River Elbe, Sandstone Mountains and curious noises

The Elbe will carry me through the Saxon Switzerland national park towards Prague. I know nothing of the history here so you will be spared with photographs only.

 

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Although there is no border crossing into the Czech Republic the difference is immediately clear. There is a lot of industry along the river and there’s a shabiness to the first villages and towns. The weather has taken a turn in the right direction, however, and the deeper tans of the Czechs are shown as they flood outside. Rollerblading seems even more popular here than it was in Germany. I even see a father skating along behind a pram (and this wouldn’t be uncommon in the coming days). It is not until I find a cash machine that I remember that the currency here is not euros. I have no idea what the exchange rate is or even what the currency is called. I feel a long way from home.

 

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The next morning, lying under my tarpaulin under the trees of the valley side, I hear an old animal call that has become familiar to me. I have heard this noise often over the last weeks, reverberating through the woods at night night. Somewhere between the bark of a dog, squeel of a boar and screech of a bird, it is quite alarming. It is deep enough and echoes such that it sounds like it belongs to something larger than anything I’d like to meet at night – though I have been at loss to guess what the creature might be.

Cycling towards Potsdam weeks earlier, I had explained this to two German cyclists and told them that the night before I had heard not just the animal’s call but a group of them stampeding around the open field to the side of the copse I was beneath.
“Beavers”, one said said in all sincerity and nodded his head sagely.
“Ah… no, they sound, well… large” I reply lamely, after a shocked pause, making the appropriate gesture with my hands.
“Yes, they can grow to 1.2 metres in length”, still without any hint that he was having me on.
“Err, I see”
I was trying to decide if mutant beavers were preferable to the other monsters that had been playing on mind – those scaley creatures that crawl out of the ground and try to eat Jennifer Lawrence at the end of the Hunger Games were the closest fit I had imagined. Perhaps these beavers aren’t carnivorous, at least?

I left the two but they later caught up with me and explained that there may have been a mistranslation and perhaps they had meant deer, not beavers. Deer are actually real, of course, but I didn’t think it possible they could be the perpetrators of this hair-raising, blood-curdling cry of the damned. I didn’t know deer made any noise at all. So I didn’t think much more about it – until this first morning in the Czech Republic, when I lean boldy out from under my tarp to see if I can catch the culprit and yes, it is a deer. Or a stag, I think it had horns. I don’t know if this is usual deer/stag behaviour but I am completely bewildered. I’m going to go look if this is on YouTube – if not I could be famous for starting the next ‘screaming goats’.

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