Kampinos National Park
This is the second largest park in Poland, and the largest in northern Europe, located about 20 km of Warsaw.
The Park was opened on January 16, 1959, and was created for the protection of the natural environment, namely the forest and its wildlife. Within the park, there are over 5,000 types of animal, including salmon, lynx, black storks and bison. The area has been recognized by UNESCO World Biosphere Reservation of biological diversity, as well as a bird sanctuary by the European Union. The forest is north-west of Warsaw, and is largely comprised of dense forests and swamps, as well as a few old sandy fields. Evidently, though, the forest itself dominates the national park, and encompasses about 71% of its total area, with oaks being a defining characteristic of the park – it's quite unusual to find this type of tree on sand. There is a great deal of diversity of vegetation, with about 118 groups known to exist.
But Kampinoski Park does not only consist of nature, as a quick walk around will confirm: there are architectural antiques and historical curiosities to be admired. The oldest and most valuable are the 12th century Roman-style Abbey, found at the edge of the forest, and the Salezjanów Basilica and monastery from the 15th century. Also, make a point of seeing the wooden Baroque church built from 1773-1782, and a classical court from the beginning of the 19th century which served as the Zygmunt Padlewski's headquarters at the time of the January Uprising. The building is currently in private hands, but acts as Kampinoski National Park Museum, and is one of the very few antique wooden buildings found in forests – many of these were created in the interwar period, but few survived. Also of interest is the well-maintained, medieval castle from the 10th to 12th centuries. It is comprised of two sweeping axes, which probably funcioned as moats originally, and was used as both a hunting lodge and safe place for nobility and the king's subjects, who lived in Rokitno, near BĹ‚onie.
The forest was a witness to many tragic and historic events in Poland's history, and has numerous places dedicated to national memorials. One of the most well-known is the cemetery/mausoleum in Palmiry, in memory of some 2,115 victims of secret Nazi executions performed between 1939-1941. Victims included prominent politicians and social thinkers of the time, scientists and intellectuals, athletes, cultured people, and those killed for their religious faith - among the victims were the Speaker of the Parliament (Sejm) and one of the leaders of the People's Movement, Maciej Rataj; the Vice-President of Warsaw, Jan Pohoski; Olympian Janusz KusociĹ„ski; and the priest, Father Zygmunt Sajna. In Truskaw, there is a monument to honour its fallen villagers: during World War II, the Nazis twice incinerated the village (in September of 1939 and then again in August of 1944), during which time many inhabitants were killed. And in the Zaborowie forest, there is a monument to the 76 young insurgents who were killed on April 14, 1863.
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