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October 31, 2006

A trip to Salzburg's zoo

On Saturday we made our way to Hellbrun to visit Salzburg's zoo. It is around a 3km walk from Neideralm to the zoo, and annoyingly enough for us as soon as we set out the light drizzle turned into a pretty persistent rain. That meant we arrived pretty bedraggled.

Salzburgzoollama The zoo is huddled under a rocky outcrop, and our first impression from the outside was that it wasn't very big. We piad €8 each to get in, and then rushed straight past the animals to get to the restaurant so we could dry off a bit and have a cup of coffee. Fortunately the rain eased off a bit after a while, and so we then ventured out.

The first animals to really catch our eye were some ridiculous llama type creatures. They had these long fringes that looked like they had been cut to imitate a 60s Beatles bowl cut, which seemed to completely obscure their vision. They also had incredibly bucked teeth. The overall impression made them look really stupid, and we watched them, laughing, for ages.

SalzburgzoolionThe next section was the for the big cats, and the zoo has a tiger (sleeping), some snow leopards (sleeping), and a huge male lion (sleeping). I guess there isn't much to do if you are a big cat on a rainy autumn Saturday in Salzburg. The zoo helpfully warned you to keep away from the lion's cage in case he decided to mark his territory in the traditional way. The jaguars were a little more active - there was a pair, one golden and one black, and we got a bit of a fright by the Lynx enclosure.

The Lynx enclosure has some tall trees in it which reach out over the fence. They have metal grills around their trunks at one point to prevent the cats climbing up and out of their cage. However, when we went past one of the Lynx's was very firmly lodged and asleep in the tree-tops above our heads - about a 3 foot leap away from another tree and freedom!

Salzburgzoorhino The centre-piece of the zoo is a large enclosure representing Africa. This has zebras, various tyoes of bokkies, and a small herd of white rhino. In contrast to the absurd behaviour of the giraffes and hippos in Budapest zoo, where they were begging humans for food, in Salzburg it was lovely to be able to observe the animals behaving relatively naturally.

The zebra had enough space to be running around and chasing each other, and we got to spend a good few minutes watching as one of the rhinos enjoyed a massive mud bath, rolling around and splashing to its heart's content. After that we got to be just a few metres from the mud splattered rhino as it grazed right next to a bokkie and a zebra.

Salzburgzootortoise The zoo also had a collection of old tortoises, one of which we got to see wandering around and having his lunch. On the whole the enclosures struck a really good balance between being big enough for an animal like a cheetah to roam around, but of a size and shape where you could get to see the animals. Lots of them were set up against a cliff where a bit of mountain juts up into the air, and so it gave the animals plenty of variation in their enclosures. The wolves, for example, had enough room to be roaming around like a pack, and the otters and bears also had large spaces in which to live. The bears in the zoo were very impressive creatures, with really expressive faces - the one pictured here looked very sad though.

Salzburgzoobear Despite our first impression being quite poor, we loved the zoo, and Claire thought it was one of the best that she had visited. We finished the morning with a trip to a small restaurant opposite called, appropriatly enough, "Zoos". The cuisine was a step up from what we are used to in Niederalm - Claire had a pasta with a lobster sauce, and I had an exotic stir-fry concoction.

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