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.
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.
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’.