Wednesday, 1 August 2012

A tail of two cities

O & H in front of Friedrichsfelde Palace with the very docile pelicans(?)  

 Berlin, having at one time been split in two by a great big wall, had a great number of duplicates once the wall came down. A lot of systems and services were combined into one, but many other things well, just remained as they were. And as such Berlin must be one of the only places to have two zoos. Actually, I can't find any others through Google. Given the proximity of Zoo Berlin at Zoologischer Garten to where we live, that's the one we tend to visit. We have heard lots of good things about the other zoo, the zoo in the east at Friedrichsfelde, but have just never bothered to go there. Until yesterday, that is. It is known as Tierpark Berlin, not to be confused with Tiergarten which is the big park near us which contains no animals at all, apart from little wild ones.


So what's the Tierpark got that *our* Zoo doesn't? Well, for starters it's got a lot of land. Most people who I've met who've mentioned it have said that they like the fact that there's more room for the animals to roam. And it's true. In a lot of cases the enclosures are big; the rhinos for example have probably about 8 times the amount of space than their friends in the west. But I also thought that a lot of the enclosures were incredibly small, far smaller than what I was used to seeing. The porcupines (below) seemed to have a very small enclosure though they had an entrance to a little cave and I have no idea how big that might have been inside. The inside area of the big cats enclosure also had some really small post-war tiled enclosures - ones that I think I would have been unhappy seeing animals being kept in. On the upside, the place was swarming with builders so maybe they're going to do something about that. 


They also seem to have a LOT of animals. Far more giraffes, rhinos, tigers, and elephants than Berlin Zoo. In fact, the Tierpark is quite well known for it's elephant breeding program, and they have both African and Indian elephants. They also have a lot of different animals to the other zoo. I read before we went that they have red pandas, which I really wanted to see, but which we missed. Another thing they do have is a train. Well one of those ones on wheels that is driven around the park by a slightly sullen driver/narrator. We were *lucky* enough to walk through the front gate and meet it just before it was due to set off. It was actually a very good way to get a quick tour of the place, get your bearings, and work out what you wanted to go back and see in more detail. Unfortunately, what the kids wanted to see was the Spielplatz (below), and as a result wanted off the train after 5 minutes, which I point-blank refused to do, making them stay on it for the entire round trip as punishment for making me fork out for it in the first place. 


The Spielplatz is very good, but not a patch on the one in Berlin Zoo (I feel awkward calling it Zoo Berlin). It has the added bonus of a water-play area, which in most instances is great, but I didn't have a change of clothes with me for the kids and it wasn't warm enough for their clothes to dry off on their own.

Tigers with east German accents

What the Tiergarten lacks is some pretty architecture. I love the architecture in Berlin Zoo, especially the amazing enclosures for the giraffes and the zebras. The architecture in the Tierpark is just a little bit too 'concrete block' for my liking, well, that is apart from the rather beautiful pink Friedrichsfelde Palace which sits in the grounds of the zoo in amongst some lovely gardens and ponds and a little canal with pretty locks. In fact they have made a lot of the walkways between enclosures with pretty planting and big patches of lilies and so on, but another thing I wasn't too keen on was the huge amount of stinging nettles there were everywhere. A bit odd considering the number of kids rocketing around.

East German zebras are slightly browner than West German ones. They also go to school in portacabins.
Sadly, we never made it round all the animals as Hamish started getting too tired to walk everywhere, but it does seem like a great zoo. At least if we go back we know we still have a lot to see on a second visit. But I have to admit, my heart still belongs to our own zoo, Berlin Zoo, or 'Zoo Berlin' as it likes to be known.

The monochrome delights of Plattenbau architecture, rocks, and elephants. Where's Elmer when you need him?
P.S. If you have a Jahreskarte (Annual Pass) for either zoo or the aquarium you get a 50% discount on entry to any of the other two. Just remember to take it with you!


1000 steps round... Berlin Zoo - lots of photos of the lovely architecture.
Zoo Berlin - official site of Zoo Berlin/Berlin Zoo
Tierpark Berlin - official site of Tierpark Berlin
Friedrichsfelde Palace - Visit Berlin gives the low-down on what's inside.

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