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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » December 19, 2013
Rural Tourism
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Welcome to the Polish Countryside
December 19, 2013   
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Poland is one of the few countries in Europe that still harbor vast expanses of nature unspoiled by humans. This unique heritage adds to the value of Poland’s rural areas, which stretch across about 90 percent of the country.

The Polish countryside is also where folk culture thrives amid natural beauty and scenic landscapes. If you feel like taking time off and relaxing in these bucolic surroundings, why not try the hospitality of Polish farmers? Spend some time in rural Poland to check out regional traditions and see what your hosts have in store for their guests.

Rural tourism farms in Poland offer a variety of services and activities for every tourist. This is an attractive form of active recreation, offering an opportunity to explore local customs and culture, see how families in villages live and what kind of work and chores they do. Staying at a working farm, you can watch and touch farm animals, learn the ins and outs of agricultural production and enjoy fresh and healthy food.

Plenty to choose from

Poland has almost 8,000 farms offering home-stay vacations to tourists, providing a total of over 80,000 accommodations. Southern Poland is the most popular region among tourists who seek this kind of vacation. Two provinces in the south account for almost 29 percent of all rural tourism farms in Poland.

Tourism services available at such farms cater to the needs and expectations of various kinds of visitors. Polish rural tourism farms offering good standards are endorsed by the Gospodarstwa Go¶cinne (Hospitable Farms) Polish Rural Tourism Federation, which classifies them into several categories. Farms and services recommended by the organization are listed on Poland’s largest website on rural tourism at www.agroturystyka.pl

Services provided at some rural tourism farms are tailored to suit specific kinds of visitors such as individual tourists, families, teenagers and young adults, people with disabilities, hunters, anglers, cyclists and so on. The Polish countryside with its diversified landscape ensures good conditions for sports such as horse riding and angling.

Vacations at a farm

One of the categories in the Polish Rural Tourism Federation’s database is Vacations at a Farm, a service addressed to visitors from urban areas who seek contact with nature and animals, are keen to try an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, want to eat healthy food and learn about what it is like to live in the countryside. Home-stay accommodation is provided at working farms, so that guests can also learn about rural tradition and customs.

The typical service package includes accommodation in rooms with bathrooms and traditional wooden furniture. One of the main selling points are tasty, homemade meals prepared from healthy, traditional and often organic ingredients grown and produced locally by the hosts. Part of the allure is traditional Polish hospitality, which makes guests feel at home as they join the hosts at meal times and have a chat over the table. Vacations at a farm are largely about routine activities, enabling guests to take part in the chores, help out with the livestock, and go out to the fields and try their hand at haying, weeding and herb picking. While taking a vacation at a farm, you can learn how natural and organic food is made and what traditional methods are used to make butter, cheese, bread, fruit preserves and so on.

Families that stay at a farm get to spend quality time together as they work hand in hand and enjoy the homely atmosphere close to nature.

Families get together

A vacation in the countryside is ideal for the whole family to relax in beautiful scenery, away from the city hustle and bustle. It lets you stop to savor every day, marvel at the beauty of nature, and try local delicacies. Tired parents get well-deserved time off while their kids can see life in the country with their own eyes and play with friendly animals. Close contact with nature and activity in the open is also good for a child’s immune system.

Other than comfortable accommodation, Polish rural tourism farms have a range of extra attractions. Many farmers offer child-friendly cuisine to let kids relish drop scones, puffy pancakes, cakes and beverages made from boiled fruit. Usually there is a forest or a lake nearby, ideal for a family expedition. Located far from busy roads, rural farms are safe places to stay at and frequently include large recreational areas. The experience of nature, the scent of freshly mowed grass, and the sense of freedom leave you exhilarated and with some wonderful memories.

Saddle up!

Horse riding combines physical activity with the opportunity to explore open spaces and interact with animals. Riding a horse, you let your senses relax. This is good physical exercise that improves your motor coordination and has a beneficial effect on your figure as you relax and stretch your muscles. Horse riding is recommended for people with a variety of health issues.

The diversified landscape of rural Poland is ideal for horse riding enthusiasts. Crossing a picturesque area on a horse is a thrilling experience when you think of jumping over natural obstacles or a wild ride along a lake. A horse can take you across a glorious plain and a beautiful mountain pass. At the Polish seaside, horse rides by the water’s edge often take place at sunset so riders can watch the dazzling colors of the sky as the sun plunges into the sea.

Rural tourism farms offer rides on horseback and in horse-drawn carts; many also run horse-riding schools. Horses are used in hippotherapy, an effective form of physical and sensory therapy. Children who develop an interest in horse riding learn how to be responsible, sensitive and disciplined.

Go fishing

Angling lets you relax and can also be a sport. It has been known as a pastime for thousands of years and even ancient Roman poet Ovid wrote about different fish species in his poem Halieutica (On Fishing), describing their habits and places where they could be caught. As a hobby, angling takes some knowledge and training, but it is well worth the effort for all the tranquillity and thrills you find as you wait for the fish to take the bait.

Angling is a great way to take some time off and just take it easy. When you are a keen angler, it is a good idea to combine your hobby with vacations in the countryside. An attractive neighborhood, beautiful scenery, bathing sites, rivers and fishing ponds are all a guarantee of a vacation to remember. Rural tourism farms in Poland often rent angling equipment and boats. You can also ask your host about nearby fishing spots and angling permits.

Not every fish has to end up on your table. In fact, what many anglers do is “catch and release.” But a fresh fish definitely tastes the best and nothing can beat the flavor of a dish made from a fish you caught yourself. Angler-friendly farms usually have rooms or stands to get the fish ready for cooking and guests can also use the local kitchen to prepare a delicious and healthy dish. The hosts like to share recipes from their home archives, so try and remember one to surprise your friends with some new flavors when you are back home.

Mushroom picking

Mushrooms are one of the most distinctive ingredients in Polish cuisine and—stewed, pickled or dried—they give a unique flavor to a lot of Polish dishes. The most important traditional meal in Poland, the Christmas Eve dinner, features a variety of dishes with mushrooms. The best time to go mushroom picking are weekends in summer and autumn, letting you relax in the peace and quiet of a forest.

Over 1,000 mushroom species found in Polish forests are edible. Since most woodlands in Poland are public, you can freely explore them and enjoy what the forest has in store for you.

Culinary tourism

Culinary tourism, including a variation called wine tourism (enotourism), are becoming increasingly popular in Poland with new culinary trails and “flavor festivals.” At rural tourism farms, you can try local specialties, such as food and beverages listed as regional and traditional products protected by law. Visits to places where regional specialties are made include tours of vineyards, wine-making farms and wine cellars.

Information about tourism services in rural Poland is available at the annual Agrotravel trade fair in the southern city of Kielce. The event is attended by almost 150 exhibitors from Poland and abroad, drawing around 20,000 visitors every year. Agrotravel presents Polish providers of rural tourism services with an opportunity to meet, share expertise, exchange contact information and start partnerships with service providers from abroad. In addition to presentations by exhibitors, the event comprises conferences, training sessions and workshops. The next Agrotravel fair will be held April 11-13, 2014, at the Targi Kielce (Kielce Fair) venue.
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