As Australian’s we often feel crowded in Europe’s vast industrial sprawl. While all of our travels to natural landscapes in Europe have been enjoyable, they have also been inundated with the presence of people and infrastructure. I guess you could say that finding seclusion in nature has not been as easy as we thought it would be. So when we heard about a quite and secluded mountain area in Poland’s extreme south east that is home to black bears, wolves, lynx and bison, we just had to visit.
We commenced our journey to the Bieszczady Mountains from our base in Kraków, Poland in October 2014. The 300 kilometre journey seemed to fly by as the crisp weather and the autumn foliage provided stimulating visual entertainment. After 4 hours of driving, a few wrong turns and a little mischief we arrived in the remote village of Ustrzyki Dolne and found accommodation at a small family owned trail ride company known as ‘The Forta’.
The next day we awoke to picture-perfect weather and ventured out towards Bieszczady National Park to hike to the top of the areas highest peak Tarnica. It was on this drive that we fell in love with the Bieszczady Mountains. The quite roadways and vacant hiking trails left us breathless. While ‘The Bieszczady’ is scattered with small villages, the signs of industrialisation and man’s interference with nature is significantly limited by European standards. This was extremely noticeable on our ascent of Tarnica. While we saw a host of other hikers on the way up, we were relieved to see that the hiking tail remained free from cafes, restaurants and souvenir stores. And once we were atop the sweeping peak we were rewarded with peaceful views that looked over Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine.
Knowing that we were extremely close to Ukrainian territory we diverted our descent by a kilometre or two and got within eye shot of Ukrainian land. The unmanned border along the hiking trail was a nice sight as we had just shelved our plans to travel to Lviv, as we were required to obtain a complicated visitor’s visa (oh the bureaucracy). So we will leave it up to you to decide if we ‘stuck it to the man’ and jumped over the knee high trip wire and stepped across the border or not 😉
For the next two days we explored the Bieszczady Mountains from our base at ‘The Forta’, riding horses through the thick forests by day and sitting around the campfire listening to ageing Polish crooners sing blues music by night. Oh what a life!
Bieszczady National Park is located 328 kilometres south east of Kraków. The best time to visit is in the autumn or spring when the areas woodlands display a vibrant array of colour.
Unfortunately ‘The Forta’s’ website is only available in Polish but feel free to visit and have a ‘click around’ anyway.