scenery of the winter forest. See for yourselves as I have been given permission to post their pictures.
What they did not like was the drive from Warsaw on the icy roads and there was no other transport available.
Photographs: courtesy of Hanna Gesciak-Wojciechowska
If you have enough time, take the little old choo-choo train that goes into the Topilo lake, a beautiful site deep in the forests. There is a little pier, bonfire place and wooden tables for you to have a picnic. If you don't take food with you, there's a little bar that sells hot and cold drinks as well as some basic meals, including grilled meat.
We went only for a return trip that takes 4 hours in total, and that means you stop at the lake only for an hour. But I understand there is also some accommodation available if you want to stay longer and do some fishing in the forest lake.
The narrow-track network in the forests was built during WWI by the German army which exploited the forest for timber. The choo-choo is slow and loud, but the 11km (almost 7miles) ride into the forests is well worth the ticket (can't remember how much, but not expensive).
It's very popular so if you're in a larger group, you'd better book your ticket the day before. The choo-choo leaves from Hajnowka which is about 18 km (about 10 miles) west of Bialowieza. The station is right behind the cemetery. To book your tickets:
call (085) 682 26 89
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is eastern Christianity (Byzantine) architectural style, very different from what we see in western Christianity. Lower and more rounded, with characteristic copulas and Orthodox crosses.
This Orthodox church is in Bialowieza, but check the one in the nearby Hajnowka! That one is absolutely amazing, both outside and inside!
I took this picture of the orthodox cross a few years ago when I visited the Bialowieza skansen.
This region is dominated by Orthodox Christianity and Catholics are a religious minority. For me, coming from a Catholic dominated part of Poland, it felt like being almost in another country.... The amount of Orthodox crosses, often with Cyrillic inscriptions, was something I had never seen before. But it felt quite interesting to experience being a minority in this Orthodox region, which itself is a minority in Catholic Poland! Made me feel like I'm in their shoes for a moment :-)
This was a really small corral or the elk was kept separate for some reason. It was so close that we could feed apples to him (her?)... something we shouldn't be doing but the elk was so cute we could not resist. It took us a while though for the elk seemed somewhat shy...
Fondest memory: I never realised the elk's eyes are so beautiful and the eyelashes so long!
The forest horse, also called Polish pony or tarpan, is much smaller than the horse. Its characteristic feature is the dark stripe running along its back.
Click for the BPN website and then scroll down for a close-up picture of the tarpans.
They are so cute they make you think of childhood and fairy tales! :-))
The feeding mangers are much closer to the fence so that's a good chance to take a closer look at the animals... as long as they are hungry ;-)
Look at this big male's impressive antlers. He's definitely respected by his females and younger males. We were lucky there were some baby deer when we were there, they are so cute!
Most of the corrals are really big! If the zoom in your camera is rather poor, you'll get a lousy picture like this one, hehe! Sometimes the animals come closer to the fence so you can take some really nice pictures.
With a few animal species (e.g. wild boar, elk) the corrals are much smaller so you get a better view. The wolves are actually encaged which made me feel sorry for them...
If you've read my Must-See tip on the Power Site deep in the forests, you may remember I mentioned you musty first get to the parking space by the old rail tracks. In the picture, that's right behind us and we will soon be turning right into the walkway that will take us to the Site.
That was probably the largest patch of sunlight on our way... Deep in the forests you're in the shadow most of the time, and the lush foliage of trees hardly ever lets the sunlight through. It may feel a bit humid in the forests so adjust your pace and clothing to how you feel...
Fondest memory: The excitement of getting closer and closer to the Power Site and then... the laughter at how small and unimpressive it seemed. When you're with a group of people you tend to have fun rather than disappointment, hehe :-))
I've been to many forests but the Bialowieza ones feel somewhat different and special. The variety of tree species, and the size of trees, make you realise the grandeur of nature and... how small and "temporary" you are compared to what surrounds you.
Except for roe-deer in the distance, we didn't come across any other animals. But I can't even describe the variety of birds' tunes that the forest is permeated with! Having left Warsaw for the weekend, it felt like being in some completely different reality. I thought I should be coming to Bialowieza more often to "charge my batteries" :-))
Fondest memory: The energising strength of the forests! Try leaning against a tree or actually holding your arms around the trunk, feel the calm, the strength, the natural energy... savour it :-)
You can see some impressive nature's action all over the park. You'll see huge trees uprooted and lying on the ground. Even when driving slowly from Hajnowka to Bialowieza you can spot amazing things that nature does to itself.
Be prepared to see more in the Special Protection Area or on the Bison's Ribs trail (Zebra Zubra), or when walking to the Power Site (Miejsce Mocy).