Frost Ferns & an Icy River

I remember travelling in a bus that had frost on the inside of the windows on my side of the bus, but not on the other, sunny, side. Then our route within a small town (Nałęczów) turned us so my side was in the sun, and the frost melted quite quickly. Finally, we left the town and my side was away from the sun again – and I had the interesting experience of watching those frost ferns form, quite rapidly: an ice nucleation point shooting across the film of water like a little speedboat leaving a wake of a long thin linear ice crystal, curving gently because there’s no reason why it shouldn’t; then side branches doing likewise, each starting at 60° to the original line. Beautiful.

We were on our way from Lublin to Kazimierz Dolny – where my friend took that photograph of me on her tiny camera. It was cold... −25°C.

You can see the river Vistula (Wisła in Polish) in the background – completely white because it was completely covered with floating ice. We went down to the side of the river and watched the ice flowing down the river; mostly flat sheets of ice of varying sizes from a foot or so up to several feet across, jostling with each other as they floated past. There were little ridges of broken pieces of ice on them, all around their edges, where they’d crashed into each other. There was a constant shushing noise of ice colliding with ice.

The sign says, “NOTE – BATHING STRICTLY PROHIBITED” – as if!

Then there was a flotilla of flat-topped barges, all roped together, floating down the river – and on one of the barges, a sort of shed, with smoke billowing from an iron chimney; and an open door with a woman bundled in rough clothes sitting on a chair just outside the door. Children of various sizes, also clad in rough clothing, came and went.

Were those barges their home? I’ve no idea, nor do I know what trade they were plying.