|1992||Inscribed||Reasons for inscription|Szucs Tamas (Hungary):
Belovezhskaya Pushcha was the greatest disappointment ever as a WH site. We have visited Belorussia as a part of a Baltic trip in August 2007, the first stop was Brest, the ideal jump off point to visit the national park. But the problems begun much earlier. Normally every trip begins with scrutinizing all the possible on-line (and some off-line) resources on the designated topic. Obviously the quality and quantity of resources vary. A WH site in Europe can have an elaborate website with all the necessary information , and there are a lot of reviews on different touristic and scientific sites that help the wishful traveler where to go and what to do. Belovezhskaya Pushcha was a black hole. I have found only two types of materials: detailed botanical essays on the flora (absolutely uninteresting for a group of historians), and enthusiastic reviews (mainly in Russian) on the historical importance of the regions. No practical information at all about the opening hours, the visiting opportunities, the prices, what we can see and how can we get there. So we had to lean on our off-line guidebook – a Lonely Planet Russia and Belarus. Unfortunately I was unsuspecting when I read that the writer put the entire country “off the beaten track”, and 80% of the Belarus chapter is about the capital. About BP there ware cca 50 words, and an allegation (false by the way), that can only be visited with a guided tour from Brest. I called the local tourist agency and reserved a tour for us (heavily overpriced).
After the Sovjet type horror of crossing the border (four hours) we have arrived to our hotel in Brest five o clock in the morning. After napping a short while we met our guide – a nice elderly lady. Considering that Belarus is the last dictatorship of Europe she was surprisingly opened. On the way to the park she entertained us with colorful stories on the survival skills of the Belorussian (what and how to smuggle from Poland), and harshly criticized the government.
After a half an hour we arrived to the entrance of the park. The secret unveiled – the car park was full of local Zhigulis, and families visiting the park (or whatever seemingly without any kind of guidance. The entrance fee was nominal – a cannot recall the exact amount. Anyway we were keen to go ahead. In our minds there was picture evoked by the enthousiastic reviews: the last untamed wilderness of central Europe, were bison bask on the glades among centennial oak trees, and the troat of wild deer mingling with the deep roar of the wild boar.
What we got instead? A dodgy Sovjet era museum, with grey and brown displays of the local flora and fauna, and a gloomy zoo. Behind the bars there were the animal we wished to spot: deer, wild boar, bison. With a heroic effort we pushed our camera in to make some photos, to catch the animal as if it were in its natural habitat. We hoped that the highlight is yet to come - but what came was not the highlight but the climax of the horror.
We were put on a bus and taken to a kitschy wooden hamlet, that was said to be the “hide-out of the Belorussian Santa” (Ded Moroz – Uncle Freeze). Between the food stalls and a children’s playground there was an over-ornamented house and porch stood a tall guy in false beard and folk costume. Had a small talk with the children and distributed some candies before the obligatory photo with Santa. Our guide politely asked whether we wanted a photo, we politely refused it. Then we asked whether we can see any wild animal here? – “Erm erm. Not for the time being. There is a fence, where they are fed in the winter, so they come there regularly, but in the summer they are in the woods. Can we go there? No. Can we see any of the historical points? Oh yes, from the bus back to the entrance. Will we stop there? O course not. Can we go there by car? Not behind the entrance. “
So we turned back to Brest to see the fort.
So, unless you are a real enthusiast, and want to collect a point for the WH site, do not go there. Or try the Polish side of the park, it may be much more rewarding.
Date posted: March 2011
Have you been to Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Bialowieza Forest? Share your experiences!