Poland is divided into 16 voivodeships
Although Poland was wiped off the world map for 123 years between 1795 and 1918 and endured the long yokes of the Nazi occupation and the communist regime from 1945 to 1989, it has nevertheless recovered from its deep wounds and suffering and has gradually managed to modernise itself. With 38 million inhabitants and a surface of 310,000 km², it has a relatively low population density. Its superb national parks are home to many species such as Europe's last wild bison and Carpathian bears to name but a few.
Recent years have been marked by tensions with the European community. Poland is currently fighting a very important legal battle with the EU, the core issue being how to combine the two poles of European unity and nation-statehood in the 21st century. Can Europe survive if more and more member states focus firmly on nation-state matters? Or can we solve the pressing issues of our time – above all global, man-made climate change – only as a strong European Union? The answers to these questions are, as so often, completely uncertain. Poland, which ratified the Paris Climate Agreement on 7 October 2016, endorsed the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 at the European Council in 2019, but said it could not commit to implementing this goal at this stage.
On the other hand, the country is aware of its eco-tourism potential and has started to invest in infrastructure dedicated to cyclo-tourism and green tourism. Apart from the capital Warsaw, the cities of Kraków, Tarnów or small towns like Supraśl, Kruszyniany or Białystok offer unique architecture.
Thanks to its dense and well-maintained railway network, it is possible to reach any medium-sized town in Poland. In addition, the Polish public rail network provides bus services to train stations in order to encourage traveling by train, including with a bicycle.
Poland is becoming one of the most interesting destinations in Central and Eastern Europe for cycling enthusiasts, as it is well connected to its neighboring countries with six EuroVelo routes. In Lower Silesia, the total length of cycling routes is estimated at 8000 km.
The Green Velo Szlak, which runs for more than 2,000 km through the picturesque regions of eastern Poland, starts in Konskie and ends in Elblag, near the Baltic Sea, a short distance from the Russian enclave of Kalingrad.
Looking at the Polish flora, one immediately notices that Poland is the most forested country in Europe. It is especially noteworthy that Poland has vast tracts of woodland that have never been felled by humans – thus a very authentic range of flora can be observed here, which has evolved over time only as a result of changing climatic conditions. Almost 30% of Poland's total area is covered by forests – and various reforestation initiatives are expected to increase this figure by another 3% by 2030.
One example is the Białowieża Forest near the border with Belarus, which, due to its unique value, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Natura 2000 site and is protected by the EU Bird and Habitat Directives.
The country's flora is diverse, with over 1,000 species of mosses and nearly 40 different species of red algae alone. As fascinating as Poland's flora is, its resident wildlife is equally diverse (including species that are now endangered). The total fauna of Poland is estimated at about 45,000 species. Poland is the breeding ground for about a quarter of the migratory birds that fly to Europe every summer. The special refuges for migratory birds are also largely protected, namely in the form of several national parks and protected wetlands. And with, among others, brown bear, lynx and wolf, some unique animal species can be found in Poland that no longer – or almost no longer – exist in other European countries.
These animals can be found in the country's national parks, including the Pienines National Park, which encompasses the central part of the Pienines limestone massif (982m), the Three Crowns Mountain (Trzy Korony), and the picturesque Dunajec Gorge in the Carpathians. These mountains have a very diverse relief. Flora includes a large number of endemic species, such as the Pieniny dandelion and the Pieniny velar. Beech and fir forests predominate. Mountain pine woods cover the open summits and rocky terraces. The park's fauna is exceptionally rich, especially with insects, including butterflies, such as the apollo, the machaon and the scarce swallowtail.
A German-Polish community project
For “sustainable favorites” category, we have deliberately chosen a joint project, namely one in which Germany and Poland are involved together. The location of the project is the river Oder, one of the most famous European streams. The Oder rises in the Czech Republic, flows through Poland and, since the end of the Second World War, has primarily formed part of the border between Poland and Germany.
The delta is an important stopover for migrating seabirds using the East Atlantic flyway. The rewatering of numerous areas in eastern Germany and the end of peat cutting in Poland have led to a strong resurgence of wildlife and flora – especially sea eagles – which now have the highest breeding density in Europe. Cranes, beavers, otters, sea trout and many other species are also now found in or near the Oder. Appropriate initiatives are therefore needed to respond to this development.
The delta is thus making a name for itself as a re-wilding area and also as an outstanding nature tourism destination. Rewilding Europ and local partners have started working on several entrepreneurial pilot projects. An evolving network of local nature guides, wildlife viewing tours, eco-lodging and other nature-based businesses is creating jobs and fostering support for the rewilding that is occurring. The medium-term goal is to develop an alternative, sustainable, and competitive pattern of land and marine use for numerous wildlife species, local landowners, sustainable-minded entrepreneurs, and residents.
Polesia, the largest wetland in Europe, covering 18 million hectares and 4 countries (Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia) is under serious threat from climate change, infrastructure development (such as the construction of a 2,000 km long waterway, the E40) and the construction of a new railway. The NGO “Polesia – Wilderness without Borders” is trying to have this unique ecosystem classified as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site and biosphere reserve, while 85% of the world's wetlands have already disappeared…
By now you can find on Myecostay a special accommodation in Poland. This offer will increase in the coming weeks and months – so we will keep this section up to date. The accommodation of Ela & David, a French-Polish couple is strongly influenced by the permaculture approach and offers a sustainable, exciting retreat in Warmia-Masuria for up to 12 people.
Have fun exploring!
The EuroVelo network connects Europe with the means of the bicycle. In this article, we will focus on EuroVelo 2, also called the “Capitals Route”, and talk about its peculiarities and the countries through which it passes.
Today we start with a traditional dish from Poland, namely Bigos. This simple, yet very tasty dish is a cabbage stew with meat and sausage varieties and other varying ingredients. We will replace the meat in the original recipe with smoked tofu and soy cutlets.