Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bieszczady Mountains still magic

Bieszczady is a mountain range in the Polish-Slovak-Ukrainian borderland. The most characteristic element of the region’s landscape are mountain pastures – vast grassy areas above the upper tree line which change their colour depending on the season: from white in winter to green in spring and summer and to red and orange in autumn. The pace of life in the villages in Bieszczady is different – slower…

After several years of absence, we were going to the Bieszczady Mountains being slightly skeptical. During previous visits we saw how mountains formerly considered to be one of the wildest in Poland, became a popular tourist destination. But it turned out that we had to explore the Bieszczady Mountains again and they surprised us;) Coming from Cracow we slowed down entering the snow-covered road in the first village in Bieszczady. White road accompanied us for the rest of our trip. The traffic is small here and we felt as though we were in another world.

Eastern part of the Polish Bieszczady Mountains (with the Bieszczady National Park) is the most visited part. I remember pictures my grandmother showed me - tourists with a huge backpack during multi-day hikes wandering across mountain meadows. Nowadays, you can meet lots of day-trips enthusiasts on the trail. Most often they ascend Tarnica (the highest peak of Bieszczady), Mala Rawka and Wielka Rawka or Połonina Caryńska and Wetlińska. Popularity of the region has grown thanks to the increase of its accessibility - improvement and construction of new roads and the development of public transport. Nevertheless being in the Bieszczady Mountains, you can still find yourself "at the end of the world" ... simply choose the appropriate time and place.

After the summer season Bieszczady become empty and life comes back to its normal slow rhythm. Hiking trails are traversed only by tranquility lovers who come here to contemplate nature… and life too. Shelters become a meeting place of people who share a true love for the mountains. But the one who is looking also for a peaceful summer in Bieszczady shall visit the western part of the mountains. Slightly lower but equally beautiful mountains do not attract so many tourists. One can safely say that still this is wild land. 

Bieszczady is also a way of life. Many people found here a place where their dreams come truth – they run atmospheric farm stays and restaurants, art studios, workshop houses, mountain shelters, horse farms, natural food farms and stores. In these places the doors are open for guests.

One of these places we found by chance. After a few words of welcome we were invited into the house and treated with herbal tea and delicious sloe liqueur. Our hosts are experts in herbal medicine and natural products. They also run various types of workshops to pass on their knowledge and skills to the others. Adults will learn here the ins and outs of baking leavened (sourdough) bread or making liqueurs. Children can try to bake bread rolls or make fancy bracelets. Everything is accompanied by the atmosphere of hospitality and family warmth.

Traditional Lemko wooden cottage
Visiting the Bieszczady you can stay in the mountain refuge – it is a great option for socializing people, who want to make new acquaintances. Second option is accomodation in an antique cottage. Wooden cottages have been restored and furnished anew by the owners, who gave them a unique atmosphere. This atmosphere is also created by the people themselves with their activities, passions, stories ... Interesting may also be stay in a horse farm or night in the barn. During your stay you can also sleep in regular guest rooms, cabins or guest houses. 

It was hard to leave the Bieszczady Mountains - say goodbye to interesting people we met, leave the place where time slowed down. For sure we will visit Bieszczady again soon :)

Useful tips:
- trails are easy and medium-hard
- mountains are generally available during whole year (in winter in some places the avalanche risk may be a problem)
- you shouldn't make light of the weather conditions - snow, strong wind, freezing cold, rain, storms may surprise you even in those not very high mountains
- you can buy maps in local shops, tourist information points, shelters 

Wooden Boyko cottage
Old Jewish cemetery
Tarditional wood coal 'factory'

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