Friday, November 30, 2007

Polish Mountains

I have just got back from a 5 day trip around two of Poland's most impressive mountain ranges. The Bieszczady Mountains in the very south-east of Poland are remote, in a cul-de-sac, with Slovakia to the south and the Ukraine to the east. This is a poor region, with fine forests of beech and spruce. I travelled for 2 days here with 3 Polish friends and saw Ural Owl, Nutcracker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Crested Tit, and followed fresh Brown Bear tracks through the snow to a sleeping place beneath a spruce. The bear was not at home, but fresh dung and prints in the snow showed he was not far away. Then it was on to the High Tatras, by a round-about route through Slovakia, as the road we wanted to take was blocked with snow. And it did snow... a bit earlier than expected, several weeks earlier than usual. The next day the snow stopped and the high rocky peaks became visable and looked stunning from our cosy lodge in the valley below. We walked for most of the day being passed by two tourists who had decided to take the easy option... pulled along in a horse drawn sleigh! On our final day we walked over the frozen Orawa peatbog just to the east of the high peaks, and my expert companions found the tracks of roe deer, brown hare, wolf and black grouse. All in all, a wonderful winter adventure.

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