GASSY:-A group of Poles have assembled tree trunks into a long raft and are streaming down the country’s longest river, the Vistula, to revive the ancient tradition of timber floating. Their day begins at dawn with a prayer - “When dawn breaks, the earth, the sea, all of nature praises you” - which captain Zdzislaw Nikolas sings in his bass voice while the whole crew stands around an image of their patron saint. They sing it at night too like their ancestors, says Nikolas, who sports an impressive handlebar moustache.

“Saint Barbara was the patron of those with dangerous jobs, like miners and firefighters and also raftsmen, because that too was a dangerous job: there was a strong river current in the spring,” he adds.