A Great Zoo

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May 20th 2006
Published: May 21st 2006
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We went to the zoo here in Prague today. We knew approximately where it was located, but not the exact location. We also knew that we could not get there by tram or by subway, that we would have to change from the subway to a bus. We took the subway with no problem. But at first we could not find the bus stop. Just outside one of the entrances to the subway there were long distance busses, but we knew a drive of a mile or two was not on their schedule. Finally we found the bus, number 112. As we approached the bus the driver opened the door and I climbed in showing him my ticket. He said something to me in Czech and pointed off to his right. So, I stepped down off the bus and looked around. Quickly we spotted another 112 sitting on the edge of the parking lot. When we climbed on that bus, we got the same response, a loud sentence in Czech with the driving pointing to his right. Then we saw it, the platform where a lot of people were standing. We joined the crowd of people, almost all young parents with children of various ages. People with infants and strollers, parents with toddlers, parents with little kids, bigger kids and big kids.

"This has to be the right place," I said.

"Yes," Nancy replied. "And they are all going to the zoo.

In a minute or two a bus pulled up and the doors opened and we all squeezed onboard. Folks, strollers take up a lot of room. A young father was standing behind us with a stroller, Nancy motioned to him that she would help him get it on. After he struggled to squeeze himself into the bus (it looked for a moment like we were going to have the stroller and he was going to have to wait for the next bus) , we were all standing practically nose to nose. Nancy took her small backpack off to hold it by her side since it was bumping into the person behind her. The man said, "Put it in my stroller, no problem". So Nancy to put her backpack in his empty stroller. I suppose the mother was holding the child somewhere on the bus. This was quite helpful as the bus was very crowded and any room that could be bought by putting a backpack or anything else in a stroller helped. Off we went through the city, over the Vltava River and along its northern shore.

The Prague zoo sits on a two level bluff on the north side of the Vltava River. Between the two levels is a very steep cliff that I would estimate is about 150 feet high. Fortunately for we humans there is a ski lift, so we did not have to climb between the two levels. Czechs are such great planners! There is a metal net all the way from top to bottom under the ski lift. With so many small children riding the one person seats the chance of a child falling out seems rather high to me. But with this feature parents can give their children a real thrill by letting them sit alone in a ski lift chair and ride up and/or down the cliff.

This is a beautiful zoo. Not only is it beautiful, but also it is the friendliest child’s zoo we have ever visited. As if that is not enough, the enclosures for the animals are really great. There are no little cages confining the animals in jail like cells. Many are out in open areas that are large enough for the animals to exercise. Tthe cliff between the two levels is used for mountain goats and sheep. The rocky slopes are just they type of terrain that these animals love.

There were lots of visitors there today, lots of parents, lots of kids and we two Americans. Actually, I am sure there were some American parents there with their kids, but I did not hear any English during our five or six hours there. Also, I did not hear any children whining or crying. Everyone appeared to be having a great time.

We were impressed not only with the exhibits, but with the play areas for children . Various animals have been carved from wood and there are metal animals for the children to climb and play on. In several locations there are miniature trams and trains for kids to ride. And amongst all this there are very nice food service kiosks and restaurants as well as very clean rest rooms.

Nancy--Bill wrote this while I took a three hour nap to recover from all the walking we did yesterday at the zoo! My two cents worth about the zoo is "It's fantastic!". I am a real zoo lover and this is the top of the zoo list for me. We live near the Washington, DC zoo and the Baltimore Zoo. They are really large and wonderful zoos. We've been in zoos in Frankfort, Germany , the Salvador, Bahia, Brazil , the San Diego, CA. , the Beijing, China , the Chendu, China , the Luo Yang, China , the New Orleans, LA , San Antonio, Tx , Copenhagen, Denmark , Xi'an, China , Salisbury, MD . All were interesting, I loved them all but now I have a new top zoo. The animals are so healthy looking and the number of new births is just amazing. Enclosure after enclosure had a little note giving the birth date of the most recent baby in the group and many of them were late 2005 and early 2006. This zoo is obviously a breeding zoo and is helping keep many kinds of exotic animals and birds healthy and away from extinction. I was delighted with the large open spaces for animals which like to roam and the beautifully designed spaces for even small insects, frogs, etc. The lack of dirty animal odors was quite amazing to me in the buildings which had some of the mammals inside. For example some of the giraffes were inside having a little rest (or whatever) and you got a slight odor of 'animal' but in most enclosures where animals could go in bad weather, there was no bad smell at all. This made me sure the hygiene in the zoo was a top priority. In several of the enclosures where animals like big cats were sleeping during the middle of the day there were nice video displays so you could see the animals in 'action'. Thus when all you had seen was a sleeping gorilla family for example, you could see them all playing together, eating, etc. I particularly enjoyed seeing an animal called a Fisher Cat (not to be confused with the Vermont Fisher Cat which is a wolverine-this was a real large cat. See him in the photo) in a video showing how he is fed. The fish he is given for his meals are alive and he really jumps into the pool and grabs them as if he is in the wild. This sort of video makes you feel almost as if you had seen most of the animals awake and moving around though quite a few are always napping in the afternoon. They also show the zoo staff in their daily routines of preparing food, cleaning enclosures, loving and caring for the animals. It helps you understand the workings of the zoo.

I suppose one reason the zoo is so modern and so fantastic, especially on the lower level, is because it is practically brand new. The 2002 flood destroyed many of the lower zoo buildings and killed some of the animals which could not be evacuated in time. That flood came fast and furiously. This year the zoo keepers evacuated some of the most vulnerable animals when it looked like there would be another flood covering the zoo grounds. Thank God the flood waters went down before the zoo was harmed this year.

The quality of the zoo is greatly enhanced by the many things that have been done for the comfort of the zoo goers as well as the great situations for the animals. When we arrived, I wondered if finding a bathroom would be a problem since it often is in zoos. I soon discovered, long before it became a problem, that most areas had a good, spotlessly clean bathroom areas free of charge. These were usually next to different sized eating facilities. Some served only ice cream and pizza but there were several which had gyros, salads, hot dogs and sausages, small meals and sandwiches. There were nice outdoor patios for eating, picnic tables and even some indoor restaurant-like places. The prices were quite reasonable unlike some recreational facilities in other cities or countries which seem to operate on the principle that you've paid your entrance fee, you are a captive audience and they are going to make a profit off of you-poor sucker. Almost all the eating spots had various things for children to play on right next door. Parents could eat and kids could play at the same time. Our favorite was a large sand filled area with tables and chairs for the kids to eat and then plenty of sand box shovels and pails for the kids to play with after they had finished their meals. The area was covered with a lovely arbor made of tree branches. A little girl who had finished eating was filling the pail with sand and carrying it to her parent's table. I have no idea what she planned to do with the sand. There were all sorts of carved 'animals' to climb, sit on, etc. All were quite lovely and obviously made by people who know and love children very much. The only crying I heard all day was several small children who were so sad to leave the 'Divoka Sarka' tram that they couldn't bear to go. For people who could not walk the distances required in this enormous zoo there was a small 'train' pulled by a "Little Engine that Could" on rubber tires through the regular streets of the zoo. Someone seemed to have thought of everything except how to give me enough energy to see all of the zoo in one day. We walked until we were ready to drop and had to call it a day before we finished all the displays. This is one BIG zoo. We can't wait for another free weekend day so we can go back! I am particularly excited because I noticed there is a botanical garden next door and it has signs that say FREE in English and German. One of my friends told me the botanical garden is so large she couldn't see it all in a day. So, I suppose there are three weekend days accounted for between the rest of the zoo and the gardens. By-the-way the flowers and flowering trees in the zoo make it almost a botanical garden. To end before this blog becomes a book-the price is even right. We read the adult price of about $4.00 each and had our money ready. There is obviously a senior price which wasn't on the list and we were charged about $3.00 each. It is possible to pay a family rate which is also reasonable or to buy a full year's membership so you can come over and over again. If we come back another year, I may buy that year's pass and hope to visit to my heart's delight. If you come to Prague, for goodness sake don't walk across the Charles Bridge and feel you have seen the city. Head out to the zoo for the best surprise you can imagine.

Additional photos below
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Dromadaries were the animal caravans of the Gobi.

1st June 2006

Company just left so am just now getting a week's worth of e-mails. I also love zoos and remember when we were catching a night train to Stockholm from Coopenhagen we took a bus to the Coopenhagen zoo and it too was great. If we ever get back to Praque the zoo will be a must. Taks care you two and continue to have such a wonderful time.

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