Gateway to Bialowieza
Member Name: dangaroo
Advantages: Nice churches, good shopping options
Disadvantages: A relatively modern town
Any stay longer than a day in the Bialowieza area in North Eastern Poland will probably have you looking at the map for the nearest town. About 20km west from Bialowieza, lies Hajnowka. Several churches, a swimming pool, a Biedronka (cheap supermarket) and a main square are just some of the amenities offered by this small sized town.
Once you've stocked up adequately on provisions at the said chain of budget ranged food, pop over the road to the square marked with a bison shaped bush. Here you'll find a statue of the animal that is such a mascot for the region. Nearby is the museum of Belarussian Culture which was closed when we happened to be nearby, although it was already the early evening.
A modern Orthodox church (Holy Trinity's Church) is located in the north part of town, impressive when it comes to size but dubious in design. Far cuter, you'll find one of two orthodox churches and a graveyard on the right (Cmentarz Parafialny Prawoslawy) as you exit Hajnowka in the direction of Bialowieza.
Hajnowka is a relatively modern town and a bit of a dead end. Much of its initial population were sent to Siberia in 1812, having taken part in the November Uprising. It was also severely bombed in WW2 when it came under German occupation but rose from the ashes to get city status in the 1950s. As a result, there is not much in the way of regional architecture and the town's housing is mostly 50s blocks. 3 Maja is the so-called high street, dotted with shops on either side and is bustling with action, making for slow progress when driving through. I came across a good ice cream place just off Stefana Batorego opposite the Kaufland (another supermarket). For a small hole in the wall job, I was mesmerised by the variety of machines, sauces and things to sprinkle on top they had.
By heading north from Hajnowka in the direction of Bialystok, you'll come across a village called Dubiny, the short distance took us quite a while to cover due to roadworks and temporary traffic lights. Dubiny is host to two of the finest little churches in the area, the last one in town, a beautiful light blue colour. The only one that I've seen in the area that matchies it for charm was off the road to Biala Podlaska and it hapened to be torrenntial rain when we passed it.
Hajnowka also has a narrow gauge railway line that goes to Bialowieza, it costs about 50zl per person and you get to pump your way along the line. My wife seemed to like the idea but foreseeing who would have to do the pumping, I wasn't overly keen on the prospect!
Hajnowka is nothing special but you'll more than likely have to stock up on some food and drink, so you might as well enjoy it! Hajnowka is also the closest you can get to Bialowieza by train, it takes about 4 hours to get there from Warsaw and costs just over 30zl, there is usually one change at Siemiatycze.
5zl = 1GBP
Summary: The gateway to Poland's fantastic national park