The Oldest Zoo in the World: Vienna’s Schonbrunn

giraffe

On my recent trip to Vienna, Austria I had the opportunity to visit the oldest zoo in the world. The Tiergarten Schönbrunn (the Schönbrunn Zoo) was founded in 1752 by orders of Holy Roman Emperor Francis I.  It was built near the Schloss Schönbrunn, the imperial palace of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A smaller zoo had existed on the site since 1540.

gibbon
Why are you looking at me like that?

The zoo was opened to the public in 1779 and admission was free. Today, it’s no longer free (what is these days?), but it makes for a nice and easy trip by train and tram from the center of Vienna.

 

When I got there on a muggy summer day it was threatening to rain. I was hoping to make my way through the exhibits before a thunderstorm rolled in.

rhino
Where is my dinner?

When I got to the elephant’s enclosure, there were no elephants in sight. They were locked in their room while the zookeeper brought out bales of grass. I hung around for a few minutes until he was out of the area. Soon several elephants of all different sizes came lumbering quickly to get to the new grass.  It was snack time!

elephant eating
Thanks for the grass, Mr. Zookeeper.

I spent quite a while watching these cheetah cubs. They were romping around the enclosure with each other, and one of them repeatedly jumped on his mother’s head.  She took it all in stride and ignored him.  Just another day with the kids.

cheetah cub
I am working on my spots.
cheetah mom
If you jump on my head one more time, your are getting a licking!

The Schönbrunn Zoo is one of the better zoos I have visited.  The views were good and the distance to the animals was close. It’s certainly a good choice of an activity when visiting Vienna with children (how many old buildings and museums can they put up with?), and is even fun for us old-timers…

giraffe
Hello there, Ms. Giraffe…

Check out these amazing Australian animals.

Fat Tire Bike Tour and the Ku-Damm Fashion Show – Berlin

Today we took the S-bahn and U-bahn to Alexanderplatz in the eastern part of the “Mitte”, the heart of old East Berlin.  There is a tall TV tower at the base of this plaza.  This was the meeting place for the start of our bike tour for the day.  About 15 people were in our group, mostly Americans, but some Germans too.  Our guide was a young guy from Florida.  He explained that he was a German major in college, hard graduated last December, and had come to Berlin for six months.  He was very funny, and entertaining in telling us about all of the sights.

 We toured by bike all over central Berlin for the next four and 1/2 hours.  It was a great way to see all of the main sights in a short amount of time, without doing a lot of walking.  It was easy to ride the bike in the city, because it is very flat.  We stopped at several of the main cathedrals and churches, parks, plazas, remaining sections of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Reichstag building, the site of the Fuhrer Bunker, the Brandenburg Gate, Potzdamer Platz, the Victory Column, the Tiergarten, and more.  At each stop we heard some of the history of the site.  Mid-way through the tour we stopped at a café in the Tiergarten for a sausage sandwich.

Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, Germany
I could bike across the old border....

 By the end of the tour it was starting to sprinkle on us, so we ducked into an Internet café for an hour to give everyone their Internet fix that they had been missing the past few days. 

 After making our way back to the hotel for a change of clothes, we took a series of U-bahn rides over to the west side of the city, to the heart of fashionable West Berlin for our evening walk.  After getting out of the subway at the Zoo station, we walked down the Kufurstendamm (the “KuDamm”) the main shopping avenue of West Berlin.  Several blocks of the road were blocked off from traffic.  The road was filled instead with carnival rides, food stands, souvenir stands, and even a fashion show runway with male and female models showing the latest fall fashions for young people to the beat of Euro disco music.

 It was a full day of sightseeing in our tour of Berlin.  Despite the bike-riding, my feet were very tired by the end of the evening.  We just saw the highlights.  I think on another trip, we could spend two or three more days in Berlin to check out the museums, zoo and other time intensive things to see and do in the city.

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