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″Horn sledges or the winter attraction of Karkonosze Mountains″

Admin, 2 marca 2012 09:20


Long winters and heavy snowfalls widely contributed to the development of winter sports in Karkonosze Mountains. In the 19th and 20th century slides with "horn sledges" were very popular and fashionable. This useful and not complicated means of transport was brought to Karkonosze form the Alps in the 16th century. For the first time it was used at the Czech side of Karkonosze. They were used by Tyrolean woodcutters brought in there by a mountain administrator from Gendorf. The sledge were long used for practical purposes by the residents of mountain huts for carting of wood, hay and field products from places with difficult access in summer. As T. Steć states the first touristic slide with a horn sledge in Karkonosze took place in February 1737. At the beginning of 1737 a massive avalanche struck Mały Staw; it shattered the ice thick for two ells making a real havoc. Dr Lindner from Jelenia Góra, an explorer of Karkonosze nature together with five companions decided to check on the results of the disaster personally in order to describe this event scientifically in the yearbook ”Uczone nowości ze Śląska” (“Scientific news from Silesia).
After they reached Mały Staw they were surprised by a snowstorm and had to stay for the night in Samuel’s Hut (“Strzecha Akademicka”). Because of the heavy snowfalls they couldn't descend from the mountains by feet on the next day. So they willingly accepted the woodcutters' proposal to get them down with a horn sledge. And it was this very slide which gave rise to the winter tourism in Karkonosze. However, it took 78 years to repeat such an achievement. Not before 1815 the owner of a winery and a lodge in PomeznÍ Boudy, Stephan Hübner (1787-1863) organized tourist slides with horn sledge from Graniczne Budy from the Okraj Pass to Kowary. He did that by using an old track used for wood carting. It was 7 km long and the height difference amounted to 600 m. The slides with horn sledge were a great attraction for tourists coming to Karkonosze. The event always started before noon. The guests were driven up to the Okraj Pass in a sledge carried by a horse from the roadhouse „Pod Złotą Gwiazdą” or from the hotel „Pruski Dwór” in Kowary. There was a sack with hay in the back part of the sledge – that was the place for passengers. They sat with their back towards the ride direction in order not to fall out of the sledge going uphill. The guide, a local highlander, got in behind the horse and between the sledge's horns and the caravan could set off uphill. The ride to the pass took two hours. During the ride the passengers had the opportunity to admire picturesque views of Karkonosze. On the pass, the host of the lodge greeted the guests personally in the doorway, a cap in his hand. With gallantry he offered his arm to the ladies and guided them with a dignified step into his winery. As for those times the place was comfortable, the rooms were neat and clean and the bigger halls properly decorated. The guests could eat a hot meal here. Fine Hungarian tokaji wine, from which Hübner had been famous in the neighbourhood, was served and other exquisite wines were tasted. The company amused themselves for a few hours by music. Amused, they slid down to Kowary with sledge in the late afternoon hours. The guide, a highlander, sat at the feet of the passengers, holding the horns with both hands, and strong, tapped boots served him for steering and breaking. Crazy ride to the valley lasted for 10 to 20 minutes. The sledge stopped in the place, from which it had set off a few hours earlier.
Who wanted a souvenir from this winter fun could order a drawing with Hübner's lodge or sledge ride by a painter and engraver, August Tittel. The drawings were black-white or coloured. They cost from 12 groschen (black-white ones) to 1 thaler and 8 groschen (coloured ones) – according to taste and size. The popularity of this sport in Karkonosze is confirmed by the fact that in winter over 1000 slides with horn sledge took place there. The guidebooks considered them the main attraction of a winter stay in the mountains. At the end of 20th century, at both sides of Karkonosze a lot of tracks for smaller and bigger sledges were established. The most popular slide tracks were: lodge Petrovka – Jagniątków (length 5.5 km), lodge Petrovka – Szpilerowy Młyn (length 5.0 km), Nowa Śląska Buda (Hala Szrenicka pasture) – Szklarska Poręba. In winter 1896/97 the following numbers were chronicled: 370 slides from Okraj Pass to Kowary, 220 slides from Heinrichbaude (lodge of prince Henry) at Wielki Staw to Karpacz and from Hampelbaude (“Strzecha Akademicka”) to Karpacz (73 slides).
Two years later the numbers were as follows: from Hampelbaude to Karpacz 420 slides, from Heinrichbaude to Karpacz 260 slides. The shortest track was the slide from Chojnik. It was unusually picturesque, although it lasted merely 5 minutes. A slide from Okraj pass cost 5 mark, the same as three stays in a lodge, un uphill ride together with a slide from lodge Petrovka – 9 mark, so we can see that the attraction was quite expensive. In the season of 1899/1900 3900 horn sledges were exploited in Karkonosze, it gave employment for numerous indigent highlanders. Most of the owners of the huts in Karkonosze endeavoured the concession for slides, as it was a profitable business. At the beginning of the 20th century a range of two-way tracks were delimited because it was getting crowded and dangerous there. The popularity of horn sledges led to the construction of sledge and bobsleigh tracks in Karkonosze. In 1900 a special train was launched for the dwellers of the capital of Dolny Śląsk. It departed from Wrocław to Sobieszowo at 7 a.m., and it could drive you back at 7:39 p.m. That was enough time for the tourists to drive into Petrovka, slide to Szpilerowy Młyn, then to go back to the lodge, slide down to Sobieszowo and from there eventually go back home full of impressions. Such a trip cost 16 mark, excluding a train ticket. At the beginning of the 20th century heavy horn sledges were effectively ousted by more and more popular in Karkonosze sledging and skiing. In 2001 the authorities of Kowary decided to reactivate the old tradition of Karkonosze and organized the first for over 100 years slide with a horn sledge. The event with the name „The International Horn Sledge Slide into the 21st Century” took place on 3rd March 2001. The track of over 4 km led through forest lanes, from Okraj to „Jelenia Struga” on Podgórze in Kowary. 13 teams from Poland and Czech Republic participated in the slide. They had to show great fitness on the track and surely it was lots of fun. In the following years the slides led from Okraj Pass to Kowary and to the Czech side of Karkonosze from Okraj Pass to Spalony Młyn. This year in March „The International Horn Sledge Slide” will take place for the fifth time. The mayor of Kowary, Dariusz Rajkowski, announced that teams from Tyrol and Austria will take place in this year event. Kowary is becoming a restoration centre of the horn sledge slides tradition. The horn sledge is different from usual sledge in the way that its runners at the front transform smoothly into strong, high (up to 1 m) and curved a bit to the back horns which serve to steering. The sledges from Karkonosze were made of ash wood, and the horns were made of already twisted trunks of great maple, so that the wood was as durable as possible. The old lithographs and a postcard come from the collection of the Museum of Karkonosze in Jelenia Góra and from the collection of the author. The temporary pictures were made by Krzysztof Sawicki.
Sources:
- „Der Wanderer im Riesengebirge“, 1897, No. 2/1925 pp. 24-26 - Bartsch J., „Über ein halbes Jahrtausend am Fuße der Schneekoppe“, Eine Chronik, Druckerei Bittkau GmbH, Hannover,1989, pp.
-226-229 - Steć T., Walczak W., „Karkonosze” Monografia krajoznawcza Wyd. Sport i Turystyka, Warszawa, 1962 - Staffa M., Red. “Karkonosze”, Słownik geografii turystycznej Sudetów, tom 3, Wyd. PTTK „Kraj”, Warszawa-Kraków, 1993 p.
-112 - Flouskovă Z., “Rohaté cestovăni”, Krkonoše, No. 3/2000, pp.
-4-5 - Sawicki K., „Zjazd na Rogatych Saniach w XXI wiek”, Kurier Kowarski, No. 1/2001,pp.-16-17 Picture

descriptions
1. Horn sledge slide from Okraj Pass to Kowary, Friedrich August Tittel about 1820, Carl Mattis, Kowary, coloured lithograph 18,5 x 14,2 cm
2. Sledge slide, C. F. Hoppe , 1st half of the 19th century, Carl Mattis, Kowary, coloured lithograph, 14,5 x 21 cm.
3. Sledge slide in Karkonosze, F. Waibler, 2nd half of the 19th century, postcard, F. Müller Cieplice Śl. copperplate
4. Ride uphill to Okraj Pass , S. Hübner’s lodge, Carl Mattis, year 1815/1840, coloured lithograph, 19,0 x 14,4 cm. 5. Slide down Śnieżka and from the lodge at Wielki Staw, humorous postcard from the end of the 19th century 6,7,8,9,10. Slides with horn sledges are organized for five years in Kowary.

1. Ride uphill to Okraj Pass
2. Slide from Śnieżka and the lodge at Wielki Staw
3. Horn sledge, Kowary