The ideal break away from the noisy city life is going to Podlasie (Podlachia) which in spring and summer is absolutely stunning, full of blooming flowers and fresh aromatic herbs such as common dandelion, melissa, camomile, hop, common nettle, mint, wild rose, etc.
You can smell them everywhere. When driving a car or riding a bike you can easily see a carpet of flowers covering the meadows and when you come closer the perfume of flowers or herbs strikes you immediately.
There is a long-standing tradition of gathering and drying herbs in the Podlaskie region. It’s said that there are more than 100 species of herbs in the area. Approximately 60 % of herb crops in Poland are gathered here because this region is known to be one of the cleanest and eco-friendly places in the country.
A skete (a monastic community for monks) in Odrynki, where Father Gabriel lives, is surrounded by lovely flowers, long grass and fresh herbs. It’s definitely his place in the world. He knows a lot about herbs and also tries to help people suggesting them what to drink to heal not only their spirit but also body. When Father Gabriel was young, he developed his interest in the healing properties of plants growing wildly in the region. It’s still his passion that he tries to share with others.
When visiting Sts. Anthony and Theodosius of the Kiev Caves Skete in Odrynki it’s good to see a chapel and the Orthodox church and buy some herbal teas. There are different kinds of eco teas e.g. for improving digestion, hypertension, diabetes or slimming. You can always drink herbal tea that Father Gabriel offers to strangers and tourists or talk with him about everyday life or health problems. In fact, he welcomes those in need every Wednesday and offers his help and herbal knowledge to relieve pain and stress.
Another pleasant place worth seeing for big and little nature lovers is Podlaski Herb Garden in Koryciny (also known as the Herb Corner) which is a complex of buildings, restaurant, shop and accommodation. The owner is keen on various kinds of herbs and possible ways to use them. It was his grandmother who encouraged his interest in edible wild plants growing in the forests and meadows.
It took four years to open a botanical garden which was assigned a formal status in June 2011. Now there’s a huge garden to visit, traditional cottages, farm animals, wild plants and a shop. When entering the shop you’re struck with strong aromatic smell. The place is filled with the delightful fragrance of spices and herbs. It’s like a fragrance paradise. That smell gets stuck in your head for a long time. The shop offers a wide variety of herbal blends, teas, jams, spices and alcoholic beverages. Some herbs have nutritional or healing benefits, whereas others are used in kitchen and medicine. Tourists can also take part in the workshops or courses and mix the herbs to make bags with their own herbal blends.
After spending the whole day in those places you regain strength, sleep better, feel relaxed, breathe deeper and appreciate every minute of your life since time runs slower here. Even those who think that they don’t need to slow down, enjoy silence and tranquility. For sure, these are the places of peace and comfort where you can recharge your batteries.
by Justyna Wasyluk