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Blazing a New Trail in Poland

Kentucky has its Bourbon Trail. Mexico has its Tequila Trail. And dozens of destinations worldwide have wine trails. Now, Poland has The Trail of Historic Recipes: a series of distilleries, breweries and wineries that span the country’s Podkarpackie Province (southeastern region) and northern Slovakia.

The just-launched program features 16 facilities so far—most of them family-owned and operated—where you can sample artisanal spirits, beer and wine that are locally produced with recipes that have been passed down through the generations and learn how they’re made.

And it’s not all about vodka, although some of the distilleries specialize in that spirit. Among the other beverages visitors can taste are nalevkas (traditional liqueurs made with botanicals like nettle, elderberry and Scots pine) and distillates (clear spirits that are made by macerating locally grown fruits such as pears or apricots, or herbs, and distilling the juices).

Of the breweries on the Trail, some also operate as full-service restaurants, serving up local cuisine along with beer, including flights of hefeweizen, pale ale, pilsner and other types. Others show you the brewing process on guided tours.

Podkarpackie Province also is home to dozens of boutique wineries, as well as Poland’s only viniculture school. Depending on the winery, you’ll taste wines ranging from those made with local grapes to vintages from around the Carpathian region (Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Czechia and Romania).

What all the facilities have in common is that their products aren’t distributed in the United States, so it’s a rare opportunity to sample artisanal beverages that you can’t buy at your local liquor store. With a few exceptions, visits to most of the distilleries, breweries and wineries must be scheduled in advance.

Another commonality: They dot a picturesque countryside of hills, meadows and centuries-old villages that offer other activities and attractions along the Trail.

Among them, you can see how master glassmakers create works of art (and even try your hand at glass-blowing) at the Glass Heritage Centre; sample hand-made chocolates at M. Pelczar Chocolatier; learn calligraphy, pottery-making or local pastry baking at the Bieszczady School of Crafts; pedal along railroad tracks on rail bikes; explore centuries of life in the region at the open-air Museum of Folk Architecture, with original, restored structures and artifacts; walk among Soviet and German tanks, planes and other World War II artillery at a park called Death Valley; and see a collection of Orthodox church art and artifacts, as well as the largest collection of works by Polish painter Zdzislaw Beksinski, at Muzeum Historyczne.

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