Read Time: 10 min 40 sec
Translation by YAVAS, Gamze
I was a student of Erasmus in Poland for 1 year in the years of 2015-16. When you go to Poland as a student, one of the places where you will find yourself most is crazy Erasmus parties. In these parties, you naturally mingle with alcohol. So Vodka… There is a special vodka brand in Poland; Zubrowka. The bison grass version of this brand is truly legendary. I don't know what effect of bison grass has but this vodka leaves a special effect. It brings you to the ideal, non-tiring, joyful heady without having to drink so much. The brand's emblem on the bottle features a bison in nature, and bison grass eaten by a bison. The drink is a drink worthy of bison. For the human body, even if we drink a little, it is enough.
2-3 months after I came to Poland, I can say that I had a deep connection with this drink. Obviously, I started to have a special interest in the bisons, looking at the bison picture on the bottle over time. I learned that the bisons whose weights can reach 1 ton, although they are huge, they are extremely agile, they can run at 55 km / h, can jump high fences and are strong swimmers. For the Native American people, they represent their souls and remind them how their lives were once lived, how being free and compatible with nature. Because I am a person who loves power in wild nature and spiritualism, I was impressed. And I wanted to see the bisons in their nature.
Then I learned that there is a Bison National Park in Poland. The day I heard it, I was crazy to go. Unfortunately, I was not able to include it in my travels because it was not in the touristic region of northern Poland. Before I planned a trip, my Erasmus period was over and I had to return to my country.
But one year from this, I had the chance to go to Poland again in 2017 for an internship. And this time I was going to Białowieża National Park. I planned a special route to go. I had to walk around a bit. Because it was on the border with Belarus and it was really far from away the city I was in. The simplest route was, to go to Warsaw, then Białystok where is a small city, and then Białowieża, a village. It made me bother a little. To go to Białystok was a different adventure, to go to Białowieża was another adventure. Even the first day I intended to go, I couldn't find where the bus is for 2 hours. Then I found out that my bus search was wrong and learned that I need to find a minibus to go there. I gave up on going that day since I lost a lot of time looking for the minibus. I planned to come again the next day.
I knew the place of the minibus anymore, I found it comfortably the next day and took my place in the tiny journey to Białowieża. The expected moment had come. I was finally going to the bison forest that I wanted to go to for a long time. Going to the bison forest had always frightened me. Because I couldn't find much information about the forest. It was written that I could enter the forest with a guide. But for the guide, incredible figures such as 300 Złoty (about 450 Turkish liras for that time) were mentioned. Since I was alone, It was over my budget. But I had no choice, I would go and see how it was. I got up early again that morning and waited in the right place at that time and got in the minibus. I had some sleep because the road was long. Then I woke up and we had come to the city. I chose not to get off because I had no idea where to get off. We also couldn't also understand each other with the driver. He didn't speak even a word of English, and I didn't know any polish except 'tak'. And I decided to stay in the minibus until the driver shows me the door. I did that too. And finally, the driver said we came. At least I dreamed of he was saying that. I asked for a turn of where the vehicle would depart by my few Polish words. He understood and described. Normally, I wouldn't act so planned, but I wasn't in the city anymore. The vehicles coming and going to the town were sporadic, I didn’t know to speak Polish and if there was a situation, I had no idea where I could stay.
Anyway, then I started walking around idly. There was no one I could get information about the park. As if the town was abandoned and I was the only person. I realized that I made a good decision to get off at the last stop when the huge gate of the park suddenly appeared right in front of me, and I was very excited. I immediately got inside. I learned that there are 4-5 walking routes from the signs at the entrance and I decided to choose a shorter route than the longest route and to walk. If I wanted to see a bison, I had to get in touch with a guide from the counseling center in the town, walk down the roads the guide knew, and go to the place where the bisons were. But I knew that when I walked without a guide, I might have encountered them. I would try my luck.
According to my research, since the other half of the forest is on the border of Belarus, there are many people who pass by without realizing it. But besides the excitement of accidentally crossing the border, I also notified my family before starting the route because it was terrifying. I started walking. I never thought the forest would be so deserted. I thought maybe there would be other walkers. But I was the only one on the way. I didn't hear even the sound of birds. The trekking paths in the forest always became forked, and the route had occasional colors on the trees for you to follow the route. But then I got stuck somewhere. A crossroads. All the trees around it had been cut down. A small secretion of adrenaline, a sense of helplessness. It felt like I couldn't get out of the forest for a moment. But I decided to go on. I would complete the route for the possibility of seeing bison. I left myself to my instincts and moved on. After a while with tension, I started to see again the colors of the route I followed. My instincts were correct. A little tranquility had replaced tension and despair, those sweet feelings of success began to form inside me. The desolation was no longer frightening, it was calm and peaceful. I finished the route after a 2-3 hour walk where I enjoyed the beauties of nature.
I couldn't see even a bison. However, I was not upset, even it was nice to be in their habitat. Being and walking in the forest made me feel peaceful. I had a sweet adventure that started from the drink and connected to the bison forest.
© Cover page by Natalia Noszczynska (Instagram: @nnoszczynska)
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