Another wood rafting season on the Váh river has kicked off again, though the number of wooden raft "captains" is on the decline.
The keys to the river given to the "captains" by a water sprite named Jurko in late April has become a tradition, the My Žilina website writes.
The tradition of wood rafting declined after the advent of railway transport, but it was restored in 1999 after 60 years.
The rafting adventure near the settlement of Strečno takes 50 minutes and seven kilometres to complete. During the trip, rafters can observe several bridges, two castles, the Margita and Besná rocks, as well as entertaining stories told by the captains.
Every year, 5,000 people decide to set out on the river adventure.
Wood raft guides wanted
Today, the Prvá Pltnícka A Raftingová Spoločnosť company employs from 30 to 50 wood raft guides, or "captains", if you like.
However, outside holidays or on working days, the company has to rely on the unemployed or pensioners.
Anyone who is 18 years old or over can undergo a short training and become an assistant guide.
"We prepare people interested in the activity, both practically and theoretically," said the company.
Find out more about region of folklore, national parks and modern attractions in our Žilina Region Travel Guide.
Every guide must also hold a licence that allows them to sail small vessels.
Wind is the enemy
The low water level and the wind give wood raft guides the most trouble.
Still, the adventure is safe. Rafts cannot capsize. "But when we started, we weren't sure about it, we were also afraid," the firm said. An accident can only occur if a passenger leans over the water too much.
However, the firm notes, it is the guide's responsibility to keep their raft under control at all times.
The only unpleasant experience, recalled by the firm, is passengers who interrupt guides' lectures on history and natural beauties during the trip.
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