Magazine article Geographical

On the Wild Side

Magazine article Geographical

On the Wild Side

Article excerpt

Biezczady is beautiful, sparsely-populated region of forests and open meadows in the far southeastern corner of Poland. The highest and most spectacular part is now national park

It is hard to believe that the eastern part of Poland will soon be part of the European Union. Intensive agriculture, urban sprawl and hi-tech industries characteristic of most EU countries are a million miles away from the rural backwaters that are dotted along the former Soviet border.

The further south you travel, the more hens, ducks and geese there are congregating on village streets. People still use the horse and cart as a means of transport here and horses plough the fields. In the early evening, men stand alongside their cows in a common pasture while the animals eat grass.

The eastern territories have been through lots of upheaval in the past. It is where most of Poland's Jewish population lived, and it was devastated during the Second World War. Even the smallest village has a monument marking death and destruction by the Germans, the Russians or both.

Driving through the region east and south of Warsaw is reminiscent of the tree-lined roads of rural France. But while the surface may not be as good, the fields are less chemical-ridden and the village gardens are bursting with marigolds, nasturtiums and gladioli with not a bedding plant in sight. Somewhere along the way south, you cross the invisible border that marks the transition from Eastern to Southern Europe.

At the southeasterly Up of Poland is Bieszczadzki National Park, which is almost cut off from the rest of the country by the Carpathians. Jozef Szyrmbra was born here. He is now the chairman of the Polish Tourism and Countrylovers Association in Bieszczadzk, "There is more awareness of conservation here now and ecologically the area is better since it became a national park in 1983," he says. "But there's no industry here so establishing telecommunications and improving sewerage in order to attract tourists is a problem." The Bieszczady district has given the top of one peak to a telecoms company so it can build a mast and install a receiver, which will be up and running this year."

Some tourists have already discovered the park. They come here to hike through the high mountain meadows, which are home to more than 900 species of plant, preserved by grazing and haymaking. …

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