Podlaskie is Poland’s coldest and least populated province. One third of its land area is protected, being covered by four national parks, including the Białowieża Forest, home of the endangered European bison. The province also has almost 90 nature reserves. Podlaskie is one of Poland’s environmentally cleanest regions, and known as its “green lungs”.
Podlaskie is one of Poland’s most ethnically rich provinces. It has been influenced by groups that have come and gone: Belarussians, Gypsies, Jews, Lithuanians, Russians, Tatars and Ukrainians. As such, it has several centres of diverse religions, such as wooden mosques, a 17th century synagogue, an Orthodox church, and former monasteries. A handicraft trail was also established in the voivodeship, winding through a forest and several villages, for those who wish to meet the last exponents of traditional professions such as pottery, woodcarving, smithing and weaving.
Podlaskie’s multi-ethnic influences makes Bialystok one of the most culturally diverse cities in Poland. It is the birthplace of Ludwik Zamenhof, the inventor of Esperanto. The capital has many artistic groups and cultural activities, such as that of the Modern Art Days Festival every May, which includes performances at the Branicki Palace, the “Polish Versailles”.
The capital’s town square, Rynek Kościuszki, is an open space surrounded by brownstone buildings, their facades decorated by intricately etched sgraffiti. It has become a popular hangout for local artists, who exhibit their works at the Marszand gallery.