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Be the Tsar in this Polish village

Be the Tsar in this Polish village

One of the most unique trips we've taken in Poland so far has been to Bialowieza, a village in the midst of the Bialowieza National Park, a UNESCO site about 3.5 hours east of Warsaw. In fact, it is so far east that it sits right on the border with Belarus and with it shares Europe's last primeval forest where about 900 bison roam free.

We spent our wedding anniversary in Bialowieza and I can honestly say that it was one of the most unique and romantic weekend getaways we've ever had anywhere. Our hotel room was in a beautifully restored vintage train car on a station built by Tsar Nicholas II! The historic Carska hotel was actually how we had first heard of Bialowieza. Our meals included unique regional dishes like venison pate, deer pierogi and apple pancakes, which reminded me of my childhood in Russia.

The surrounding forest would be great to see in any season, but I consider it a particular stroke of luck that we arrived there right after the first snow fell. The thin white layer made it easy to see thousands of animal tracks that showed how insanely alive the quiet forest actually was. Many of those tracks were of wolves. In fact, I later learned that a company called Wild Poland takes people to Bialowieza to track wolves. Cool, right?

But it wasn't all hiking and eating. We also went to a spa (the village, though tiny, has several) and visited a salt cave (this popular Polish health treatment was totally new to us). In short, we felt like Tsars. And I've been recommending a visit to Bialowieza to all our friends in Warsaw ever since.

To help spread the word about this unique Polish tourist destination abroad, I also wrote an article for Huffington Post called "On Europe's Edge, Bison Roam Free"

If you haven't been there yet, go. If you're planning a trip to Poland and wondering what to include, go. And if you're reading this but you're nowhere near Poland, consider it a damn good reason to put it on your list.

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