30% of Poland is covered by forest. That’s a lot, and there are ways for you to use it.
Some people coming to live to Poland were not blessed with having such wonderful forests in their countries of origin. Poor souls have no idea about forests, and how it could be a great place to spend free time.
Generally access to public forests (and almost 80% of forests are public) is free. However, sometimes, especially in times of draught, access may be restricted or forbidden.
Forests not only produce timber, but are a treasure for the enviorenment: puryfying the air, and protecting water resources. Providing a home to many species of animals and plants. And a good place to relax. But what else can you do in a forest?
If you live in Poland, there is probably a forest near you
1) You can go mushroom picking! Poland is one of those countries where mushroom picking is a hobby and a popular pastime. It’s like a Polish golf… only not snobbish. You spend your time outside, breathe fresh air… You walk, and talk with your friends/family. Amateur mushroom-specialists, taught by previous generations, know how to recognise each kind of mushroom – as mushrooms come in many varieties. Be warned: don’t pick mushrooms yourself, if you don’t know which are which. Some mushrooms, for instance the amanita phalloides (muchomor sromotnikowy) are highly poisonous (when eaten).
Amanita phalloides – you want to avoid these
If you’re too scared of picking up the wrong mushrooms, you can go for berries. Forrests are full of blackberries and wild strawberries. They are delish, healthy, and completely free! Yes, it’s legal to pick them too.
2) You can get birch juice! Birch juice (sok z brzozy) is a refreshing and light drink in taste similar to very lightly sugared water. How do you make it? You don’t. The tree does. When the spring comes, you just make a hole, put a tube in, attach a bottle and voila! It’s natural and very healthy, contains all sorts of microelements and stuff. One of the healthiest drink options.
However when you’re done, fix the hole you made. Glue it with pine resin, or insert a wooden cork and level with the surface of the tree.
If you can’t be bothered with all that, you can still buy bottled birch juice in shops in Poland, but that’s not the same thing. It’s got added sugar and preservatives. But you can try.
Old fashioned installation for getting birch juice
3) You can go hunting! To be allowed to hunt, you need to become a member of local hunters’ association (Związek Łowiecki) and pay a special fee (it’s similar with fishing). Hunters’ Associations co-operate with foresters in managing the numbers of animals (like wolf, deer, boar etc.) in forrests. Each year hunters are given quotas of animals they are allowed to shoot. If you enjoy hunting, they will tell you how to arrange everything.
About to become a fireplace decoration
4) You can go on a walk or on a bike trip. There are many hiking and biking trails set in the forests and country areas. Usually well marked and with some interesting sights on the way as well as places to refresh yourself. It’s best to enquire about local trails at local tourist information, where most likely special maps and guides will be available for purchase. Ask also about non-marked trails, as Bikers’ Associations and other organisations sometimes make interesting proposals and your local tourist guides may have information about it. PTTK organisation manages many of the official trails, and and provide information and links on their website (in Polish) http://szlaki.pttk.pl/
Trail marks – should tell you which way to go…
5) You can learn something! There are many forest stations, with childrens’ facilities and learning centre. Children and tourists can learn there about flora and fauna in the area. There may also be some special events for all sorts of occasions. Ask around, enquite the local tourist information. Many of these institutions have websites.
Good times at “Forest School” in Barbarka near Toruń
In a forrest you should never light any fires or smoke cigarettes. And you should always take your trash back with you (if that’s not possible second option is to burry it). If you see that others left their trash, which unfortunately sometimes happens, it doesn’t mean you can do it too.
Otherwise – have fun!