Bialowieza is all about the surrounding forest and the greenery. Long walks in the woods, small villages nearby, and of course, bisons.
It was a challenge to reach the village. There are trains to Bialystok and it's easy to find cheap accomodation there. Then there are buses going to Hajowka on a regular basis, which is the entrance of the forest.
And there are buses going from Hajnowka to Bialowieza, at least in theory. We found the bus stop and the timetable and waited patiently but the bus never showed up. This led to my second hitchiking experience which turned out to be even better than the first one.
Finding a good place to stand to hitch a hike is trivial here as there is only one road going into the forest. It took ~30 minutes for a car to pick us up with an adorable elderly couple who were more than happy to tell us about everything going on around the forest.
There are bus stops in the center of the village with timetables, but it's better to go to the information office and ask for updates. It turned out that not all buses are actually serving the routes that can be found on the timetables. But the nice people in the office were more than happy to point us to a bus that did go.
As we found out, people are in constant legal fights against the government to save the forest. There was a beetle invasion and the environmental minister increased logging to stop it. Environmentalists then brought the case to the EU and it ruled that the logging has to be stopped. Then, after seeing the now-illegal activity is still going on, an issuance of a fine finally put the chainsaws to rest. For now, at least, as it seems the government is more than willing to continue cutting down trees, so locals must keep fighting.
This is the only place where wild bisons live in Europe. It became extinct at one point but with a successful reintroduction effort they roam the forests once more.
don't expect to bump into one accidentally though, yet it's a possibility. But all locals have stories and pictures of bisons wandering close to the houses.
The forest around the village has protected status, but there is a certain part that is strictly protected. In practice, that means you can't wander around on your own but you need to hire a local guide to lead you around. As a result, save for the immediate vicinity of the paths, nobody bothered the processes of nature which gives a unique insight for biologists how forests work.
Because of the compulsory guidance, visiting this part of the forest is a lot more than just hiking. It lasts ~5 hours and you'll get to know every little part of the flora and the fauna. Without specific knowledge about forests, this part seems just like the others. But it's so much different, and the guide will tell you all about it.
The downside is, of course, cost. You can reserve your spot at the information office and it cost 150 Zloty (~33 Euros) for the four of us per person.
The tour started at 5:30 in the morning, and lasted until ~11 a.m. The walking is not hard, and does not require any special equipment other than what you'd wear in a forest. Make sure to bring water and something to eat though.
We entered the strictly protected part before 6 a.m. just to say hi to the birdwatchers who were coming out.
There is a place with great power in the middle of the forest. It's somewhat hidden but there are some signs along the paths to indicate its whereabouts.
Well, I have no idea what kind of power is there or whether there is any more power of any kind here than in other place, but it's a nice walk to visit the place. You can also use the tracks to get back to the village.
If you want to see bisons, there is a reserve not far from the village. There are a few other animals there also but the bison is the main attraction.
There is a path from the road to the reserve called Zebra Zubra.