Rafting, J. Szalay Pieniny Museum

    Transporting tourists in wooden boats along the Dunajec River is the most famous occupation of the Pieniny raftsmen. Popularised in the 19th century by Jozef Szalay – the founder and owner of the health resort in Szczawnica – rafting down the Dunajec River Gorge has become the biggest tourist attraction in the Pieniny.

    The first rafts for the transport of visitors were dugouts made of a single poplar trunk. After that, individual dugouts were attached to one another with wicker twines to obtain doubles and, with time, triples and quadruples that afforded greater stability. The length of one boat varied from 5.60 to 5.80 m.

    The rafting could begin at different points: in Czorsztyn or Niedzica, in Sromowce or Czerwony Klasztor but they always ended in Szczawnica. Those organised by Józef Szalay with up to 100 participants were most popular.  A Pieniny flotilla made up of dozens of rafts sailed headed by a flag boat with a mortar firing in all the places where the echo repeated the sound several times. The second boat contained the spa orchestra and the rest of the participants occupied the other boats singing, raising toasts and firing salutes from time to time.

    Rafting was the favourite pastime not only for visitors to the Szczawnica spa but also for guests to Krynica, tourists coming to the Tatra mountains, scientists and the entire artistic bohemia wielding pens and brushes. Rafting also had its prominent guests. Archduke Karl Ludwig, brother of Franz Joseph I of Austria, admired rafting in 1854. President of the Republic of Poland Ignacy Mościcki went on a raft ride through the gorge in 1934.


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