Best Forests Around Warsaw
A regular habit the Mrs. and I have developed is incorporating "nature" time into our lives. We try to get out of the city for at least half a day every weekend. There's just something about getting away from the man-made world that's refreshing. Nature makes it easy to tune out all the inner (and outer) noise, relax and just enjoy life. We've tried to substitute nature time with city park time, but we've found it's just not the same.
Back in San Francisco, we used to go on hikes - having the ocean and redwoods within half an hour was definitely one of our favorite parts of living there. But given that Warsaw is nowhere near any oceans or mountains, we didn't know how much nature to expect.
So the Mrs. and I were very pleased to learn that Warsaw is actually surrounded by several big forests, pretty much in every direction. And, even better, since we don't have a car, the majority of them are easily reachable by public transit. Here are the ones we've seen so far:
Bielanski Forest is the closest forest you can get to from Warsaw. Probably because it's actually in Warsaw itself. I mean, how many cities have an actual forest within city limits? It was so easy to get to that the Mrs. and I went in February, on one of the coldest days of the year. I think it was -14 C. Despite the cold, it was the first blue sky day in a month, and the wind had picked up and blown the air pollution onto to Belarus, so it was a great day for a hike (or some cross country skiing as some locals were doing):
Młocinski Forest is basically the next forest north along the Vistula River from Bielanski Forest. The really nice thing about Młocinski is that you can walk all the way down to the river bank (whereas Bielanski Forest is separated from the river by a highway). It's not much harder to get to than Bielanski, but you do have to transfer to a bus after riding the subway to the end of the line.
We went to Młocinski Forest on a very nice warm spring day. There are multiple bike paths running throughout the park, which is what most locals seemed to be doing (I wonder if they were the same people cross-country skiing in Bielanski Forest in the winter). There is also a huge meadow with a playground that was barbeque central, and even a McDonalds's out on the main road by the bus stop to supply a much needed ice cream break.
Kampinoski National Park
A slightly longer subway to bus journey from our apartment got us to Kampinoski Forest, which is also UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Polish national park. We went hiking there back in the fall. The day was cold enough to see your breath, but looking back on it post-winter, it was positively warm.
Despite the warnings, we went off the trails. The reward was some stunning natural beauty. The cost was a couple of ticks (no bites luckily). We saw only a small part of the forest via what we could do in a day trip, but for those with a car and some time there's a lot more to see.
Masovian Landscape Park
Southeast of Warsaw there's a little town named Otwock that's famous for its hundred-year-old wooden villas (it used to be a spa town starting in the late 19th century). Just beyond the edge of Otwock lies the Masovian Landscape Park full of pine trees. This is the literal translation, to me, it looked like a forest. We spent a nice spring day walking around the town and the park. Otwock is only a 45-minute suburban train ride from the center of Warsaw, so it was an easy day drip.
There's a couple more forests we haven't seen yet, but hopefully we'll get to those soon. Since I grew up in the deserty part of California, forest walks were never something I much experienced. But I have to say I'm definitely a fan.
Now all I need is to learn how to mushroom-hunt and I'll blend right into this part of the world. For the Mrs, who grew up in Russia, forests are a natural habitat.