On Christmas Eve, they say, the animals can talk. Peter Rosegger, one of Austria’s greatest writers, turned this legend into a magical short story about his own childhood in Styria’s Alpine uplands. It’s one of Austria’s most fascinating landscapes: deep, dark forests flanked by steep mountain ridges, gentle meadows reaching up to exposed summits: in limitless shades of just one color: green. Trudging through the snow to join his family for the Christmas Eve service in the valley below, tenyear-old Peter comes face to face with a young fawn in the twilight, and wonders what it could tell about growing up in the forest, with the other animals, through the seasons. This film captures the essence of Rosegger’s story and the subtle and dramatic changes of the Styrian forest throughout the year.
One of the most famous christmas stories in the german language tells of humble forest farmers who lived high in an austrian mountain village their son was peter josega and he became a celebrated poet and author every year he and his family walked to the valley below for christmas mars.
the magical snow-covered landscape of his childhood inspired peter to write wonderful tales and this enchanted place became known as the forest of fantasies in one of josega's best known stories he tells the tale of how as a young boy he.
Trudged through deep snow and got lost in the dark forest i could hear nothing but the rustling of the wind in the forest i didn't know where i was if i happened to meet a deer i could ask it for directions maybe it could show me the way after all on christmas eve all the.
Animals speak the language of humans but what if the animals in this forest of fantasies really could speak what amazing stories would they tell what would a year be like with the animals in this wonderful forest.
Their real stories are just waiting to be told peter goszeger was born in klopen-eggerhof at the heart of this stunning landscape the region stretches from the tree-covered hills at the edge of the.
Eastern alps to the peaks of the massif in winter the forest is at its most beautiful a fairytale world of mystery and stillness the mountain peaks are cloaked in snow and each and every crystal is unique.
What may be a postcard christmas for us is a different story for the animals that live in these high mountains for the alpine ibex winter is the hardest time they must climb ever higher to where the.
Wind has swept away the snow and revealed food but at this time of the year the male has other things on his mind he suddenly develops an attraction for the females when he finds a female he tests her scent bizarrely by flicking out his.
Tongue she's not in the mood but he'll try again later all around frisky males are testing their strength and reaffirming the pecking order the top rankers with the biggest horns will win the females.
these battles may look dangerous but injuries are rare the weaker males know when to back off the deep snow creates a strange sense of stillness as if every living thing with deepest sleep but something is stirring.
A fox digging in the snow for prey maybe he can smell a mouse a raven's about two if the fox finds food the raven may get a share of it from up high he has a better view of the land and manages to find the food first a dead deer is a prize meal but the.
Raven must work fast unaware of the feast the fox is busy scent marking his territory the odors he leaves behind carry a strong message telling any rival that this patch is occupied stay away once more for luck and the job is done the fox wipes his nose now he can smell the carcass.
And the raven will have to give up the meal as the fox tucks in the raven curses bitterly the bird's frustration is clear fresh snow is no substitute for venison the rivalry of fox and raven is nothing new.
Peter rossegger wrote about such struggles his father once left him in the forest guarding a carcass his parting words were i'll leave you the axe hold on to it tightly foxes and ravens may be on the way the raven can't beat the fox but annoying it has paid off.
A storm is brewing above the forest peter rosega described the dramatic changes in the weather in the background grey in the evening shadows the walls of the hoshvard rise like a fortress its seven heads wreathed in clouds in such bad conditions animals look for shelter and wait for the blizzard to pass.
a fox hunkers down in his den but he's still alert to danger false alarm a branch collapsed under the weight of the snow it's safe to sleep on.
Others in the forest are not so well protected the deer are up to their necks in snow but it's not a problem by keeping still and letting the snow cover them they can serve energy the snow insulates them against the cold and their thick winter coats do the rest.
as soon as the first rays of sunshine break through the mist the deer escape from their snowy cocoons as the ice breaks otters frolic in the freezing water they don't feel the cold because their thick waterproof fur traps insulating.
Bubbles of air on the ice otters may appear clumsy but in the water they're in their element in february and march otters are courting and it's a rough and tumble affair the couple nip each other as they.
Wrestle mating takes place in the water the bigger male is persistent but up to eight minutes without a breath makes it an exhausting exercise eventually you stop for a meal taken on dry land but sadly for his mate this is dinner for one.
The hungry male has no intention of sharing and greedily eats alone and the female takes her frustration out on the snow but it's no use his mind is made up she crouches submissively hoping he'll take pity on her no such luck this time food has won the male's.
Affections the ice melts spring brings new energy to the forest of fantasies rose described this dynamic time water shot out of the shadowy walls the color of clay and roared among the rocks on the banks the grass turned green spring.
The once frozen soil is soft and moist bear branches let the sunlight warm the forest floor the valley can explode into life thousands of marsh marigolds cover the ground beside the yuza lake in a sea of yellow flowers.
spring arrives a little later in the nearby horseshoe mountains crocusers have waited patiently to bloom and as the snow melts a fresh carpet of white covers the mountain pastures the new vegetation is a welcome feast.
For a roebuck but another roebuck has entered his territory he won't tolerate the intrusion and gives chase when he catches the intruder his body.
Language is clear he lets his antlers do the talking the intruder admits to feet and leaves the roebuck is victorious for now nearby young robux practice their battle.
Skills they need a few more lessons spring has arrived everywhere now in the valley below by the yoser lake the forest of fantasies is dominated by green mountain clefts retain just a trace of.
Snow the forests around peter rosseger's birthplace the klopenegerhof are the greenest of all fresh new leaves reach out for the sunshine hard to believe nature can create so many different shades of green.
The forest is no longer silent an orchestra of birds performs a symphony of spring song these tiny musicians proclaim their territories and sing to impress potential mates it's the unmistakable soundtrack of spring the summer migrants have arrived too to.
Join the performance the cold season is definitely over on the eastern edge of the forest a rare tree blossoms in this mild climate it's known as a hirschbeiner and is unique to this region it's a special kind of pear tree and the delicate flowers are an important food source for the local bees.
Its name comes from an old austrian word for autumn the time when the pears ripen but now the trees cover the landscape in delicate white blossom here spiona can live for a good 200 years peter rozega himself may have walked beneath these very branches stalks are regular visitors to these.
Valleys they come back to breed after a long winter in africa the male usually arrives before the female to prepare their summer home he surveys his territory while he waits these rich meadows will provide plenty of food for them.
And for their future offspring these flowering meadows are a unique protected habitat a safe haven for many animals including a pregnant doe different microclimates over a small area make these some of the most varied.
Flower meadows in europe with many rare plants and a close look reveals a fascinating microcosm an entirely different universe to our own a bee has filled its leg sacs so full of.
Pollen it can hardly take off slow motion reveals how beautiful and how exhausting flight can be a gust of wind whips across the meadows a sure sign that a change of weather is on the way the pregnant doe seems nervous.
As the wind continues to rise she no longer feels safe in the open and moves towards the forest about to give birth a storm is the last thing she needs she instinctively chews on hazelnut leaves to put off the arrival of her young they contain a chemical that helps delay.
The birth the newborn deer will have a better chance of survival after the bad weather has passed the smaller meadow creatures have no such ways to trick the storm they have to face it head on in their micro world gentle wind is a hurricane and raindrops are as big as.
Cannonballs they must hang on for dear life the storm is due to hit any moment now luckily the pregnant doe has found a protected place in the forest the weather can change very fast in the mountains higher up these storms can bring late snow that may even settle for some time.
the winters are specially long near peter josega's farmhouse 1200 metres above sea level the cold snap is a challenge for all the animals a hundred years ago the stone crayfish was native to many of the region's streams.
Now it's facing extinction so it's vital that this crayfish produces offspring right now she's busy finding somewhere safe to escape the cold in the mountains bad weather can leave just as fast as it arrived peter goszeger described these sudden changes.
The thick clouds vanished dissolving into feathers and wisps and where there once were monsters mild white lambs now grazed the new dawn brings warmth to the dense forest below the dough is restless and looking for a.
Sheltered safe place she won't give birth until she's found the perfect spot at this time she's very vulnerable the long meadow grass is her only protection it won't be long now.
A neighboring tree creeper is also preparing for the arrival of young at last the little fawn has come into the world this will be the does only youngster of the year and their bond will be strong she licks the form to clean away the.
Last remains of the birth sack and remove any smells that might attract predators the fawn's first bath is almost complete the fawn is only a few minutes old and already it wants to stand.
A good try maybe more milk will give it the strength just an hour later and the form has its unsteady legs almost under control a quick kiss from mum reassures the little form.
Now it's ready to meet the big wide world the dough and the form begin their travels together in the mountains high above there are also new arrivals.
The schwab and feich mountains are formed mainly of limestone high above the tree line the climate is much harsher than below even in early summer there are still traces of snow these steep and rugged rocks are home to.
A creature that is one of the best climbers in the world the chamois they've given birth too and their young have to adapt to a dangerous mountain lifestyle looking after these crazy youngsters is an exhausting job every parent needs a little downtime.
And this is the solution the chamois nursery in this isolated and safe patch of snow the youngsters can play all day long a tumble here isn't dangerous at all while the youngsters learn new tricks.
The parents have a chance to rest and feed the creche is a perfect holding pen and the adults can stay away for many hours a small patch of snow.
But lots of fun for the chamois play time over the harsh mountainside gives way to gentler valleys the rugged rocks merge into soft rolling hills a bird's eye view reveals the full extent of this forest.
Stretching out as far as the eye can see in the east the church in pulauberg sits proudly above the palau valley nature reserve hello town nestles around the former augustine monastery and there are some very welcome returned visitors.
the female stalk has joined her partner now the two birds have reclaimed last year's nest site the clattering beaks reaffirm their strong bond they already have two big chicks hungry.
For their breakfast meal times can be messy so it's time for the adult to freshen up for the day this is best done away from the mess and chaos of the nest every feather is shaken out and combed back into place the young birds watch attentively and.
Learn the lesson well clean healthy feathers are crucial to a stalk now for lesson two never lose your balance and finally always do this well away from the nest are concluded.
These birds are almost ready to graduate and leave the nest the adult elegantly makes its way back to the chicks oops that wasn't on the lesson plan for stalks flying really is the safest way to travel a brief chat with the better half and.
It's back to work if possible stalks will return to the same nest every year but it often needs some home improvement this time the male returns bearing a twig and the lady of the manor knows just.
Where she wants it to go such rituals strengthen the couple's close bond and help them work well together these stalks are dedicated parents next time he'll bring something to eat.
The polar valley provides plenty of food for the stalks and there are still large wetlands here these clear natural streams are the perfect place for rare stone crayfish the female aerates and cleans a bunch of eggs she's carrying under her tail the prospects for young this year are.
Looking good carrying the fertilized eggs keeps them safe from predators and they'll stay with her until they hatch occasionally another female will stray into the prospective mother's territory at this sensitive time visitors are not.
Welcome above the surface of the water another storm is brewing the horseshop region simply attracts water it has a higher rainfall than almost anywhere else in the world outside the monsoon lands the abundance of water helps maintain an.
Ancient habitat seldom seen nowadays a remote prime evil forest that lies untouched as if trapped in time the exact location is a closely guarded secret.
Visitors are not permitted a single careless step could change this fragile environment forever such untouched forests may look like places of decay but life and death go hand in hand whatever dies decomposes and gives itself back to the soil.
This is the real forest of fantasies celebrated by peter joseka no human being has ever given me as much pleasure as nature has with her colors sounds and scents with her peace and her different moods only the lonely can find the forest where several people seek the forest.
Retreats leaving behind only trees these snails owe their lives to decay that provides food and shelter and at a snail's pace they search for partners they are hermaphrodites so there's no shortage of potential mates.
when two like-minded snails meet the resulting mating dance lasts hours as they caress each snail fires a small love dart and then they exchange sperm in the heat of the moment they may forget about their surroundings but what's a small accident between.
Lovers underwater the crayfish are just about to hatch the female has successfully protected her eggs and she has several hundred young the young crayfish hatch under their mother's protective shell.
she may have to give one a little nudge they gradually move away from the safety of their mother but urgently need to find new hiding places instinctively they barricade themselves.
In with stones only a few of these young will survive if they do they can live 10 years or more it's mid-summer in the forest of fantasies the dough and her phone are roaming along the edges of the forest.
The flower meadow is now a fully grown hayfield and it hides the form however some predators don't rely on their sight they can smell their prey the form instinctively hides in the grass and remains still.
Baby deer have very little scent of their own the smell of the mother has attracted the fox she tries to create a diversion and vanishes into the forest to trick him into following.
the fox can't hurt her as soon as she's sure she's lost him she returns to her form but something much bigger and much more dangerous is threatening the young form.
Now staying in the long grass could be fatal fortunately the noise frightens them both away being close to humans can sometimes have its advantages a farmer's garden is a wonderful source.
Of food an open gate could be considered an invitation the garden is deserted and the form nervously approaches the new exotic plants the menu is overwhelming but some of the.
Plants look familiar deer are selective if the mother doesn't recognize a plant she won't eat it and neither will the form very little here takes their fancy the garden escapes largely unscathed the dough has seen enough and anyway the forest is full of food.
Time to move on in the summer months there's no shortage of food in the valleys and the mountains the animals can eat their fill and then rest and digest ibexes lazily sunbathe and while away the long summer days.
the males are in peak condition carrying a solid layer of fat that will help see them through the winter relaxing saves energy if they're not being used to fight the horns have other uses.
In the summer the males gather in single-sex groups and they know their place in the hierarchy the odd nudge is a gentle reminder of the pecking order as the lazy summer's day draws to a close the magic of the forest returns.
The great red disk of the sun sank below the sharp edges of the rocks red lines and burning needles continued to glow over the landscape and only faded long after the still of the night had fallen over our farm rose knew this area like the back of his.
Hand but there's one creature he would never have set eyes on like the eurasian eagle owl with whom she shares his territory the raccoon dog only emerges at twilight but that's not the reason the owl has been here forever the raccoon dogs originally came from.
East asia they're a distant relative of the red fox they were brought to austria in the 1950s for hunting and to farm for fur but they escaped into the wild owls and raccoons eat the same food small mammals frogs and insects but the competition isn't a problem.
Raccoon dogs are omnivorous and they'll eat fruit or carrion if they can't find enough live prey the first autumn mists appear in the mountains the sun loses a little of its strength every day.
Ibex has sensed the changing days but they're ready they've eaten well to prepare for the difficult months ahead the once verdant hillsides turn a brushy brown the fog in the valleys takes longer and.
Longer to disperse the green of spring becomes the gold of autumn peace returns to the forest of fantasies the otter is single again but not lonely otters are simply solitary animals.
The sun's rays gentler now cast a pale glow over the landscape in the forest the birds have fallen silent but nature still has gifts to give in the polar valley it's harvest time for the hispanic pair in peter josega's day organic orchards.
Like these were everywhere now they've become a rarity most traditional wild fruit has been replaced by new monocultures but the ancient hishpair still survives in the polar valley the deer are attracted by the ripe fruit.
But there's too much activity here the pears are not picked people simply wait for them to fall from the tree they're rarely found in shops they're too small and unattractive and shouldn't be eaten raw.
however they are squeezed to produce juice cider and wonderful schnapps at last the farmers are leaving and the deer can move in every year the females bring their young to feast on the sugar-rich fruits the young thorns have grown enormously.
And are now almost as big as their mothers um they fill their stomachs one last time before they winter together in the forest winter comes early this year.
there are still leaves on the trees but the snow is here nature seems to have been caught off guard the early snow will stay a warning of a harsh winter to come.
the season of hunger has returned but humans bring some relief feeders are regularly filled with grass to stop the deer chewing the bark off young trees and damaging the forest how quickly a year passes wasn't it just a moment ago that a young.
Peter rosager met a deer in the forest on his way to christmas mass as a child he truly believed that animals could talk on this one special night of the year his writing inspired the conservation of the magical forest of fantasies he knew.
So well the farmer's son became one of the most popular writers of his time he was even nominated for the nobel prize the christmas miracle he described will forever be identified with his home in the forest.
The forest of fantasies you
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