Belovezhskaya biosphere

National park will soon be 600 years old
In Russia — Baikal. In Africa — Victoria falls. In the South America — mesohylie of Amazon. In Belarus — Belovezhskaya puscha. These natural pearls are united by the list of the World heritage of the humanity. The part of puscha with an area nearly 5 thousand hectares with relic plants was included into this list more than 15 years ago by UNESCO’s decision

Thus, uniqueness of the most ancient forest of Europe was officially confirmed. In 1993 Belovezhskaya puscha was assigned the status of a biosphere reserve. Four years later it was awarded by the Diploma of the Council of Europe for success in environment protection. Besides, not everybody knows that this forest has been preserved for many centuries. Last year the scientists of Belarus and Poland established that reserved regime started its action already in 1409, when Lithuanian prince Yagailo for the first time imposed limitations of permit to this territory and prohibition on some types of economic activity. On December 11, 2009 one of the most titled reserves of the Old World is to celebrate its 600th anniversary. This information is already presented to UNESCO for introduction into the Calendar of commemorative dates.

Nowadays tourists from all over the world come to the puscha. Last year, for example, it was visited by more than 188 thousand travelers from 67 states. What do they find in a primeval forest?

By forbidden pathes

The first thing, which is worth coming here, is nature. A primeval forest fascinates at once, just as one finds himself outside the gates of the national park. Ship pines, giants-oaks, ashes, birches, alders… On the area of more than 163 thousand hectares there are even rare exemplars of a white fir, which, in opinion of the scientists, was once upon a time brought here as an experiment. It established here and continues surprise tourists with strange outlook. 20 per cent of the territory of puscha is absolutely a conservancy area where even the entrance of scientists should be regulated. Tourists, as a rule, are proposed the way of 12 kilometers. It goes from the museum of nature to the estate of Belorussian Ded Moroz. But the plan of it allows to see the most interesting places of Puscha. We decided to become everpresent travelers because of journalistic curiosity and to see everything by our own eyes.

…At the entrance to Puscha we were met by… the head of a bison. More accurately, it was the node on the birch-tree that was associated with it in form. — It is wart, tree ailment, — guide Oksana Bogaleysha explained. — But look how strong it reminds the beast — neb, eyes, and nostrils — everything that bison has. Tourists do like it. Bison is a symbol of puscha. Lots of people come there to puscha to see these peculiar animals. There are more than 300 of them nowadays. The National park even gives these animals to other regions of Belarus. Belovezhskiye bisons can be found in the national park “Pripyatsky”, Berezinsky biosphere reserve, district forestry administration of Osipovichy.

We can’t even believe that at the beginning of last century they could disappear. The last she-bison was killed there in 1919. To renew the population of bisons the reserve had to refer to Europe zoos. Many bisons were carried out from puscha there. They were brought and settled in cages there. But during the Great Patriotic War they were released not to allow Germans to carry them out in Germany. But after the war Puscha was divided between Poland and Belarus. All bisons stayed on the territory of Poland. Only in 1946 5 bisons were given to Belarus by the Poles. It was the starting point of renewal of the population of bisons. Accounting to the number of these animals, now Belarus takes the second place in the world. It has more than 3 thousand bisons, being second only to Poland. The giants live frivolously in Puscha. In winter they are nourished because of lack of food. Bisons so much get over a man that they even propagate kind in cages. 2 small bisons were born last year at the territory hedged by fence. Animals didn’t pay much attention to us when we came close to their feed boxes.

But not all animals that inhabited aboriginal forests were lucky. For example, tours entirely became extinct. We can’t find any more blooded tarpans — wild horses. There are no bears also. They disappeared in the end of the 19th century. Hunters killed all of them and it was decided not to bring these big vermins who pose a threat to roes, elks, and deers to puscha. But so-called newcomers feel good themselves there. For example, raccoon dogs, brought from Ussuriysky region, they even make harm to forestry. These leisurable animals take nests and kill birds that are under the guard.

Past and modernity

For its history ancient wood for several times was changing hands. Lithuanian princes were the owners of it in the end of the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. In 1386, when Poland united with Lithuania, puscha was owned by Poland. In 1795 its territory belonged to Russia. However, no matter who was the owner of puscha, all times it was the place of hunting of the great ones of the earth. At all times it had enough animals to hunt.
In different times this place was visited by three Russian imperators. They were Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicolai II. Nicolai II is considered to be the most hazardous hunter. He was in Puscha for several times but not often than once in three years. It required some period of time to renew wildlife population of killed during the previous hunt animals. After successful take there was organized so called feast on the whole world. Imperator and roturier could eat at one table. Nowadays only the road that connected Pruzhany and Gaynovka, Polish community, reminds us of those times. It was built by the order of Russian empress Catherine. That is why it is called Catherine or tsarist tract. It is a historical place. Russian Empire for its long history had only two constructions of such kind. They are Catherine tract and Military-Georgian road. On the rails of brows, adjusted along the way, are placed beautiful eagles with two heads, that were made at Gomel plant “Tsentrolyt”. — These eagles are analogs of those that were many years ago, — the guide explains. — Unfortunately, Belovezhskiy Castle, former tsarist residence, with its 134 rooms can’t be seen now. After the war it was on the territory of Poland and the Poles exploited it like a symbol of Russian Empire.

That is why the leaders of the Soviet Union who liked hunting in Puscha had to construct new building on the territory of Puscha. Famous palace “Viskouly”, where in December 1991 were signed Belovezhskiye agreements that were practically done with the USSR, was built for Nikita Khrushchev. But he didn’t like it. Two new wooden cottages were built near it. Later other leaders of the USSR and Belarus stayed there.
Nowadays some hunting days are arranged in Puscha. Mostly it is dear and boar hunting. Foreign hunters come there for good salvages. In spite of the fact that sometimes horns and tusks cost them several thousands Euro.

Puscha amusement

There is a lot of interesting for a tourist in Puscha. Some objects have legends and pull the travelers like a magnet. Look at pagan rocks. One of them that is situated on the territory of Svisloch district of Grodno region accumulates moisture. According to the legend, this moisture cures of every ailment. They say that the cavity in this rock is nothing else than a footprint of Madonna who stepped down on the rock in times of the
Great Flood.

The legends about accreted trees are also interesting to know. There are for example nine lime trees that grow from one root, a birch accreted with an oak. They say that one receives a sign from the God. And the nature of the sign — whether it is good-natured or not — is for a man to decide. And if one has a luck of finding a hollow stretching from oaks roots, he should certainly pass through these nature gates. They sat that if one does this he is considered to be newly born and he receives new energy.

There were no tourists that passed a unique oak — patriarch by. This 560 year old and 28.5 m high tree has seen a lot. Some years ago the lightning struck the tree and left a mark on the trunk. The leaves on the tree appear later than on other puscha’s trees and therefore attendants of this nature reserve nicknamed it as a lazy tree.

Three and a half years ago a new tourist object was opened in puscha — a country seat of Belarusian Ded Moroz. For this purpose a 15 ha site was allotted. This object has become very popular and attracted the tourists from all over the world. According to Nikolay Bambiza, some guests from Cameroon also came on a visit to a fairytale character.

The homesites of Ded Moroz and Snegurochka, pantry, sites with fairytale and legend characters — on winter evenings this magic “farm unit” that could not be passed over in two hours sparkles with bright illumination. The peak of unforgettable impressions is a round dance around the highest fur tree in Europe. It is 42 meters high and it is higher than the famous fur tree mounted on Trafalgar Square in London. This country seat is actively visited not only by children but by grown-ups as well. At winter vocations thousands of buses with tourists arrive at this site. One can come across Ded Moroz at any time no matter what time of season it is. Changing the dress he stays all time there. In summer he welcomes the tourists in flax shirt embroidered with Belarusian ornament and bast shoes.

However, the country seat of a kindly fairy tale character is not the only site of puscha infrastructure. Some sites are built to the 600th anniversary of the nature reserve. In particular a modern hotel with a swimming pool, a sauna and an assembly hall will be opened up. Some projects concerning construction of sites of historical character are given consideration, too. For example, some mini-hotels. Restaurants and cafes can be built on the place where earlier inns and royal staging posts were stationed. Taking into account the significance and arousing interest to ecological tourism, the popularity of nature reserve is growing. Almost 200 thousand tourists visited it last year and that is not a limit. According to some opinions, it is only a start and that is the reason why service has become the main trend in the development of tourist infrastructure here. The nature has endeavored to make this site interesting for the visitors. It is the duty of professionals to provide comfortable conditions for them.

Lilia Khlystun
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