Today, Bill and I decided to visit Wilhelma Zoological and Botanical Park, the only state owned zoo in Germany and second only to the Berlin Zoo in its collection of animals and plant species. This zoo is Europe’s only large combined zoo and botanical park. It’s been in operation since 1846 and features some really cool Moorish architecture that brings Morocco and southern Spain to mind.
Today wasn’t our first time visiting Wilhelma. When we lived in Stuttgart the first time (2007-09), we visited. I want to say it was in the spring of 2008, not long after a polar bear cub was born at the zoo in Stuttgart. I remember there was quite a line to see the cub. I believe it was around the time Knut the orphaned polar bear was very popular at the Berlin Zoo, so the polar bear exhibit was very popular in Stuttgart. About a year later, a depressed woman visiting the Berlin Zoo decided she wanted to be one with the polar bears and climbed over the barriers to swim with them, where she was promptly mauled. Fortunately, everyone, including the polar bear that attacked her, survived the incident.
Sigh… I love the flowers.
Today, I saw neither hide nor hair of bears of any kind, but I did see a lion, a tiger, zebras, gorillas, camels, and huge cockroaches, the same kinds people used to be forced to eat on Fear Factor. I saw a crocodile, Burmese pythons, donkeys, ostriches, and adorable ponies. I also saw an enormous Schwäbisch-Hällisches Landschwein. We spent about four hours at the zoo and could have stayed longer, had we not been worn out by the heat, the crowds, and walking. The zoo is adjacent to a public park, which can be accessed from an entrance near the petting zoo. Keep your ticket if you want to venture into the park and come back into the zoo.
We got an earlier start this morning, arriving at the zoo at about noon. Bill parked at the garage adjacent to the zoo, although we could have also taken the train, which has a stop directly outside of the zoo’s entrance. He paid 32 euros for two adult day passes and off we went. Below are some pictures of today’s fun. Bear with me… there are a lot of them!
Today’s line at noon. Not too bad. There are lockers right next to the box office, as well as toilets. I think you’re supposed to start in the botanical part, but it was kind of warm and I was enjoying the fresh air…
So we visited the flamingoes, first. Then we went into the greenhouse.
They had a lot of chili plants on display. I couldn’t help but laugh, remembering my original German neighbors from our first time here gifting us with hot peppers because they were too much for them!
I kind of wanted to take one of these home. My German friend Susanne says there are days during the year when Wilhelma sells some of its plants and/or cuttings. They have a booth at the Slow Food Festival in April and they also sell plants on Wilhelma Day, which this year is on September 30th.
Colorful fish… just a few of many I saw today.
We went into the first part of the greenhouse, which featured cacti.
Our first German landlord was a cactus fan and we had a few in our house. I was reminded of him as we checked out the exhibit.
More beautiful flowers. The first time we visited, those flowers were tulips and were just as lovely.
We saw a few kids riding these things… I see it’s 2 euros for a 10 minute ride on these big stuffed animals.
A few more beautiful flowers… Germans are so good with plants.
Just before lunch, we went into the insect house. There, we saw some pretty awesome bugs…
I never saw roaches like these in Texas.
Horseshoe crab, which I used to see a lot of in Virginia.
One photo of one butterfly. The others weren’t quite as cooperative.
The biggest millipede I’ve ever seen.
A tarantula. Yikes!
You could get pretty close to the pelicans.
Some equipment for other “wildlife”…
Last time we visited Wilhelma, we didn’t eat there. Today, we did opt to have lunch at the cafeteria style restaurant closest to the entrance. We stopped for a drink at the one closest to the petting zoo area, on the other side of the park. I noticed a marked difference in the two places. The restaurant closer to the entrance seemed cleaner, calmer, and had more shady areas. It’s run by Marche, the same people who bring us nice rest stops in Switzerland and France. I was somewhat impressed by what they had.
Salads with fresh looking produce that smelled great.
They even had fresh squeezed juices. In the inside dining room, there’s also a play area for kids.
I went with a currywurst and pommes, which ordinarily wouldn’t have been my first choice… but I didn’t want a schnitzel and we’re having salmon for dinner tonight. The pommes were awesome! They weren’t all dried out and tasteless. I could have just eaten a plate of those and been done with it.
A man and his hefeweizen… and penne pasta with pesto. It was really good.
Just after I took this photo, a man pushed a trolley full of dishes by. A beer glass fell off, shattered, and sent shards everywhere, including my shin. Fortunately, it was a pinprick sized flesh wound. No harm done.
After lunch, we found our way to the sea lions, who were a lot of fun to watch. I got a bunch of photos and some video footage. Here are a few of the best pictures, starring one sea lion with particularly good showmanship.
I was kind of jealous of their pool, too. It looked refreshing.
Next, we went into the aquarium/terrarium… we saw lots of creatures there.
The snakes were cooperative at the zoo…
There were so many fish… and just as many people, so I just got a few shots of the more colorful ones.
Alpacas and Schweine…
I told Bill this fancy bird reminded me of Diana Ross… complete with feathers and long legs.
A gorilla who was outside… the others were inside.
I loved the zebras. They were very chill.
And the giraffes, too…
This ostrich had an attitude. S/he came over and gave a guy with a camera what for…
I got several shots of the ostrich snapping at some guy with a camera. It was kind of funny to watch. The other ostrich wasn’t as interested.
At this point, we decided to stop for a drink. We were at the other restaurant, which appeared to be smaller, much more crowded, and offered less seating than the other restaurant, particularly in the shade. Although it looked like they had a lot of the same kind of food, the first location near the main entrance was a lot more pleasant. I noticed it was also less crowded and shadier on our way out of the zoo.
Look closely for camel butts. They were of the two humped variety.
This Shetland pony was in the petting zoo area. I remember the last time we visited, there were machines where you could buy food and feed some of the animals. This time, both machines had signs on them that said they were broken. Kids were putting some of the goats, though, and this pony let me pet him for a minute. I could have hung out with him all day.
This pony was having a good laugh… no, actually, I think he was yawning. Lucky catch with the iPhone.
And an enormous Schwäbisch-Hällisches Landschwein! He was huge!
These two were sharing a moment…
The elephants were putting on a show. Up the hill, we noticed another World Wildlife Fund tent, like the one we encountered yesterday. Bill was determined to avoid it.
A majestic Asian lion, who was proudly posing for photos…
It was dinnertime for the tiger, so I wasn’t able to get a really good shot.
These two were friendly!
I got some great video footage of these monkeys! I’m going to see if my old computer will cooperate, so I can put it up on YouTube.
Peacocks minus plumage!
And more monkeys!
Some rather chilled out kangaroos who weren’t very social.
Wilhelma Zoo is worth a stop if you love animals. Both times we’ve visited, it has been crowded and some people seem to think the enclosures are too small and outdated. That may be true, although I can’t deny that we had a nice time yesterday and that is my focus as I’m writing my post. Are there bigger, nicer, and snazzier zoos? Probably… but the animals we saw yesterday appeared to be well cared for and basically happy, and we did enjoy seeing them. I was especially impressed by the insect exhibit, which was more interesting than I was expecting it to be.
I think to do a proper visit, you should come somewhat early, wear comfortable shoes, be prepared for climbing hills and big crowds on nice days, and plan to stay awhile. We were there for four hours today and I don’t think we saw everything. There were some enclosures that appeared to be empty. I noticed a few animals I saw in 2008 were missing this time. I would have liked to have gone back to the sea lions, but was too tired by the time we’d done the loop. The explanations on the exhibits are pretty much all in German, although I understood a lot of what I was reading. I noticed it was fairly stroller friendly, too, although there are some hills. The animal houses that had steps in them did have ramps, though, which was nice.
All in all, we had a really nice day. I love visiting animals, although I tend to like zoos less than Tierparks. I don’t like crowds and the zoo on a day like today is bound to have lots of crowds. But Wilhelma is open almost every day– It might be worth visiting when the temperatures are a little cooler. On the other hand, the flowers are so pretty this time of year! If you enjoy zoos, Stuttgart’s isn’t a bad one. And with the train stop right outside the gate, it couldn’t be easier to get there. In fact, the parking ticket machine is apparently broken right now, so taking the train might be better, anyway.