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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » September 29, 2014
Rural Tourism
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Bieszczady Mountains
September 29, 2014   
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The Bieszczady Mountains in the southeastern corner of Poland draw crowds of tourists with their natural beauty that, coupled with the region’s rich cultural heritage, creates good conditions for rural tourism.

Wedged between Ukraine to the east and Slovakia to the south, the Bieszczady Mountains boast varied landscapes including forests, rivers and lakes. The mountains are neither very high nor steep and their vast pastures and other open spaces encourage hiking and make the Bieszczady one of Poland’s most popular trekking destinations. Vacationers keen on sports can pick from a wide choice of tourist trails, ski lifts and bicycle trails, in addition to a plenty of sailing and canoeing opportunities. Horse riding is becoming highly popular in the Bieszczady Mountains with a total of 140 kilometers of routes and trails designed especially for horse lovers.

The top local attractions include the Bieszczady National Park, home to most of the Bieszczady’s trademark massifs, which reward climbers with breathtaking vistas. The Bieszczady National Park is one of the largest and oldest national parks in Poland. In 1992, it became part of the Eastern Carpathians UNESCO biosphere reserve along with the Cisna-Wetlina and San Valley scenic parks. The Bieszczady National Park includes the tallest summits of the Bieszczady Mountains, including Tarnica, Krzemie, Halicz, Bukowe Berdo, Wielka Rawka, Rozsypaniec, Mała Rawka and the Caryńska and Wetlińska massifs. Marked tourist trails meander up and down the mountains over a total of 142 kilometers. Along the way are rain shelters, environmentally-friendly toilets and the well-known hostels Pod Mał± Rawk± and Chatka Puchatka atop the Wetlińska massif. The park is considered to be the most tourist-friendly national park in the country.

Near the village of Solina is Lake Solińskie, the largest manmade reservoir in Poland, which draws novice sailors and fans of other water sports. The lake, one of the chief local tourist assets, is where the Bieszczady’s main vacation destinations, including the health resort of Polańczyk, are located.

Part of the region’s appeal are its numerous well-preserved historic sites, including churches and other buildings. For centuries, the Podkarpacie region, in which the mountains are located, was a melting pot of nations, cultures and religions. Poles and Ukrainians lived here side by side with Jews, Vlachs, Armenians, Germans and other immigrant groups. The mix produced a unique and diversified cultural heritage reflected in a multitude of large and small Catholic churches, Eastern Orthodox churches and synagogues. The most remarkable ones include the wooden churches in Blizne and Haczów, which are seen as gems of medieval architecture and have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2003.

Greatest hits of rural tourism

The cultural diversity of the Bieszczady Mountains and their natural beauty are a major selling point when it comes to accommodation and services for tourists provided by local farms. Many such businesses have emerged in the area in recent years and they include a number of stables that offer horse riding lessons and horseback expeditions. The Bieszczady National Park has over 140 kilometers of horse riding routes. During guided expeditions that can last several days, tourists are taken to the most picturesque corners in the mountains and after a long day in the saddle, they can choose from a wide variety of accommodation and meals. Open all year long, local rural tourism farms provide high standards and comfort and the regional cuisine they serve has a lot of fans.

The Bieszczady Mountains and their neighborhood are home to rural tourism farms with original products and activities for guests. Several of these have been entered on the “Greatest Hits of Rural Tourism” list compiled by the Polish Tourism Development Agency.

One is the Wilcza Jama (Wolf’s Lair) farm in Smolnik on the San River, within a stone’s throw of the Bieszczady National Park. Accommodation is provided in seven log cabins and meals are served in an inn whose menu includes game dishes, traditional Polish specialties and locally farmed trout. Services available at Wilcza Jama are a good illustration of Podkarpacie province’s tourism strategy that focuses on the natural and cultural heritage.

Another “greatest hit” is the U Flika (Flik’s) farm in the village of DĽwinacz Dolny. It is a genuine Bieszczady-style farm that specializes in baking leavened bread in a wood-fired oven on horseradish and cabbage leaves. For 12 years, the farm has organized a Bread Festival during which visitors can see the entire bread-making process and hear live music performed by folk bands from Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine and Romania.

Rural tourism highlights in the province also include a farm called Bazyl in Bóbrka where visitors can try their hand at the local craft of making crepe paper decorations. This traditional craft is the trademark of Bazyl and the farm has done a lot to keep the tradition alive. The classes are open to locals and the owners are happy to help talented individuals develop their skills and shine. Bazyl also conducts highly popular pottery classes in a cozy workshop.

In the picturesque village of Solina near Lakes Solińskie and Myczkowieckie is the Za Potokiem (Across the Creek) Galician Hospitality Farm. This is a perfect retreat for all those who enjoy active forms of tourism, with activities such as sailing on Lake Solińskie and hiking, biking and horse riding tours.

Regional cuisine

A large part of the history and culture of every region is reflected in its culinary heritage. The distinctive cuisine of Podkarpacie province offers a variety of traditional products and guests at rural tourism farms in the Bieszczady Mountains are encouraged to try regional dishes.

The mountains tower over a historical trade route that, combined with the interplay of different cultures, led to the emergence of the region’s unique cuisine. This mainly consists of simple but tasty dishes made from potatoes, cabbage, groats, flour and dairy products. Historical accounts describe the dishes as typical of rural homesteads living off the land and engaged in animal husbandry.

This part of Poland was home to various ethnic groups, which also showed in the dishes the different groups ate, with a particularly strong influence of Jewish cuisine. As time went by, more settlers came from other parts of Poland and Europe and brought their dishes along with them. The regional cuisine continues to evolve and adjust to new trends and eating habits.

Older, traditional Podkarpacie dishes with recipes passed down from generation to generation include proziaki, flat cakes that smell and feel like bread and are baked on a hot plate. They are made of wheat flour, eggs, soured milk and cream with a pinch of salt, sugar and baking soda. Currently seen as a traditional Polish delicacy, proziaki cakes are still highly popular in Podkarpacie, especially when served with fresh butter or cream.

Also popular locally is a kind of bread called flisacki and traditionally made in the village of Ulanów. Its name refers to the profession of a rafter (flisak in Polish) and dates back to times when women would supply their husbands with bread that never went dry. The dough for it was made from wheat flour, yeast, eggs, milk, fatback and sugar.

Another local favorite is kukiełka, a calzone-like pie stuffed with millet groats and baked mainly on special occasions such as religious festivals. In the old days, kukiełka used to be prepared in large baking tins on weekends and served to children as a treat.

Yet another regional delicacy are kacapoły—dumplings served hot and lavishly sprinkled with fat, pork scratchings and fried onions. Made from potatoes and fatback, both readily available ingredients, kacapoły used to be very popular throughout the year. Milk is said to be the best drink to go with them.
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