Ancient Mystic Woods of Polissya Region

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deep green woods

Have you ever dreamt to visit a forest from a fairy-tale? If yes, you should try going to the deep woods of Polissya on the north of Ukraine. This old mysterious forest will win your heart with interesting history, otherworldly legends and, of course, amazingly beautiful nature.

Polissya woods are older than we can imagine. This area and its dwellers were mentioned by Greek historian Herodotus as far back as the V century before Christ. Then it was described in the Galician-Volynian Chronicles of the ХІІІ century. The famous story of the revenge of Kyiv Rus princess Olga to the tribe of Drevlians who had lived here in the X century was told by Nestor the Chronicler in his “Tale of Bygone Years”.
Polissya forests, located in Polesian Lowland, include territories of Belarus, Russia, Poland and Ukraine. Ukrainian Polissya is a wide 100-km long forest belt in the north region of the country that constitutes around 19% of Ukraine territory. Polissya is one of the largest forestland in the Central Europe and a home for hundreds rare animals, birds and plants. The territory of Ukrainian Polissya has four natural reserves, one biosphere reserve and five national nature parks. Lynxes, moose deer, hares, wild boars, owls, wood grouses and many other forest dwellers feel free and safe here.
lynx in the forest
To visit Ukrainian Polissya nature reserve, you will have to go the interfluve area in Zhytomyr oblast`. The reserve was founded in 1960s to save local flora and fauna from human performance effect. Nowadays, the nature on this territory, rescued from destructive impact of people activity, has successfully healed and revived itself. Wild woods of Polissya strongly reminds of taiga (dense Siberian forest).

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Here you will see thick pinewoods that are unique for Ukraine, picturesque lakes, green fields and impassable swamps. The nature of Polissya hides true miracles such as relict plants and flowers that have been growing here since the Ice Age. For example, here you can find north twinflower, golden rhododendron and wild rosemary. In summer, Polissya turns in a wonderland with blooming white lilies on lakes, juicy cowberries and blueberries. In autumn, these lands become a paradise for mushroom hunters who come here to pick thousands of large porcini, birch boletes, red boletes, chanterelles and yellow boletus. As a bonus, it is a chance to fill your basket with delicious cranberries.
white flowers in the forest
Apart from the wonders of nature, these woods are also rich for mystic stories and legends. Since the ancient times, people who lived in these lands believed in the magic powers of forest and its inhabitants. According to the legends, Polissya forest has “masters” – mythological creatures that own these lands and can be both helpful or dangerous for people depending on their purpose of visiting the woods. The old stories tell about mermaids, demons, goblins, werewolves, magicians and witches dwelling in the forest. Considering this, it is no surprise that even nowadays many locals in this region believe in the power of conjurations and magic spells, and some of them still use this “folk witchcraft” in modern life.
By the way, Ukrainian Polissya is famous for its specific traditions of Christian icon painting. The saints were usually drawn against the background of nature landscapes – trees, fields and blue sky. Many icons even have flowers drawn on them. This tradition is the heritage of pre-Christian times when people praised Mother Nature and her powers. In than historical period, it was typical to decorate pictures of Pagan gods and spirits with flowers and leaves.
girl with long hair in creepy forest
The dwellers of Ukrainian Polissya carefully treasure the memory about Drevlians tribes that lived here many centuries ago. Here you can visit open-air ethnographic museum “Drevlianske Village” to learn everything about regular life and religious beliefs of this ancient tribe. You will have a chance to see a reconstructed windmill and hut as well as get to know the secrets of smelting bog iron.
Ukrainian Polissya is rightfully considered as the place of power of the ancestors. Here you can still find numerous ritual stones of Drevlians. During an excursion to Polissya, you will see impressive “Throne stone” and “Love stone”, old Pagan sanctuary and water wells, ancient tombs with stone crosses. Of course, you will hear the story of the princess`s Olga brutal revenge to the rebellious Drevlians. You will also visit “Stone village” – so-called Ukrainian Stonehenge. There is an unusual legend behind these huge 6-meter high moss-grown stones in the woods. According to the legend, the God punished greedy people and turned them into these stones. You can still see clear marks called “God`s steps” on the stones as evidence.
moss-grown stones in the woods
You can choose from many walking, water or car routes in this area for an excursion. There is an option of choosing thematic tours – for example, a tour to see sacral Pagan objects or a tour dedicated to the art of wildlife photography. To arrange such kinds of an excursion, you should contact specialists working at Polissya reserve.
As for accommodation in this area, there are plenty of interesting options. Guests of Polissya can stay in authentic huts specially built in Seleznivka village; book a hotel room in Zarichne and Kuznetsovsk towns; find recreation camps in Voronky or Bilska Volya villages. Many agencies organizes guided tours to Polissya that usually take 3–8 days. Most of such tours start in Kyiv. Those who are interested can also try to make a trip to Polissya reserve on their own. To do this, you will have to start in Kyiv or Zhytomyr, then go to Ovruch, and afterwards – to Seleznivka. If you are interested to see Stone village, you will have to reach Olevsk town, then – Ustynivka village. This kind of journey can be recommended to those travelers who have their own cars, because buses to this direction ride quite rarely. However, if you do not know this area, you’d better use service of professional guide to avoid getting lost or missing something interesting.
Welcome to Polissya – the ancient lost world where time stands still in the depth of virgin forest.
Photo source: shutterstock.com. All photos belong to their rightful owners.

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