Rafting down Dunajec Gorge – a mysterious, sacral, amorous celebration

The rafters carrying wood down the river have been described since a long time ago. But it was the 19th century, when the first tourists entered the rafts. read more

The rafters carrying wood down the river have been described since a long time ago. But it was the 19th century, when the first tourists entered the rafts. The raftings for Szczawnica visitors were organised with great pomp, accompanied with highlanders’ music and mortar shooting. Rafting at night was really terrifying...The beginning of rafting down Dunajec Gorge is not known in detail. The idea of carrying guests on rafts through Pieniny was popularised in the 1930s. At that time Józef Szalay - the owner of Szczawnica spa resort, started to organise rafting as an entertainment for the resort’s guests. The spa resort’s visitors entered the vehicles, bored in stem, joined to each other and led by rafters. The whole expedition was led by the most experienced of them. Particularly famous was Salamon, the sołtys of Szczawnica, suggestively described by Wincenty Pol.

The rafting always started in Czorsztyn. The strip of rafts drifted carefully, accompanied by the music of highlanders. At the gorge’s gate the rafts reached the shore. The guests visited Czerwony Klasztor and had a lunch in an inn. They also listened to the story about the unusual figure of brother Cyprian, shining in the gloomy history of the cloister. When they entered the rafts again, the rafters entertained the visitors with the whole set of stories: about Janosik, the monks turned into rocks, a road closed by rocks, a miracle spring and, above all, about St. Kinga. Bewildered guests felt the awe of rocks and a sacred ecstasy caused by majestic mountains. However, they also had fun, particularly when they had wine on the rafts and mortars, whose shooting sound was multiplied by echo.

It also happened that they rafted at night, with the light of torches and in the moonlight. In these circumstances it was easy to hit the rocks and sometimes the screams of sinking people were heard. Sinister feeling of terror was then present over the water.

There are several literary reports from the rafting, some of them being true literary jewels, like this quotation from Adam Asnyk:

Płyńmy więc w ciemność i nocną ciszę,

W krainę cudów, marzeń i mgły

(Let’s drift in the darkness and night silence

To the land of wonders, dreams and a mist)

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