As soon as Belarus announced five-day visa waivers for citizens of 80 countries, a travel writer Joseph Reaney booked his flight. Unlike most tourists coming for Soviet flair or gut-wrenching dictatorship experience, he had something peculiar in mind.
The traveler wanted to watch bisons, the most iconic residents of the oldest forest in Belarus.
Joseph, who’s been to over 80 countries, visited Belarus in June and shared the experience about his adventure in a piece for The Independent.
He went to watch bisons – or zubrs, as they are called in Belarus, – in the best imaginable place, Belovezhskaya Pushcha.
This primeaval forest situated between Belarus and Poland is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Once covering the whole European Plain, Belovezhskaya Pushcha is home to many animal and birs species rarely found elsewhere.
In particular, for European bisons, who were had been almost hunted to extinction in the early 20th century.
“With the national park situated 220 miles from Minsk airport – the only route in and out of the country without a visa – my time in the park would be limited to a single day, so I set off early to arrive just after sunrise,” Joseph writes.
Vehicles are not permitted in the park, so tourists use bicycles to move around:
“The longest cycle route in the park is 19km, but I knew that my best chance of seeing bison meant parking up every so often, and venturing deeper into the forest on foot.”
While looking for bisons, the traveler took time to explore the forests’s other attractions – 650-year-old oaks, a railway built by the Nazis and the “Residence of Father Frost”, a Belarusian Santa-themed tourist sight.
Predictably for nature, which lives its own life and does not depend on a human, bisons did not show up. But Joseph did not feel dissapointed:
“A giant bird of prey circles above my head… a white-tailed eagle, sailing and swooping in search of a feast. It’s a majestic sight…
And it’s the perfect way to end a very long day.”