Local Info

Podlasie (Podlachia) and Bialystok

Top Things to See in Bialystok

Also – rent a bike and enjoy the many biking trails around the city.

Podlasie – the History, Culture, Nature, Things to See

Poland is like a bagel; the best is at the edges – used to say reportedly Marshal Jozef Pilsudski.

Podlasie is a historic region, covering the southern part of the Podlasie Voivodship and partly the area of the Lublin and Masovian Voivodships. There are two opinions regarding the origin of the name of the region. Commonly people derive it from the Slavic word “les” or “las” meaning “forest”, i.e., it is an “by the wood(s)” or “area of forests. The second opinion holds that the term comes from the polish expression “pod Lachem”, which may be translated literally as “under the Poles”.

History has caused that Podlasie, apart from Poles, is inhabited by Belarusian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Jewish, Tatar and Roma people. This ethnic diversity can be found in traditional songs, dances and rituals, as well as in architecture. Podlasie hides many treasures of nature and architecture. There are 4 national parks (Białowieża, Biebrza, Narew and Wigry), 85 nature reserves and 3 landscape parks, extremely rich in natural monuments.

No less interesting is the architecture of the region – Podlasie is a living museum, where time has stopped in place, and the buildings reminiscent of the past centuries. One of the most interesting is the Land of Open Shutters, covering the villages in the heart of Podlasie – Soce, Trześcianka and Puchły. The local shrines are also impressive, including magnificent Orthodox churches – both living and used, as Orthodoxy flourishes in Podlasie. In Supraśl delights the impressive monastery with a powerful defensive church (in the seat of the monastery is also the Museum of Icons), in Tykocin basilica on the Market Square, the Great Synagogue and of course the royal castle, and in Bialystok, the wonderful Branicki Palace.

The capital of the region and its largest city is Białystok. According to legend, the history of Bialystok begins in 1320, when the Lithuanian prince Giedymin hunted in the forest for a round. Resting after pursuing the forest stream, he was supposed to say: “A clean, white slope. One could build a hunting lodge over it or set up a village”. “Stok” is an old term for a stream that “rolls” down the slope. Soon a manor was built over the stream (and now the Biała river), and then a village called Biały Stok.

Here, Ludwik Zamenhof, the initiator of the Esperanto language, was born. In Bialystok, we can find many examples of Gothic, Renaissance and Classicist architects as well as eclectic monuments. The most interesting objects include the Church of St. Roch, Białystok Cathedral, Orthodox church of Saint Spirit and the palace and park complex of the Branicki family, one of the best preserved magnate residences from the Saxon era, also known as the Versailles of Podlasie. Further buildings, including Saint. Nicholas Church, Jewish cemeteries, the Piaskower synagogue, or Hasbach’s palace (factory owner’s residence), or (smiling) Town Hall standing on an unusual shape, because of a triangular market.

Bialystok is full of tourist routes. The most interesting are the Jewish Heritage Trail in Bialystok. It is also worth going through the routes of the Branicki family, wooden architecture, Białystok manufacturers and Białystok temples. The Esperanto route and trail follow the footsteps of Blessed Michael Sopocko are also popular.

Białowieża National Park https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bia%C5%82owie%C5%BCa_National_Park

Biebrza National Park https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biebrza_National_Park

Narew National Park https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narew_National_Park

Wigry National Park https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wigry_National_Park

The Land of Open Shutters https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-land-of-open-shutters-hajnowski-poland

Białystok http://www.odkryj.bialystok.pl/en

Ludwik Zamenhof https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L._L._Zamenhof

Jewish Heritage Trail in Bialystok http://szlak.uwb.edu.pl/indexen.html

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