|Snowshoeing the Wild East|
ul. ZWM 6m66, Warszawa, Poland
We are an adventure travel and ecotours operator. We offer our guests an opportunity to combine exercise, learning and pleasure. Like other adventure travel operators, we do not cater to the mainstream tourist who wants to spend his vacation on the beach or on a coach going from one museum to another. Our trips combine the following elements:
- Sport. We move around on foot, bicycle, horseback, cross country skis, snowshoes, in canoes, kayaks and rafts. Every guest gets a chance to burn some calories and ventilate the lungs everyday.
- Nature. We spend our time in forests, fields and villages. Away from industry, cars, noise, pollution and crowds. We frequently travel with naturalists and get many chances to see and interact with wild and domestic animals. We also offer specialized ecotours and birdwatching tours.
- Folklore. In areas where we travel, life has not changed much in the last hundred years. People live, work and dress the way their ancestors did. We observe these people and spend time with them. We visit the more interesting examples of village and small-town architecture, especially places of worship: Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches, Jewish synagogues, Muslim mosques.
- Comfort. We travel with no more than 10 guests. They are accompanied by a guide and his assistant. The guide speaks English and knows one other language, e.g. German, French or Spanish. We allow no children and no pets on our tours. Smokers are welcome as long as they do not smoke in the vicinity of other guests. We do not stay in 5-star hotels, but neither do we pitch tents. We stay in one lodging for several days, so instead of spending your time packing and unpacking, you can devote it to more pleasant pursuits. We offer good food and wine and cater to your special dietary requirements. We base our schedule on the weather, e.g. if it rains and our guests do not want to get wet, we will skip a bike trip and drive to visit an old wooden church instead.
- Character. We look for experiences a little out of the ordinary. We will rather stay in an old country manor or a water mill than a Marriott or Holiday Inn. We are more likely to eat on a meadow or in a small village restaurant than at Pizza Hut.
We offer adventure travel with a twist. What is the twist? We differ from other operators in several important ways:
- We custom tailor each trip to the preferences of our guests in terms of the type of sport, level of exertion, level of comfort, region visited, special activities, etc.
- Our trips are free from children, pets and cigarettes.
- Our groups are small: typically six guests and two hosts.
Each day is packed with exercise, sightseeing and adventure. While the selection of routes and sights is prepared beforehand, the decision which route to take and which sights to visit on a given day is made on spot by the guide and is based on the weather, guest preferences, local events, tourist traffic and other considerations, some of which cannot be completely predicted weeks in advance.
Each trip is devoted to one mode of transportation: feet, bicycle, horseback, kayak, canoe, raft, bicycle, cross country skis or snowshoes. We may add variety by cycling in the mountains or in the snow or both. When cycling in wetlands, sometimes you are on the bicycle, sometimes the bicycle is on you and sometimes both of you are barely visible above water. We may use the canoe to ram through dense vegetation or as an icebreaker (and we do not mean your social life). If the snow is knee deep we hike slowly. If it is thigh deep we crawl. If we feel like moving faster, we put on snowshoes. Sometimes we break the routine and devote one day to a different activity. For example, we may jump from a bicycle to a horse or ask the horse to pull us in a cart, sleigh, on skis or skates. By varying the exercise, we allows our muscles and ligaments to recover. Besides, variety is the spice of life.
We will typically eat breakfast at our lodging. Then we set out on our daily trip. We may drive to the trailhead if it is not next door. The trip’s length and exertion are matched to the abilities of the guests and to the weather, but we will strive to spend much of the daylight hours outdoors. Sightseeing and nature observations are interwoven into the trip. If nature predominates, we will be accompanied by a naturalist. If architecture or other elements of culture are on the menu, we may be joined by a historian or tourist guide. If the activity carries an element of risk, e.g. hiking in high mountains or whitewater kayaking, an expert rescuer will accompany us.
We eat lunch on the way. We either pack or visit a local restaurant. After we return from the trip, there is an opportunity to freshen up and change into leisure clothes before dinner. After dinner we may spend time talking about the events of the day. The guide will tell you what is coming tomorrow and share a story about local history, culture or nature.
All the activities are voluntary. You can skip any of them and do whatever your heart desires, as long as we do not have to pay for it and bail you out of the local gaol.
Our groups are quite international. Most guests come from Benelux, France, Germany, Scandinavia, United Kingdom and United States. But we also get guests from other European countries and some come from truly distant and unexpected places.
Our trips are definitely not for people whose idea of a good vacation is to lie on the beach or sit in a coach. They are for people who exercise regularly and enjoy it. On the other hand, most of our trips do not involve strenuous activity and can be easily taken by people who are not professional athletes. We are pleased to see a number of seniors among our guests and we make an extra effort to keep them safe and comfortable. The small size of our groups allows us to stay together and set the pace of the group to the pace of the weakest member without inconveniencing the others. Our vehicle is always on call and can pick up someone who ran out of steam.
We get a mix of couples and singles. If you are single, you may request single occupancy or ask for double occupancy and state your preferences for the roommate. We will do our best to accomodate. If it is a kayaking or a canoeing trip, guess what? You get stuck with the guide and hear all he or she has to say about the passing plants and animals.
Most of our guests are middle age or retired, though we also get plenty of students and yuppies. Ladies usually hold slight majority.
Some guests have done such trips and practised the given sport before. For others it is the first time. We do provide training in the sports we offer – it is part of the adventure and the fun, so do not worry if you have never done it before.
The tourist infrastructure in Poland is regrettably inferior to that found in Western Europe. The level of comfort is lower, especially in the countryside. Most lodgings are nondescript: ugly buildings, poor interior design, lack of character. It takes a real effort to find exceptions to the rule. We put in this effort. Lodgings selected by Stork Adventures combine comfort with character. Comfort means:
- A solid roof over your head rather than a tent. Much tourism in Poland caters to backpackers, but we are too old for that
- No noise from outside. We avoid the many places, located next to busy roads, featuring discos and catering lively corporate events
- Plumbing and hot water in the bathroom, rather than an outhouse and a dip in the river
- Clean sheets, pillows and blankets. That means Stork Adventures have our own supply and carry it
- Real towels. The ones offered in Polish hotels are too small and too thin for our taste, so Stork Adventures bring our own, custom made to our specifications
- Portable space heaters. Heating can be a problem in a castle and we will sleep in any temperature as long as it is 22°C, so we bring our own equipment and guests have blessed our foresight more than once
- Much time spent with the lodging’s owners explaining to them the different expectations of Western guests
Character means that you are likely to stay in a:
- Medieval castle
- Old country manor
- Former monastery
- Quaint farmhouse
- Secluded hunting lodge
- Water mill or windmill
It may also mean that the lodging will be in a nice location and with some items of interest in the immediate vicinity:
- Park or forest with old trees
- Lake or river
- View of the mountains
- Farm animals running around
- Ancient wooden church
Some of our trips involve more than one lodging, but rarely more than two. Here again we differ from most Western operators who move their guests everyday. We tried it several times but found we spent too much time packing, unpacking and on the bus.
Just like hotels, Polish restaurants, especially outside the cities, leave something to be desired. We make up for it by picking our restaurants carefully, working with their owners and supplementing the diet with items we bring along: wine, beer, fruit juices, fruits and vegetables and sometimes more.
Having said that and having much experience with international cuisine, we are enthusiasts of Polish food, in particular soups, bread, fruits and deserts. For the carnivores among you, Poland is the place to savour game, poultry and sausages. Polish vodka has been famous for centuries. In fact, it was distilled in Poland before it found its way to Russia, Scandinavia and other countries. We will give you a chance to try its many varieties, but in small quantities since we want you perky in the morning.
When in Rome, do as Romans do. We will keep our menu true to the region we are visiting, to give you a complete taste of Poland, but we will accommodate guests with special dietary requirements, as long as you let us know in advance.
We do not accept children and pets. We know we lose many good people this way and we are sorry about it. However, there are many tour operators without such restrictions. We cater to the needs of those who want to escape the noise and other distractions, which some children and pets bring. You are most welcome to bring your entire family, as long as all members have the right to vote in your national elections.
Smokers are welcome as long as they do not smoke in the vicinity of other guests.
We impose no gender restrictions and get a good mix of both sexes.
Our 8-day trips cost from €990 to €1490 per person. Single supplement is €100-200 extra. The price difference is caused chiefly by variously priced lodgings. We will send you the exact price with the description of the trip and an invitation to join it.
The price covers:
- Transport between the Warsaw airport and the lodgings
- Lodgings (7 nights), double occupancy
- Meals (3 meals/day)
- Non-alcoholic drinks: tea, coffee, milk, water, juices, soft drinks
- Alcoholic drinks: beer, wine
- Sport equipment: bicycle, kayak, canoe, raft, paddle, life jacket, cross country skis, snowshoes, etc.
- Guides, naturalists and other hosts
- Entry to national parks, nature reserves, musea, churches and other places we visit
- Access to our library of books: guidebooks, atlases of plants and animals, history, fiction, etc
- Limited medical assistance (first aid for simple cases)
- Contribution to a charity [link to Charitable contributions] selected by you
Please note that the coverage is wider than in a typical Western tour operator and much wider than in a typical Polish tour operator. With Stork Adventures, you can fly in with no cash and no credit card and go through your vacation quite happily, without any feeling of deprivation.
The price does not cover:
- Travel from your home to Warsaw and back
- Single occupancy in your lodging (having a bedroom just to yourself involves an extra fee)
- Your extended stay in Poland, including a night in Warsaw if you cannot fly in or out on Saturday
- Special clothing: bicycle shorts, bicycle helmet, rain jacket, gloves
- Gifts, postcards
- Travel & medical insurance
Stork Adventures donate half of our income to charities selected by our guests from the following list:
- Protection of nature in Poland. We use the money to purchase land with ecological value and set it aside for nature conservation. That means the land will never be used for industry, residential or agricultural purposes. The purchase is through a private foundation to avoid leakage, which can be pronounced in government institutions.
- Protection of nature in the world. We transfer the money to the World Wildlife Fund, one of the best known and most respected institutions charged with protecting wild animals around the globe.
- United World Colleges. This is a group of 10 high schools, located in Africa, America, Asia and Europe, offering International Baccalaureate to students from all countries, carefully selected on merit. The purpose of the schools is to promote international understanding among the most gifted young people from all over the world. Our contributions fund scholarships for students from developing countries who for financial reasons are unable to cover their own expenses.
- Stanford University Graduate School of Business. This is one of the leading schools preparing creme de la creme for senior positions in the industry and government. Our contributions fund scholarships for students from developing countries who for financial reasons are unable to cover their own expenses.
You decide and tell us to which cause we should donate part of your fee. How big a part? No less than €50 and no more than €100 from each guest goes directly to the charity. No middlemen and thus no leakage due to corruption.
We recognise that for many adventurous ecotourists €150 per day is a lot. But it is possible to travel with us for less. You can save in several ways:
- Pay early. Save 10% by paying two months before the trip. Save 20% by paying three months before the trip.
- Join late. Save 30% by prepaying and asking for last-minute offers. You get up to three invitations and can accept any one of them. If you turn them all down, we keep the money.
- Come often. Come to five of our trips and the sixth one is on us – you pay nothing. It can be any of our regular trips.
- Tell friends. If ten guests give us your name as the reference, over any period of time, your next trip is on us – you pay nothing. It can be any of our regular trips.
- Write. Send us a copy of a journal or magazine with wide circulation, containing an article written by you and describing your trip with Stork Adventures and your next trip is on us – you pay nothing. It can be any of our regular trips. If you are a journalist with such a magazine and promise to share your experience from our trip with your readers, your first trip is on us.
- Be imaginative. Come up with other ways to help our company and we will find a way to express our gratitude.