We were interested in going to the Berlin Zoo because it claimed to have the largest number of specimens in the world and we thought it would be a good break when many of the museums were closed on Monday (after Easter).
Before coming I had read about Knut (that’s pronounced Kah-noot), a little polar bear cub born in December, and subsequently repudiated by its mother. Poor Knut! Let’s go in thousands and thousands to see him! They’ve even started calling it “Knutmania” and he’s even made the Berlin Zoo stock go up.
As it was the day after Easter, Lindt greeted us at the Berlin Zoo entrance and gave us free chocolate bunnies. Bonus! I checked the map where Knut was (the opposite side of the zoo) and decided we’d make our way over there in time for the 11-12 showing, since he’s only out two times a day.
The only zoo I’m really on intimate terms with is the San Diego Zoo which I’ve been to quite a few times and I hold as my standard. I’m so used to the space (over 100 acres) that anything smaller seems cramped. Berlin’s zoo is actually bigger than San Diego’s but it felt smaller to me, and the fact it’s in the middle of a huge city is hard to forget.
When we first started walking around, I noticed the zoo was rather….empty. Actually, really empty. There were maybe 4-5 people maximum at any one animal area. Where was the Knutmania???
I go between pleasure and sadness walking around a zoo – I hate to see the animals in their small confinement, a few shrubs and fake rocks decorating their habitat. But I know that a zoo can be a wondrous thing for a child, sometimes it’s their first taste of the world outside their everyday life.
When I saw the adult polar bears, I knew we were getting close to Knutmania. They were kept separate from Knut and this one seemed particularly threatened by the human spectators – he kept running up to the edge of this rock repeatedly. There were only about 6 people looking at the adult bears.
Then I heard the commotion, which we followed to find its source. They had even blocked the way to the viewing cage which was on the other side of the adults, so we had to go around a long way, and finally we cut through a restaurant to shave 10 minutes off our path. Then I saw the crazy, crazy, crazy line. Thousands of people in line – this picture doesn’t even show you the full length of the line and the hundreds that were already in front of Knut at the time and kept running around with their cameras held above their heads, trying to get a shot.
I didn’t want to spend all day in line to see a baby polar bear for 5 minutes, so we didn’t. Instead, we saw the rest of the zoo in almost complete peace!
This little snake looks so peaceful and I can’t believe the vibrant green (photo not touched up at all!).
I loved this guy – he kept chewing and chewing and chewing these bars, all the while looking at me.
We thought this was a fake crocodile – he looked so dried out and his mouth was frozen open like that. We watched for a good ten minutes and then I saw his eyes open for a few seconds, and then close again. Alive! A note on this: I imagine they may keep their jaw open because their jaw strength is not bi-directional…they have much more strength closing than opening so they might be able to defend themselves better in this position. Wanna stick your hand in?
The big hippos were in another pond separate from the babies – there were at least 4 or 5 of them but this was the only one that had more than its nostrils above water level!
So my little Knut, maybe we’ll meet someday, but later when you’re a crusty old bear and no one’s cutting in line to see you. Arrivederci!
When I went through security at the airport, they made me take out my camera bag and show them that my zoom lens was real. One of the German workers turned to her colleague and said, “…..Knut….” – I told her, “Ya, the line was too long. But I saw the rest of the zoo!” Want to read more stories about Knut? Knock yourself out.
Up next….What are two football fields of food doing inside a department store in Berlin???
PS: I just cancelled my MySpace, Friendster and other accounts, and boy was it liberating!! I’m still using LinkedIn, so if you need to re-add me, you know what to do.