ONLY a few centuries ago, travelling across the territory of present-day Slovakia was no easy matter. There were no regular roads, only random tracks with no foundations. Swampy or muddy sections were usually strewn with tree trunks.
Thus rivers presented a much simpler means of transport. The Váh River was normally navigated by wooden rafts. Over time, rafting became a livelihood for many people, as goods were transported by raft from the northern parts of what was then the Kingdom of Hungary to the south.
Those in power also used river transport. Hungarian Palatine František Wesselényi was one of the first to use a raft in 1656.
In 1802, Arch-Duke Jozef used rafts during his visit to Spiš and the High Tatras, and the nobles of Likava-Hrádok had 16 vessels built for the purpose. In 1880 an exclusively male party departed from Oravský Podzámok (the village beneath Orava Castle) to Kraľovany, at the confluence of the Rivers Orava and Váh, and from there sailed on a specially summoned raft down the Váh in order to enjoy the beautiful countryside of the Považie region.
River transport was used because of its ease and accessibility, but also because it was safer. But security was far from guaranteed. Several ambushes on boats were recorded at the beginning of the 18th century. They were all ascribed to the most famous of Slovak bandits – Juraj Jánošík. He reportedly attacked and robbed travellers on the river several times.
In this rare postcard from the beginning of the 20th century, we see a pltisko, or raft harbour, near Kraľovany.
22. Aug 2011 at 0:00 | By Branislav Chovan