Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Poland - The Kulig

Although our group worked out butts off during our visit to Poland, there was still time for some fun.

Twice we went on a kulig which is a horse-drawn sleigh ride. This is a popular Polish winter tradition anytime between Christmas and Ash Wednesday.

The first kulig was at night which is when you typically would do this. After being told to dress warmly, we arrived at the starting point near Wigierski Park Narodowy, or Wigry National Park. Our host for the evening was the company we had spent the past two days working with.

They handed out warm hats and gloves in case someone forgot to bring theirs. Then we loaded up the two sleighs and set off through the forest. We joked that whoever was sitting in the front seats were riding "economy class" because of looking at the horses' rear ends.

Getting Ready to Kulig

The "Big" Train Engine

We finished up our evening by having a sit-down dinner inside a rustic building. I had a great time!

Our next kulig was on a Sunday afternoon. This time we went to Plaska which is in the Puszcza Augustowska, or the Augustow Primeval Forest. Another company hosted this event for us.

Again, we loaded up our sleighs and off we went through the snow-covered forest.

Sleigh Ride Through the Forest

We stopped somewhere out in the forest to do the required "Nastrovia!" and then got back in the sleighs.

Two Horsepowered Sleigh Team

To start the journey back to the lodge, the dog that accompanied us ran and barked alongside the sleighs. "Come on, let's go," he barked! I was in the lead sleigh on the way back. I think the four-legged guy behind us was anxious to get to the barn because at one point I could reach behind me and practically touch him.

Heading Back to the Lodge

Then it was time to gather around the bonfire and cook our kielbasas and eat more bigos.

Kielbasas & Bigos

The lodge is located along another part of the Augustow Canal. They kept a small section cleared so that you could use the sauna, then run down and jump into the canal, and then go back to the sauna. We were offered the privilege of performing this ritual, but it required being in the buff in the sauna. Between that and the thought of going in the freezing cold water, I decided to pass.

On the Count of 3...Jump In!

Our evening ended by going inside the lodge for more authentic Polish food, drinks and dancing. There wasn't any escaping the dancing part but I refuse to post pictures of it. :-)

The kuligs were lots of fun and nothing that I've experienced stateside. If you ever get a chance to do this, GO FOR IT!

Next up, the return trip home.

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