“I am most likely to go for bird watching in very early spring. A whole host of ubiquitous starlings, shrieking lapwings, geese, cranes and a host of other winged migrants are then drawn to the marshes,” Paweł says. We try to imagine it all: the frosted reeds above the still icy, meandering river, the cool blue of the morning. A line of the horizon fairly dividing the sky and the earth in half. And these flocks of wild birds, resembling clouds, from which the sky darkens.
We are sitting, sipping tea in a hut deep in the Augustów Forest – the largest dense forest complex in Europe.
It is the largest national park in Poland, a sanctuary of marshes – a type of landscape that is irretrievably disappearing from the landscape of Europe, a habitat for almost 300 species of wild birds, a great refuge for elk, which can be encountered here many times in one day.
Biebrza is not a place made for mass tourism and probably never will be. One can traverse the boundless plains all day and not meet a living soul. “But on my hikes I always have the pleasure of meeting people who are sensitive to the beauty and needs of nature,” he says.
In desolate, almost extinct villages, they restore old cottages and create private folk art galleries, living surrounded by sculptures and icons. They call themselves “witches” or “kings of the Biebrza.” Many spend most of the day with their cell phone turned off – or out of network coverage anyway. Others are setting up intimate farms for people seeking a break from civilization.