Poles re­vive an­cient tra­di­tion of tim­ber float­ing on long­est river

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

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GASSY, Poland — A group of Poles have as­sem­bled tree trunks into a long raft and are stream­ing down the coun­try’s long­est river, the Vis­tula, to re­vive the an­cient tra­di­tion of tim­ber float­ing.

Their day be­gins at dawn with a prayer re­cited by cap­tain Zdzis­law Niko­las in his bass voice while the whole crew stands around an im­age of their pa­tron saint.

They sing it at night too like their an­ces­tors, said Niko­las, who sports an im­pres­sive han­dle­bar mus­tache.

“Saint Bar­bara was the pa­tron of those with dan­ger­ous jobs, like min­ers and fire­fight­ers and also rafts­men, be­cause that too was a dan­ger­ous job: there was a strong river cur­rent in the spring,” he adds.

For cen­turies, tim­ber float- 25/31 25/30

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27/32 27/31 27/31 25/31 Bei­jing Changchun Chang­sha Chongqing Dalian Fuzhou Guangzhou Guilin Guiyang Haikou Hangzhou Harbin He­fei Ho­hhot Hongkong Ji­nan Kun­ming Lanzhou Lhasa Li­jiang Ma­cao Nan­chang Nan­jing Nan­ning Qing­dao Sanya ing brought wealth to many vil­lages along the Vis­tula and its trib­u­taries. Men sent mer­chan­dise of all kinds but es­pe­cially wood from the forests of south­ern Poland down­stream to the Baltic port of Gdansk.

“As soon as the ice melted on the Vis­tula and the cur­rents of the Vis­tula and the (trib­u­tary) San were flow­ing freely, raft mak­ers got to work and sent the wood float­ing down to Gdansk,” Niko­las says while steer­ing from the back.

“The whole vil­lage of Ulanow did this job and it was of­ten a fam­ily af­fair passed down from fa­ther to son. It dis­ap­peared with the be­gin­ning of the war in 1939 when the Ger­man army’s bombs de­stroyed the bed of the Vis­tula river.”

Af­ter the war, tim­ber float­ing was re­placed by trucks 21/31 S 20/31 C 29/34 Sh 29/38 C 23/28 C 26/29 St 27/35 T 28/36 Sh 21/30 Sh 27/34 C 27/34 Sh 20/30 T 28/34 R 18/29 C 27/32 Sh 22/28 D 17/26 Sh 19/32 C 12/24 Sh 14/24 R 29/33 T 28/32 R 28/34 T 28/37 Sh 25/28 Sh 28/32 C 23/30 C 21/31 C 29/32 Sh 29/38 C 24/28 C 26/30 R 26/32 T 28/34 Sh 21/30 Sh 27/35 C 29/35 Sh 21/29 C 27/33 D 18/25 C 27/31 T 23/29 D 17/25 R 18/23 D 12/22 R 15/23 Sh 28/32 Sh 27/31 R 29/32 T 27/34 Sh 25/29 Sh 28/32 C Shang­hai 29/34 T Shenyang 20/33 S Shen­zhen 27/32 Sh Shi­ji­azhuang 22/32 S Suzhou 28/35 D Taipei 28/35 T Taiyuan 18/30 S Tian­jin 23/32 S Urumqi 22/31 C Wuhan 25/32 D Xi'an 21/32 S Xi­a­men 26/30 R Xin­ing 13/29 C Yan­tai 23/28 D Yinchuan 18/30 C Zhengzhou 23/31 C Zhuhai 29/33 T Athens Berlin Brus­sels Geneva Istanbul Lon­don Madrid Mos­cow Paris Rome Vienna and trains.

In 1991, Niko­las re­vived a broth­er­hood of Ulanow rafts­men who or­ga­nized their first de­scent last year.

The crew left Ulanow, a vil­lage in the south­east of Poland, on July 2 and floated down the San. They hope to do the 724 kilo­me­ters be­tween their vil­lage and the Baltic in 29 days.

Two weeks in, they were docked on a beach in Gassy, near War­saw. 24/31 S 19/25 D 19/20 D 21/26 D 22/29 S 14/16 D 16/33 C 15/24 D 22/24 O 21/25 S 21/25 C 28/35 T 21/30 S 26/31 T 23/28 C 26/32 C 28/35 O 20/28 C 25/30 C 21/26 C 25/31 Sh 22/32 S 26/30 Sh 15/19 R 24/30 D 18/23 O 25/29 D 28/32 Sh 24/29 S 19/21 D 15/20 O 20/27 C 22/30 S 14/17 D 15/31 O 18/26 S 13/22 O 21/25 S 21/25 C

Their raft is made up of four smaller ones as­sem­bled by ty­ing to­gether long planks of pinewood. It weighs 50 met­ric tons and is 70 me­ters long. The first and last rafts are used to steer.

The rafts­men sleep in tra­di­tional tents and cook meals on an ever-burn­ing fire.

“Two weeks into the de­scent, al­most all our sup­plies are gone,” says Zyg­munt Osip, as he added cab­bage to a big cook­ing pot.

He did last year’s de­scent and joined the crew this year.

“I did ev­ery­thing to get time off work and for my wife to let me leave and I suc­ceeded, I’m here,” he said.

“For me this trip is as beau­ti­ful as first love.”

The dis­tance the group hope to travel on the raft be­tween their vil­lage and the Baltic Sea. MON­DAY TUES­DAY

Abu Dhabi 31/44 S Bangkok 28/34 D Colombo 24/30 D Dubai 34/43 S Hanoi 26/34 D Is­lam­abad 25/33 D Jakarta 25/31 D Karachi 28/33 D Kuala Lumpur 25/29 D Manila 27/31 D Mum­bai 26/31 R New Delhi 27/32 R Py­ongyang 23/28 R Riyadh 29/43 S Seoul 24/30 R Sin­ga­pore 27/29 D Syd­ney 15/16 R Teheran 24/36 C Tokyo 25/31 D Welling­ton 8/13 D Yan­gon 24/31 D 32/43 S 28/34 C 26/31 D 33/42 S 26/34 C 24/32 D 25/31 D 28/32 D 25/30 D 25/31 D 26/30 R 28/33 R 24/31 D 27/44 S 25/32 D 26/29 D 10/16 D 25/35 S 25/30 D 12/14 D 23/31 D BuenosAires 12/13 D Cara­cas 27/27 D Chicago 20/25 C Hous­ton 27/28 C Las Ve­gas 29/33 C Los An­ge­les 20/22 D Mex­ico city 17/18 D New York 17/24 C Ot­tawa 16/22 C Rio De Janeiro 19/20 S San Fran­cisco 12/14 C Sao Paulo 13/17 C Van­cou­ver 16/19 S Wash­ing­ton 18/23 C Cairo 25/36 S CapeTown 11/22 O Johannesburg 4/14 C La­gos 22/24 D Nairobi 12/26 D 11/14 D 26/27 R 22/26 O 25/30 C 29/33 C 20/23 C 17/19 D 20/26 C 18/21 D 19/20 S 13/16 C 10/17 C 17/22 C 21/26 C 24/37 S 10/15 D 5/13 D 22/26 D 15/24 D

JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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