The record-breaking droughts of summer 2018 were devastating to countless Slavs spread across different parts of Europe. Heat waves struck not only harvests and wildlife, but also numerous river beds to such an extent that many countries reported new records of extremely low water levels.
As if the consequences of these extremities weren’t scary enough, a set of creepy “hunger stones” appeared recently on the Elbe river bed. The hunger stones, discovered in Decin, Czech Republic, bear an ominous message – “When you see me, weep”. Nearly a dozen new stones are now visible in the Decin area, near the German border, and are warning against the outcomes of the notably low water levels of Elbe.
“When you see me, weep.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first instance of hunger stones that resurface on riverbanks. Throughout the years they have been appearing on the shores of Elbe during historical heat waves and drops of river stages in Central, North and Eastern Europe.
What are these “hunger stones” exactly?
As seen from the photographs taken by Dr. Bernd Gross, gigantic and horrifying, these hunger stones are natural rock formations placed strategically in rivers to warn us and our successors of what’s to come whenever the water levels decrease to such a point that they’ll potentially make a formidable impact on everyone in the area. Several hunger stones have become hydrological landmarks for Europeans, mostly spread across the river Elbe. Back in the days people inscribed them with grim messages to let future generations know that the severity of droughts will bring them misery and despair. The stones speak of weeping and mostly mention the years of some of the most noteworthy droughts in Europe. New numbers are being occasionally added to the list, marking the years in which the stones have been resurfacing once again.
Between the 15th and the 19th century Germans left an unidentified number of hunger stones in Germany and its settlements (including the Czech Republic). Drought and low water levels meant poor harvest, famine, difficulties in water transportation and bad economy. Devastating hunger was the most common and widespread aftermath of dropping river levels in the past centuries, hence the nickname “hunger stones”.
The most famous hunger stone in the Czech Republic is a 64 sq. ft. basalt formation that’s located near the Tyrs bridge. According to official reports, its oldest carving once displayed the year 1417, but that number has been wiped out long ago by the ships which have been anchoring in the area throughout the years. Nowadays the oldest visible year on the stone is 1616. Apart from the German inscriptions and the mentioned years of extreme droughts there’s an additional sentence in Czech, which was allegedly carved there at some point in 1938. It roughly translates to “Don’t cry, girl, don’t fret. When it’s dry, just spray your field wet”. According to the official tourist guide of Decin, the stone can be seen above the surface for around 126 days a year.
During the past centuries hunger stones like this one played the role of a sinister foretoken and a historical memorial combined into one. Now reports are showing that about a dozen new hunger stones were discovered on Elbe’s riverbank and they are warning Slavs of what’s to come after this summer’s severe temperature spikes.
The repeated heat waves leading to what has been dubbed as “megadroughts” have drawn the attention of reporters from all over the globe, many of whom have expressed interest in the hunger stones. As a result, the newly found stone formations that have resurfaced from the Elbe river are becoming a sort of a tourist attraction for locals and foreigners alike, whose curiosity is devoid of dread towards the haunting inscriptions.
Some of the hunger stones that have been revealed during the years have more positive messages than others. For example, one such stone is located in Bleckede, Germany, and at some point it has been engraved with the auspicious sentence “When this stone sinks, life will become more colorful again”. The sinking of the new hunger stones is something all Czechs can hope for.