The Eco King: Charles’s passion for Poland’s wilds revealed

The future King visited the Tatra National Park in 2002 where he hiked to Morskie Oko. Grzegorz Momot/PAP

With the coronation of King Charles III one of the world’s major talking points over the weekend, recollections of the regent’s visits to Poland have come thick and fast, not least those concerning his interest in Poland’s environmental gems.

Speaking to PAP, Paweł Skawiński, the former head of the Tatra National Park (TPN), recalled how the future monarch arrived just outside the national park in the summer of 2002 by helicopter.

Clambering over boulders in his elegant shoes, Charles slipped at one point whilst using his cane but quickly regained his balance.Grzegorz Momot/PAP

Climbing into a car alongside the British ambassador and Skawiński himself, the trio then set off in a motorcade bound for Morskie Oko.

“The Prince was in the front seat next to the driver,” said Skawiński. “He was dressed in a beautifully tailored grey suit and leather shoes.

The park’s former director revealed that he had suggested that Charles change his shoes for those more suited to hiking – this, though, was impossible given the crowds that soon gathered.Grzegorz Momot/PAP

“I suggested that it might be better if he changed his shoes for more comfortable ones suited for hiking, but when we arrived he was immediately recognised by tourists so there was no way for him to change in front of the onlookers.”

Clambering over boulders in his elegant shoes, Charles slipped whilst using his cane but quickly regained his balance.

In 2010, Charles visited the Białowieża National Park  where he was photographed petting a Tarpan.Artur Reszko/PAP

“I decided to walk closest to the lake,” said Skawiński, “so if he tripped again I would be able to catch him in case he tumbled into the water – if I didn’t succeed, I knew we would both fall into the water together!”

Fortunately, revealed Skawiński, the rest of the ramble passed without incident.

Using a “cheat sheet” with botanical Latin names and their English-language equivalents, the pair conversed about the plants unique to the TPN before meeting children on a school trip.

On the same trip, Charles visited Kruszyniany where he sampled ethnic dishes.Paweł Supernak/PAP

However, despite the path being specifically cleared ahead of the Prince’s visit, one piece of garbage had evaded the authorities.

“Before I could react,” said Skawiński, “the Prince picked it up and told me that as a young boy on his estate, he used to clear rubbish from the gardens. I thought this demonstrated his respect for nature as well as his good upbringing.

“It was a lovely day,” continued Skawiński, “and we ended it with a glass of Litworówka vodka in the shelter at Morskie Oko.”

The picturesque village is known for its wooden mosque and Muslim community.Paweł Supernak/PAP

This, though, was not the only time Charles has expressed a passion for Poland’s environmental glories.

Having visited the country three times in all – in 1993, 2002 and 2010 – the newly-crowned King has often made time for the nation’s wild treasures, among them the Białowieża National Park.

In 2010, Charles was photographed petting a Tarpan pony in the reserve before admiring the free-roaming bison that populate the forest. During the same trip, he also visited Kruszyniany, a picturesque village known for its wooden mosque and Muslim community.

He later stunned the owners of a local restaurant when, eight-years later, he made an undisclosed donation after the eatery was damaged in a fire.Paweł Supernak/PAP

Having sampled some ethnic dishes in the village’s Tatarska Jurta restaurant, he later stunned the owners when, eight-years later, he made an undisclosed donation after the eatery was damaged in a fire.

“We received a letter after the fire from Prince Charles,” said owner Dzenneta Bogdanowicz. “It’s quite a shock when such a letter arrives covered in stamps and seals.

“He wrote that he had seen on the internet that the restaurant had suffered a fire and had remembered his visit in 2010. It was a very kind expression of solidarity – it wasn’t a lot of money for him, but it was a huge help for the restaurant.”