Sometimes when traveling, it’s nice to take a break from walking around the city center, and get out into nature – well, in this case, carefully controlled nature. Destinations such as botanical gardens and zoos can be a relaxing way to take a break – and a comfortable comparison point between these same institutions in your home country.
I visited the Prague zoo a few years ago, and didn’t regret leaving the gorgeous and historic city center to spend a sunny afternoon there. My friend and I decided to save money and walk rather than take the metro, but it turned out to be a much longer walk than it had appeared on the map. We got to see some neighborhoods that tourists don’t normally visit, and I felt like we stuck out like sore thumbs. We eventually gave in and hopped on the metro, and got to the zoo pretty quickly. After paying the very reasonable entrance fee, we were in! For the most part, it was as I expected any zoo to be. But there were a few nice surprises – places where the animals were practically close enough to touch.
There were also lots of delicious things to eat, including some I hadn’t expected at a zoo, like nice buttery corn on the cob. There were also cold beers to cool us off after walking around – and there was quite a bit of walking, because the zoo is pretty big.
There was a fountain next to the restaurant area, and lots of two-year-old Czech children running around enjoying the water completely naked. I told my friend I felt that was a little inappropriate. Not that I expect child predators to be walking around the zoo, but I felt that, while it’s find for your kids to be naked in your own backyard or neighborhood, in public it’s a little inappropriate. I didn’t have a good justification for it; it was just a gut feeling. My friend, who is Australian, seemed shocked that I said that. He told me it was very American of me to think that. Maybe it is – gut feelings about what is and isn’t appropriate usually are culturally based. So, what do you guys think? Is that a prudish American thought, or just a though exclusive to me? Would you have felt that it was inappropriate?
Moving back west, while in Frankfurt my friends and I spent an afternoon at the Palmengarten. This is a beautiful, relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
It’s a mixture of park and botanical garden, with several greenhouse exhibits and other activities. A train circles the park, which is fantastic for your inner child. (Does Frankfurt have a thing for tiny trains?) You can also rent boats and row around the pond. Rowing is a skill I didn’t think I had but our boat of girls actually did much better than the boys in the other boat.
Other botanical gardens that are worth a visit: Edinburgh and Bath. If you’re ever there, the petting zoo in Santee, South Carolina is also a must see.
The Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens are quite a walk outside of the city center, but it’s free to visit, and the grounds are huge. I went with a bunch of friends, and we all enjoyed it. One of them was the same Australian friend who couldn’t believe how American my thinking is in Prague. His favorite part of the gardens wasn’t anything that was actually on display; it was one of the many squirrels running around, because of course he had never seen one. To each his own as they say.
The botanical garden in Bath is tiny and barely deserves the name, but it is a lovely walk. It is close to the Royal Crescent, so if you have time while you’re in the area (and you’ve already seen the Postal Museum), be sure to take a detour to see it. The botanical garden is within the park, so it can be a little hard to find, but don’t give up!
Stopping by attractions like gardens, parks, and zoos, can be a great way to relax on your trip, and to get away from the most commonly touristed areas. Also, so you know, the title for this post is what Google Translate told me “tiger” is in Czech and “bear” is in German, so I don’t really make any claims for its accuracy. 🙂
What’s the most interesting or strangest thing you’ve seen in an international zoo?