A couple of weeks ago, I joined a German Facebook group that offers ideas for fun day trips in and around the German state of Hesse. Actually, I joined an American run version of that group, but decided to join the German version when I noticed the group admin was mostly just reposting whatever was shared in the German group. He was adding very little original content or even a US perspective as he was resharing the German group’s content. So I decided I might as well join the German group, since locals often add information that Americans don’t have.
I know I recently mentioned that I would like to take this blog back to the way it was from 2014-2018, before we were dealt the double blow of a lawsuit with our former landlady and COVID-19. In 2019, we were new to Wiesbaden and trying to get used to our new town. Then, everything shut down for a long time, so that prevented us from exploring the way we would have, otherwise. For now, we are allowed to travel freely, but it’s taken time to get back in the mood to take day trips. Part of the reason I decided to go out today is because the weather was nice. It was sunny, but not too hot. Also, I needed to take my mind off of a threatening, harassing, message I got this morning on my now defunct Overeducated Housewife Facebook Page. One of the best ways to get me to temporarily forget about trouble is to visit animals.
Someone shared a post about Vogelburg, a sanctuary for rehomed parrots, parakeets, macaus, and cockatoos in the German Facebook group. I was intrigued, since I’d never heard of it. I showed Bill the official Web site, noted that it was open today, and we made plans to visit! The sanctuary is just north of Wiesbaden, on the way to Limburg, which is where we visited a few weeks ago. We probably could have gotten there in about 40 minutes, if not for a horrific pile up on Autobahn 3. We counted at least fifteen ambulances passing us, along with cop cars, fire engines, and the doctor’s car. The Stau held us up for about an hour, as we watched people exiting their vehicles to pee on the side of the road. It was quite frustrating, as I was also a bit hangry. However, once we got to the park, it was well worth the wait.
We paid eight euros each to enter the facility, bought some sunflower seeds, and made our way around, feeding the gentle and beautiful birds, watching them preen, listening to them communicate, and enjoying their antics. We saw one pretty cockatoo sitting on a girl’s shoulder while she petted it. Others were talking, hanging upside down, or begging for food. At first, I was nervous about feeding the birds, since there were picture signs warning about bloody fingers (see my photos). But I soon got the hang of things, and really enjoyed giving the birds treats. Quite a few of them really knew how to pour on the charm, as you can see in the video below.
After a couple of hours enjoying the birds, who came from all over the world, we decided to have a quick lunch at the park’s restaurant, which serves things like wurst, Frikadelle, potato salad, and cake. Bill and I both had bratwursts with potato salad. I could not finish the huge serving of potato salad, but did enjoy washing everything down with a cold Weizen beer. I did notice that the facility looked like it had been around a while and could use some refurbishment (ETA: it dates from 1981). But the birds are well cared for and very entertaining. They also have a Parrot School, which I guess is a program where visitors can learn more about the birds (ETA: My German friend says that the school is for the parrots). All of the signage is in German, though, which makes me think the “school” probably is, too.
We both left Vogelburg smiling, and I decided that we need to spend more time in this part of Hesse, which is quieter and less built up than Wiesbaden is. It reminded me a little of the lovely rural areas near Stuttgart we used to enjoy regularly when we lived down there.
This is a great activity for young children, although strollers may not be the best idea there, because there are cobblestones. They even have a cool slide at the top of the hill that kids can slide down and land in a sand pit. Plenty of adults were enjoying the park, too, as the birds are very social, healthy, and friendly! On the way out, there’s a gift shop. We didn’t stop in. This park opens every year on March 15th, and the season runs through October 31st. It’s open daily, from 10am to 6pm. Parking is free!
I’m happy to report that the drive home happened without incident– no wrecks or Staus. That’s always a plus in Germany!
All in all, it was a great day! I’m so glad we went to see the beautiful birds of Vogelburg today. They really helped me enjoy the day, and forget my troubles for awhile.
Saturday morning, we decided that after breakfast, we would visit Gerolstein, the land of famous bubbly water that drew me to the Eifel in the first place. After taking the slow elevator to the reception area of the hotel, we walked into the hotel’s restaurant/bar area and found our assigned table, still with its personalized ceramic nameplate. I ripped off my mask, and Bill fetched some Brötchen. A lady came around to take our preferred hot beverage order. We got a Kännchen of coffee, and I put the mask back on for a trip to the buffet. I was actually kind of surprised that they were doing a buffet breakfast, given that so many practices have been altered due to the virus. I did notice that the staff was rather strict about the mask use. One guy was kindly but firmly reminded as he approached the buffet. He dutifully put the mask on and went looking for his morning Wurst.
Besides the usual breads, cheeses, sausages, smoked salmon, and fruit offered for breakfast at a lot of German hotels, the Hotel Zur Post in Meerfeld also offers hard boiled eggs. Bill and I had them all three mornings and they were perfectly done. Bravo to them for that. When we were in Strasbourg, France back in February, I was served an almost raw egg at breakfast. I was pretty grossed out by it. But that place made up for the egg fiasco by also having really excellent brownies at breakfast.
We weren’t totally sure what we were going to end up doing after we visited Gerolstein, so Bill and I took along our bathing suits. I knew that I wanted to visit the Vulkaneifel Therme in Bad Bertrich at some point, and I wasn’t sure when we’d do that. The trip to Gerolstein took us in the opposite direction of where we’d need to go to get to the Therme, but you never know when you’ll run into a good swimming hole.
The drive to Gerolstein from Meerfeld was extremely pretty. We even pulled over so I could take a few pictures of the stunning countryside. I also played around a bit with the features on my digital camera, which doesn’t get used as often as my iPhone camera does.
As we were heading toward our destination, I read a news article about a German “Rambo” who was on the loose in Oppenau last week. I mentioned in a previous post that we were once in Oppenau and needed to call for help, but were unable to get a cell signal. We had just visited the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle (All Saints Waterfalls), which are located in the Black Forest near Oppenau, when we came upon a motorcycle accident. A group of bikers had come around a sharp corner too fast and one of them went over the side of the road. It must have happened literally minutes before we encountered it. One of the bikers asked if he could use my phone to call an ambulance. Unfortunately, there was absolutely no cell signal whatsoever.
I was reminded of that lack of cell coverage when we were in the Eifel, but I was reminded of Oppenau because my German friend told me about the German Rambo guy… a heavily armed reclusive man named Yves Rausch who was running amok near Oppenau after having held up four German police officers and stolen their weapons several days prior. As we were headed toward Gerolstein, I read about how he’d been “rolled up” by the police… Oppenau would not have been a bad place to visit over the weekend. It’s very beautiful there, too… but no longer so close to get to as it was when we lived near Stuttgart.
We found a public parking lot near Gerolstein’s Kyllpark, which is notably good for kids. We didn’t plan to visit this park; it’s just where we happened to land. I was kind of delighted by it and got some pictures on a walk Bill and I took. It’s been too long since we took a walk in nature, although if I were going to plan a nature walk, I probably wouldn’t necessarily start with the Kyllpark, unless I had children with me. Bill, of course, has a big kid with him at all times… 😉 Here are some photos.
After our walk, we headed into town and walked around a bit. I needed to pee and did see a sign for a WC, but never ended up finding it. It was close to lunchtime, so I thought maybe we’d have lunch in Gerolstein. But we ended up just walking around some more, taking in the sights. At one point, we stopped for a rest and social media break and I started talking to Bill… then got off on a ranting tangent. He gave me this face…
I got some more photos of Gerolstein, which is, in fact, a nice little town with plenty of things to do… but I’m kind of glad we stayed in Meerfeld, because it was a lot prettier and its location forced us to move around the area more. Staying in a town like Gerolstein would have been very convenient. Maybe too convenient… There’s a lot to do in and around Gerolstein, though, and we would come back for another visit.
I never did manage to find a toilet before we got back in the car. Luckily, we picked a direction that took us right past the Gerolsteiner water plant… and up the hill to the Eagle and Wolf Park at Kasselburg Castle. I was pretty glad to see it, since this was another place we’d hoped to encounter during our trip. We were lucky enough to run into it by chance, and wonder of wonders, it had a place for me to pee in private. An added bonus was the amazing castle, as well as seeing animals. I love going to animal parks, especially if I get to feed the animals, too. This particular park is very well kept and offers stunning views as well as fun animals!
The Eagle and Wolf park costs 9 euros per adult and 6,50 euros per child over age 4. However, they do offer family cards for 35,00 euros, as well as group rates and special admissions fees for people in certain categories, such as the disabled. Dogs are not allowed, and there is a snack bar in the park, as well as an adjacent restaurant that one can visit before or after visiting.
We weren’t allowed to go into the imposing tower on the grounds, which suited me fine, since I can guarantee many steps were involved. However, we did walk around the castle ruins and visit the birds of prey/raptors. Some of them were a little depressing to look at, if I’m honest. They were completely still in their cages with lanyards attached to their legs. I was prepared for that, having read reviews on TripAdvisor about a similar place in Kintzheim, France. Some reviewers commented on the birds being attached to lanyards and the people who run the French Eagle Park explained that after eating, raptors sit motionless on their perches for hours. I also know that the birds are trained and do flight shows almost every day, so they do get to fly… and some of the birds were a little more animated, too. I got a kick out of a pair of randy owls in the palais area who kept flirting and cleaning each other’s feathers. The owls were not attached to lanyards, as they don’t tolerate them. They were aviaries and were more active. They all looked healthy.
Although my stomach was growling a little, we ended up walking the long way through the park, visiting the wolves. This Kasselburg park has Timber wolves and a couple of Arctic wolves. I saw the Timber wolves napping and I caught sight of one of the Arctic wolves, who was on the move, so I didn’t get a good picture. They also had wild boars, who were clustered together rooting around and eating something…. probably worms.
I was pretty grateful when we finally encountered the deer, which visitors are welcome to feed. You can buy a box of food from the machines at just one euro each. It’s worth it to interact with the very friendly and adorable goats, deer, ponies, and geese. Here are some photos of our visit to the park… which took us on a six mile hike. Been awhile since I last did that, and I must admit, it wore me out.
Just after we left the woods, we heard what sounded a little like donkeys braying… but I knew they weren’t donkeys. It wasn;t until we rounded the corner that I saw the source of the hubbub. A small group of deer were standing in the shade. I’m not sure if they were fighting or fucking, but they were sure making some noise! I think it might have been the first time I have ever heard deer making animal noises. I didn’t have much time to think about that, though, because I was soon met by my first beggar of many…
By the time we were finished feeding the animals, we were definitely ready for refreshment. So we went next door to the Restaurant Forsthaus Kasselburg, which offers traditional German food and beautiful views. It was a good place to stop for refueling. In fact, we were so well fed that we managed to skip dinner on Saturday night…
The restaurant offered reasonable prices, as well as a fun “sprinkler show” in the dining room, complete with cheesy Muzak. That’s really the only way I can describe it. It looked like the indoor dining room had a stage, and there were sprinklers in front of it, along with lights. I’m sure when the weather is less beautiful, the inside is nice to dine in. No one was eating inside, though… better for virus protection. I noticed that besides contact tracing (leaving your name, address, and phone number) and wearing masks, this restaurant also routed access to the bathrooms so you go in and out through different doors, thereby lessening the chance of exposure to the virus or other people.
By the time we were finished with lunch, it was mid afternoon, and we were pretty tired. I wanted to go swimming in the hotel’s awesome spa pool and visit the Meerfelder Maar close up. More on that in the next post.
I really needed to have some fun today, so Bill decided we’d visit the Förderverein Fasanerie, which is a lovely animal park in a wooded area near downtown Wiesbaden. This park reminds me a lot of the Wildpark Pforzheim in the Stuttgart area, only you don’t have to pay for parking. Entry is free, unless you want to pay two euros for animal feed. The park isn’t quite as large as the one in Pforzheim, but it’s a good size and you will definitely get your exercise strolling around the gentle hills.
Here are some photos I got from today. We saw all kinds of animals, from goats to wildcats, with plenty of bears, deer, and wolves in between.
Right at the entrance…
Plenty of fun learning activities for children…
A very insistent goat who wanted all the food.
I used to catch these in my yard in Virginia.
A tunnel where all of the nocturnal creatures live.
A fox. I had to zoom in for him.
Wolves… we did see one who appeared to be on a mission.
This bear was very chilled out. The water hole was full of golden fish.
I really enjoyed the deer. They were very friendly and hungry.
I miss these views.
So many majestic deer with antlers! They were very tame and hungry for food.
I loved the nutria. They were so busy looking.
This poor dude kept getting edged out of handouts by the female. I guess that’s just how it goes.
He posed for me anyway.
We had to go back to the goats and unload our food. We still had a lot left. I wish I’d given more to the deer.
A lot of people brought picnic lunches and we heard one group singing “Happy Birthday” in English. We decided to stop by the Biergarten for a snack, where a very kind waitress took care of us.
Bill had pommes with ketchup. They were better than usual… nice and hot.
I went with Spundekäs and a pretzel, a treat I only recently discovered. It comes from Mainz and it’s delicious… a nice rich quark cheese spread with paprika and garlic. I had forgotten how good this is… I don’t usually do cheese, but this is an exception. I’m definitely a fan.
For the children…. actually, there is a very nice playground for kids at this park.
I had never seen one of these before…
A swing for people in wheelchairs! I didn’t see anyone in a wheelchair today, but how cool is it that they have a special swing for them?
I’m not sure what to make of this… looks like some kind of naked creature who needs to pee.
I really needed a fun day today, and I got it. After we were finished at the Tierpark, we bought some fresh cherries from an adorable old lady selling fruit out of the back of her car. She threw in a few plums for us after letting us try her cherries (perfectly ripe and very sweet). I got to ride in the new car, too. I’d say today was a resounding success.
Tonight we’re going to try a new restaurant, which I’ll probably review tomorrow.
I usually update my blog on the weekends, but we are going to Italy for the Labor Day holiday and I may be indisposed. Aside from that, my husband is on his way back to Germany today and I’m trying to keep busy. With that in mind, I thought I’d write a post for those looking for local places to visit animals. A few of my suggestions may be well-known or even obvious, but I hope to surprise a few people with something unexpected. I don’t have children, but I think it’s safe to say that all of these places are kid friendly.
I’m going to list these in no particular order. We visited each place at least once and you can search the blog for my reviews. Here goes…
Wilhelma Zoological and Botanical Park- Stuttgart
I might as well start with the obvious, Wilhelma Zoo, which is located in the Bad Canstatt area of Stuttgart. I went there for the second time a couple of weeks ago and had a pretty good time visiting the animals. Some people seem to think this zoo is outdated and poorly maintained. Although I know there are better zoos out there, I had a good time visiting the one in Stuttgart. It does get crowded and, at 16 euros per adult, is probably the most expensive choice on my list. But I have to include it because obviously, you’d go to a zoo to see animals, right? And this zoo includes plants, an aquarium, a petting area, and access to a public park, as well as a pretty cool insect exhibit. You can spend a few hours at the zoo and still not see it all. It does get crowded on nice days, but I think it’s worth a visit, if only to make you appreciate some of the other choices. Public transportation is a snap, since there’s a station right outside the main gate. Also, the sea lions are fun to watch!
I think s/he stole the show!
Tierpark Nymphaea– Esslingen Germany has what they call “Tierparks” (animal parks). They’re basically like small zoos that are more kid focused. So far, we’ve visited two of them and at both parks, it was easy to pet and feed some of the animals. We visited Tierpark Nymphaea a couple of weeks ago, mainly because I’d repeatedly heard it was a nice place to take kids. Although the animals at the park were not particularly exotic, it was a lot of fun to feed and pet the donkeys and goats. And you can also feed the ducks and deer and look at all of the other animals who live at the park. Tierpark Nymphaea offers a nice, stroller friendly trail around a large, attractive lake and a number of interesting exhibits. Afterwards, your kids can play while you enjoy a beer in the Biergarten.
A very persistent goat begs for popcorn.
Der Kleine Tierpark Göppingen- Göppingen
Speaking of Tierparks, we visited one last year in the town of Göppingen, a city east of Stuttgart, kind of on the way to Ulm. To be honest, I’m not sure where I first heard about this park. I do have a German friend from Göppingen, but although she is an animal lover, she’s not a mom and she currently lives in North Carolina. This park, compared to Tierpark Nymphaea, is a bit smaller. However, there is a wider variety of animals at this park, including camels and monkeys. I’m not sure I’d necessarily advise a road trip there unless you’re already in the neighborhood, but I did enjoy meeting their friendly camels and goats, who are pros at scoring food.
What, me worry?
Wildpark Pforzheim- Pforzheim
Of all of the animal friendly places I’m going to list today, Wildpark Pforzheim is probably my favorite. This is a huge park in the Black Forest where you only pay to park and buy some food. Then, you and your little ones can scurry around the park mingling with deer, elk, Highland cows, mini horses, owls, donkeys, and many other friendly animals looking for a handout. Seriously… this is a great park. Not only is there a huge array of animals to be visited, there’s also a ropes course and playground equipment. You could easily spend several hours here, enjoying the many exhibits and burning energy. Highly recommended!
A wild cat on the prowl! This is one of the animals you aren’t allowed to feed!
Alternativer Wolf und Bärenpark Schwarzwald- Bad Rippoldsau-Sheppach
This small park in the Black Forest hamlet of Bad Rippoldsau-Sheppach is home to bears, wolves, and lynxes. Many of the animals at this sanctuary were once circus performers or zoo animals. This isn’t really like a Tierpark or a zoo; it’s really more of a place where these animals can live out their lives in peace. In 1996, I visited Bulgaria and, in those days, many Roma people were making money with “dancing bears”. These bears had been trained to “dance” via cruel methods involving pain and heat. Since I had actually witnessed cruelty toward bears in Bulgaria, I was very glad to see that the animals at this park in Germany have such a nice home out in the forest. Although this is a small park and doesn’t take long to visit, it can be combined with a number of other activities in the area.
One of the more social wolves at the park.
Monkey Hill-Affenberg Salem
If you prefer feeding monkeys, you can venture to Monkey Hill, a really cool park near Lake Constance, maybe 90 minutes or so south of Stuttgart. Those who have been to Monkey Mountain in Kintzheim, France, may already be familiar with the concept. That’s because both parks, as well as another one in France and one in Great Britain, are owned by the same people. At this park, you walk around a loop and offer popcorn to docile monkeys who gently take it from you. Although you aren’t allowed to pet the monkeys, it is fun to feed them. Some will practically mug for the camera as they take popcorn from you. This is probably my second favorite animal activity on the list.
Sweet family portrait… not of my family, mind you.
Fischzucht Zordel- Neuenbürg/Eyachtal
And finally, here’s a place where you can feed fish… and they can feed you. This fish farm near Pforzheim appears to be a very kid friendly activity. You or your kids can feed the fish, then have a nice lunch of fresh or smoked trout. I’ll leave it up to parents to decide if they want to tell their children what will happen to the fish they feed. Still, it’s a lot of fun and, if you like fish, you can get some very fresh trout here.
Fish waiting to be fed and harvested.
I know I’m probably leaving off some places, but these are the places I have been to and can evaluate based on personal experience. I figure this list will give people a good start for the time being. Frankly, for my money, the Wildpark Pforzheim is the best of the lot, offering the most fun for the euro. I hope you’ll visit and let me know if you agree!