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Belovezhskaya Pushcha

One Day in Pushcha

In the National Park Recently I made a trip of a lovely wildwood, Belovezhskaya Pushcha, that is 70 km away from Brest, an hour's drive by a couch. That is the biggest primeval forest in Europe, home to many rare animals. The forest was once the hunting grounds of kings and tsars.  In 1992 it became the first National Park and World Heritage Site in Belarus. The unique forest is shared by Belarus and Poland. The National Park in Poland has the similar name Puszcza Bialowieska.
The frontier dividing Poland and Belarus runs across the forest and as a rule is closed for tourists for the time being. I visited only the Belarusian (pertaining to independent Belarus) National Park. The word Pushcha sounds odd at first glance. If translated it is quite simple. The Slavonic word Pushcha (puszcza in Polish spelling) means an age-old vast woodland in Russian, Byelorussian and Polish. If you pronounce it slowly you will feel the mystery of the dark woods and stormy winds sweeping over them. Pronounce slowly the English word "wooooods" and you will feel the same. Once Belarus was totally covered by forests and there were a lot of pushchas. The people could travel here only along rivers till the 14th century. As a matter of fact,  roads and bridges were not existing in those days.

Kamenets Tower, 13th century The adjective Belovezhskaya sounds bright and brings light. It derives from the 2 Slavonic words byelaya viezha that sound similar in 3 Slavonic languages - Russian, Byelorussian and Polish and they mean the same - White Tower. Being combined the two words give the name of the famous forest belo-vezh-skaya.
Presumably it was named after a tall watchtower that still dominates Kamenets, the small town  on the edge of the National Park. Once Pushcha was much bigger and the town was surrounded by it. The tower can be seen from the distance when approaching the town. Actually it is a redbrick round structure dating back to the 13 century AD that houses today an interesting museum.




Bison in the National Park The Belarusian National Park covers the area of 215,871 acres (87.360 ha). The Polish National Park covers 13,136 acres (5.316 ha).
The whole forest has a wide range of flora and fauna (including elk, deer, and wild boar) from both western and eastern Europe. It is the sanctuary of the virtually extinct European bison, or wisent, the largest animal in Europe. The European bison is taller but lighter than the American bison. I could see them only at a distance from behind bars. Several are kept in a spacious enclosure surrounded by massive bars. Like cows they feed on grass or hay. Though bison is not a predator it is better to keep away from him.
Once upon a time in the ages of mammoth the bison inhabited all the woods ranging from Europe to Asia. In the early 20th century it was extinct in the Pushcha, later it was restored by cross breeding. Now the sock of bison reached 300.




Viskuli Residence In a clearing in the woods near the small village of Viskuli a governmental residence was built in the 50s to accommodate the leaders of the former USSR when they used to come here to hunt. On the 8th of December 1991 the historic instrument about the disintegration of the USSR was signed in this building. Besides the Comonwealth of Independant States was declared here too. Therefore the name Viskuli became known worldwide, it annoys those who who are not eager to recognise the disintegration of the USSR. The building is a governmental residence and is closed for tourists.


Racoon is all right here Certainly the most interesting in the Pushcha is wild life, not the notorious past and I rushed further on to enjoy the beauties of the wildwood and breathe in the bracing smell of the pines and herbs. The pushcha sustains typical European forest fauna communities with 55 mammalian, 212 avifaunal, 11 amphibians and seven reptile species. Over 8000 insect species have been recorded in the adjacent Polish park. Rodents prevail here among mammals numbering over 20 species. The most remarkable I think is raccoon. He is a new comer as it was brought here from Eastern Siberia and introduced by scientists in post war period. He lives by swamps and is getting on quite well here. Somewhere in the thicket a wolf , fox, lynx, pine marten can hide. A wild boar, red deer, roe and elk are not afraid of man but they prefer also to be further away from people, to be on the safe side.


Owl An unflappable-looking tawny owl is peering at me trying to see by the daylight who is over there and what he is going to do. She has seen a lot for her long, long life. She saw Lithuanian dukes, Polish kings, Russian tsars and Soviet leaders who were hunting in the Pushcha. Now she is looking at you.

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Good links on the National Park

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Problems of the National Park
Tourist Info from Brest
Pics of the National Park
 
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