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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » August 28, 2015
Polska... tastes good!
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Rural Tourism in Lubuskie Region
August 28, 2015   
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The Lubuskie region (Ziemia Lubuska) in western Poland has a wealth of natural assets that create superb conditions for rural tourism.

Nestled in the basin of the Oder River, the Lubuskie region and the province named after it are the most heavily forested part of Poland—almost half of the area is covered with woodlands. The region also boasts picturesque rivers, in addition to 519 lakes, of which 26 are over 100 hectares in size. Lubuskie offers canoeing routes, the most attractive one being the 200-kilometer Lubuskie Water Trail, which meanders between the towns of Sawa and Skwierzyna.

Lubuskie province is home to two national parks. One of them, the Ujście Warty (Warta River Mouth) National Park, spans wetlands that are one of Poland’s prime sanctuaries for water and marsh birds. A total of 245 bird species are known to live in the park, including 26 species classified as critically endangered around the world. The park is a nesting ground for 174 bird species. The Drawieński National Park, named after the town of Drawno, was established to protect forest and water ecosystems. It is covered in beech and oak-and-beech forests, while the park’s pine woods are part of the Drawska Forest. The Drawieński National Park is crossed by the rivers Drawa and Płocizna and there are also 20 lakes.

The tourist appeal of the Lubuskie region is further boosted by its rich cultural heritage, including towns and cities with a historic street layout, a host of castles, palaces, manor houses, churches and old fortifications. The most famous park in the region is called Mużakowski Park. Straddling the border between Poland and Germany, it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Lubuskie is famous for its defunct military structures, such as the Kostrzyn Stronghold and the Międzyrzecz Fortified Area, which is made up of dozens of reinforced concrete bunkers the Germans built before and during World War II. Interconnected by an underground corridor system, the bunkers were never used after the war and have since been occupied by bats. The area is part of a nature reserve called Nietoperek, which gives shelter to around 30,000 bats.

Wine-making tradition
The many natural and cultural assets of Lubuskie make it a highly attractive destination for tourists. The German border, which used to obstruct tourist traffic, now works to the region’s advantage, especially after Poland joined the Schengen Area of visa-free travel.

Experts say Lubuskie should take greater advantage of its long-standing wine-making tradition. Efforts to this effect have been made by the Zielona Góra Wine-Making Association, which in 2008 joined forces with local beekeepers to promote a tourism product called the Lubuskie Wine and Honey Trail. The idea is to combine services provided by local wine makers, beekeepers and rural tourism farms. “Wine tourism” and traditional products are becoming increasingly popular among visitors from Poland and abroad, which presents an opportunity for the tourism sector in Lubuskie. Wine-related attractions in the region include Poland’s only surviving wine tower from the 18th century. It is on show in an open-air museum of folk architecture in Ochla, a village near the provincial capital of Zielona Góra.

Greatest hits of rural tourism
According to experts, the natural beauty of Lubuskie and its location across the border from Germany—which accounts for the largest number of tourists visiting Poland—could easily turn the province into a leading rural tourism destination and make rural tourism one of the province’s flagship tourist products. It is home to several good rural tourism farms with original products and activities for guests. Three of these have been put on the “Greatest Hits of Rural Tourism” list commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and compiled by the Polish Agency of Tourism Development.

One is Winnica Kinga (Kinga Vineyard) in Stara Wieś near Nowa Sól, a family wine-making farm founded in 1985. The Kinga vineyard stands out among similar sites in the region, because its guests are offered wine-related tours, visits to a vine nursery and live demonstrations of how wine is made and processed. They learn that table grapes are cultivated differently than wine grapes and they can also try local specialties, such as stuffed grape leaves.

The second tourist product on the “greatest hits” list is Weekend w Rzeczypospolitej Ptasiej (A Weekend in the Bird Republic) in Słońsk where visitors get to explore the biodiversity of the Ujście Warty National Park. The main target group is families with children who like active forms of recreation. The facility also welcomes nature lovers who like to relax in the open. Visitors are offered an activity package covering biking, canoeing, hiking, visits to museums and educational activities. Guided tours are also available, providing visitors with bird-watching opportunities in the Ujście Warty National Park. Accommodation and meals are available in rural tourism lodgings.

The third recommended rural tourism farm is Rancho u Zapotocznego (Zapotoczny’s Ranch) in Łagówek. Apart from accommodation, the farm offers horse riding, rides in horse-drawn carts, sightseeing trips and different sports. Visitors to the farm can see vintage household items and farming tools such as trunks and chests, cauldrons, spinning wheels, scythes and sickles. Domesticated ponies, donkeys, fallow deer and other animals that run free around the farm add a bucolic feel to the place.

Regional cuisine
Lubuskie is to a large extent populated by descendants of families that after World War II were relocated to the region from eastern parts of Poland incorporated into the Soviet Union. The new inhabitants brought with them the culture and cuisine of their home regions, so that present-day traditional foods in Lubuskie province originate from different parts of prewar Poland.

Lubuskie specialties include schab słubicki, a loin of pork dish named after the town of Słubice. This cold meat is prepared according to a recipe from the eastern provinces of prewar Poland. Pork for schab słubicki is seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and fenugreek. The meat is first put in a fridge for four to five days, after which it is cold-smoked. The recipe can be found in old cook books, which show that pork has been prepared in this way since 1868.

A local specialty called paska bukowińska, pascha or chleb bukowiński is a traditional bread variety baked by a Polish group of highlanders who in the 19th century emigrated to the historical region of Bukovina in the eastern Carpathians. In 1945-1946, they returned to their homeland and then settled in close-knit communities in western Poland. Paska bukowińska bread was once used to bless newlyweds. In a bid to preserve the tradition, local homemakers demonstrate the entire baking process, from kneading the dough to baking and tasting the bread, at the Ethnographic Museum in Ochla near Zielona Góra.

Famous regional products from Lubuskie also include the White Transparent dessert apple in syrup. This apple variety is vulnerable to damage in transport, which is why it is mainly used locally. In the Santok district local mothers liked to prepare apples in syrup as a side dish and as a treat for children. The tradition has now been passed over to a new generation. White Transparent apples in syrup are a local tourist attraction and a staple dish of Lubuskie province that is regularly showcased at trade fairs and harvest festivals.

One other regional product in Lubuskie is wschowskie beer, brewed in Nowa Wieś near Wschowa, where brewing traditions date back to the 11th century. Apart from hops, yeast and water, the beer is made from pilsen malt, which has a distinctive grayish shade of yellow and the scent of grain.
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