About a month ago, Bill and I took a trip to the charming Black Forest town of Wolfach. We were there to visit Dorotheenhütte, a glass factory and museum where visitors can blow their own glass vases. On the way back from Wolfach, I noticed the Wolf und Bärenpark Schwarzwald on the side of the road. If you were reading my travel blog last year, you probably already know that I love to visit animals. Germany is full of places to visit where one can see animals in somewhat natural surroundings. The Stuttgart area is particularly rich with animal exhibits.
I was intrigued by the Alternative Wolf and Bear Park, so I did some Internet sleuthing and discovered that the Schwarzwald location is one of two such parks in all of Germany. The other park is in Worbis, in Thuringia.
The entrance to the park. There’s a large, free parking area near the sign. Those who are disabled can park up the hill. I noticed a couple of “handicapped” spaces up there. Otherwise, you have to walk up a hill.
The Alternative Wolf and Bear Park is not a zoo or a “Tierpark”. It’s more of a sanctuary for wolves, bears, and lynx. Although most of the signage at the park is in German, I was able to determine that at least some of the bears came to the park having once been circus or zoo animals. The animals were all born in captivity. The first bear that came to live in the park is named Jurka. Since Jurka’s arrival, more bears, wolves, and two lynxes have come to live at the park. I learned today that Germany’s only native big cat is the lynx.
The drive to Bad Rippoldsau-Schapbach, which is where the park is located, is absolutely beautiful. We happen to live about an hour away from the Wolf and Bear Park, which is about sixty miles southwest of Stuttgart.
We found a spot in the free parking lot, then walked up a steep hill to the cashier. Bill paid 14 euros for both of us to enter the park, then patiently answered the lady’s questions about where we live and how we found the park. This exchange was conducted entirely in German. I’m proud to say that I understood most of it.
After we paid, we headed to the exhibit, a large enclosed area with sturdy fencing and electric wires. It’s very early spring, so the bears who weren’t still sleeping off winter were pretty chilled out. In fact, all of the animals we saw were napping in the sun. I got some photos of the park, which I note is very kid and dog friendly. Although there are hills, one can bring a stroller. Dogs must be kept on leash, but are otherwise welcome (with a two euro entrance fee). Hours are from 10-4 from November through February and 10-6 from March through October.
It doesn’t take long to visit the Alternative Wolf and Bear Park. I would recommend combining this activity with another one. For example, when the weather is warmer, visitors could pair this with a trip to the Glass Factory in Wolfach or maybe a stop at the Barefoot Park in Dornstetten. Or perhaps a visit to Freudenstadt paired with the Wolf and Bear Park is preferable. Pick a day with nice weather, since the area around the park is so picturesque! You may also want to visit nearby Glaswaldsee, especially when the weather is nice.
Below are some pictures I got during our visit.
The park really seems to want to attract visitors, although I think it could be easy to miss this place if you don’t hear about it (or notice it on the side of the road).
A list of rules in German, French, and English. This was the only sign I saw in a language other than German.
Like every activity in Germany, this park has a snack bar. This is what they serve there. I’ve heard their veggie burgers are particularly good. They also have vegan choices. We chose not to eat at the snack bar, but plenty of other people were enjoying it.
Teepees… they were kind of an odd entry for the park. They appeared to be for kids to play in.
The front of the snack bar. Restrooms are free and clean!
There’s that “Native American” motif again.
Once we passed the snack bar and teepees, we started our walk around the park. There’s a dirt path that leads up the ridge so you can get a good look at the animals. A few of them were out today and they seemed very chilled out. Although there are a lot of fences, there are small “portals” in the fences so you can get good photos. I was glad I brought my digital camera. It made it much easier to zoom in past the fences. Pictures taken with the digital camera are at the end of this post.
Visitors are asked to be quiet.
Unlike the Tierpark in Pforzheim, this park does not allow visitors to feed the animals.
There are small caves throughout the park where the bears and wolves go to shelter.
The lynx was looking out over the land.
When you’re ready for refreshment, there are plenty of places to go.
The landscape at the park is absolutely beautiful. Sometimes I can’t believe how gorgeous Germany is. The best pictures of the animals appear at the end of this post. I took them with my digital camera, while the ones above were taken with my phone.
We decided to stop at Turmbräu, one of our favorite restaurants in Freudenstadt, which is on the way home. Freudenstadt is one of my favorite towns in the Stuttgart area. It’s very pretty and offers good shopping and restaurants, as well as things to do. Below are a few pictures of Freudenstadt, but they don’t really do it justice. I like Freudenstadt because it doesn’t look like any of the other well-known towns in the Black Forest.
This restaurant makes its own beer.
These folks at the bar were having a great time! They were drinking and cheering. It was stereotypically German!
We took a spot near the bar…
It was time for the restaurant’s spring beer. We each had one. It was fresh and crisp and kind of citrusy.
Bill ordered “crispy pork” with potatoes and gravy made with beer.
I ordered sauerbraten with spaetzle and red kraut. I liked Bill’s dish better, so we traded. I’m still full a couple of hours later… Total damage for this was about 30 euros.
This restaurant is also a music venue. They regularly have events. When the weather is warmer, they will also open their Biergarten. Here’s a link to their Facebook page, where you can see who’s coming in the upcoming weeks.
I love this bridge.
A wolf hides behind the brush.
Yes, your dog is welcome! Bring a leash and plenty of shit bags.
These wolves were loving the sun. So were we!
We didn’t see any snakes.
I loved this creek that flowed through the park… fresh water for the animals to enjoy and a peaceful sound for visitors.
This sign was about the two bears who live in this enclosure. They were circus bears before they came to the park.
My German friend has this to say about the teepees: The kind of odd looking teepees in the Black Forest landscape are meant as a symbol and reminder for a gentle treatment of nature, to respect animals and to learn from them etc… “Sie stehen als Symbol für die nativen Völker, die einen sanften Umgang mit der Natur pflegten, die nur das Nötigste von ihr nahmen und die Tiere würdigten.”
The lynx was a little camera shy.
This was the end of the line. I think our visit lasted about an hour or so. It was a very pleasant hour spent, but if you’re coming all the way from Stuttgart, you might want to pair a visit to the park with another activity. Luckily, the Black Forest is rich with things to do… and it never closes. 😉