I knew it couldn’t last forever…

Last night, just before bed, I ran my hands over Arran’s body. That’s when I found the enlarged lymph node near his left “armpit”. I checked his other nodes. The ones in his back legs, which were enlarged when I first found out about his lymphoma, were not swollen. I thought I could detect a little swelling in the nodes under his jaw.

It’s possible that this isn’t lymphoma roaring back to life, but I think it probably is. I’ve noticed Arran is a little shaky lately, too.

He has a vet appointment on Wednesday. It will be his 16th week, I believe… and he’s already done better on chemo than I ever thought he could. He made it to his tenth anniversary.

I don’t know how much longer he has, but I suspect his time is drawing close. I’m kind of ambivalent about it. Yes, of course, I will miss him. I love him dearly. When we lose him, it’s going to leave a huge hole. But I also miss traveling freely, even just to go out to dinner. I miss being able to sleep through the night without having to let him out or feed him. He is about 14 years old, too.

What makes this worse is that Bill has to go away again this week. I think Arran will be okay, but the new swollen lymph node gives me an ominous feeling.

On the bright side, he’s still eating and able to jump on the bed by himself. All he has right now is a little trembling and a swollen node. But I think it’s time to prepare for the inevitable. And here I was thinking, before I found that swollen node, that maybe we could get him one last dental. He definitely needs one.

Anyway, if you can spare some good vibes, I’d appreciate them. I just want it to be smooth sailing until the end.


A day in a parrot paradise– Vogelburg

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.

Listen for the cuckoo bird!

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.

anecdotes, housekeeping tips

New toy causes odd reaction in Arran…

Since we’re stuck inside for the time being, Bill and I have been doing a lot of shopping. German businesses have predictably adapted to stay afloat during this challenging time. For some reason, Bill has been getting lots of ads on Facebook for meat. Pork, beef, and other butchered delights are being offered by local Metzgereien, complete with free delivery. He’s also getting ads for coffee. We’ve now fully stocked our liquor supply… which maybe we shouldn’t have done, but our mint plant has really taken off and maybe I’ll want to have a mojito or something.

I figured now was a good time to try new kitchen gadgets, so I decided to get us a pizza stone and an air fryer. The air fryer is an appliance I’d been wanting to purchase for a long time. I bought a Philips model, XXL, which is bigger than the basic, and one can also purchase baking and pizza attachments for it.

A new toy… takes up a lot of counter space, so it must live downstairs in the basement.

We tried it out last night. Bill cooked chicken leg quarters. They turned out deliciously, but after we ate dinner, we noticed a strange adverse effect on our dog, Arran. As Bill was clearing the table, I noticed that Arran didn’t seem to be feeling very well. He looked almost like he was about to have a seizure. He has had a couple of seizure like “spells” in the past, although they have been years apart. It looked like he was going to have another one last night.

Poor Arran had a frightened, confused, and sickened look on his face, like he might vomit. His tail was tucked between his legs, and he moved very slowly, as if he was off balance and on the verge of collapse. He started trembling, which automatically made me think of awful reasons why dogs suddenly start to shake. A friend of mine recently lost her dog to kidney failure, and trembling was her dog’s most prominent symptom. I worried that maybe Arran was trying to tell us something awful… He’s ten years old and seems very healthy, but I know all too well that dogs can have silent diseases that suddenly take them. Our dog, Zane, was diagnosed with lymphoma and died a week later.

Then I wondered if maybe the air fryer had something toxic in it that had poisoned Arran. I even looked up xylitol, which is a sweetener that is deadly to dogs. I wondered if he’d somehow gotten ahold of some. We considered calling the emergency vet, then wondered if they’d be open during this cursed coronavirus crisis. I was very worried that we might experience another tragic canine loss.

But then I went Googling, and I came across this fascinating Reddit thread. About a year or two ago, many people posted about their dogs’ strange reactions to air fryers. The behavior they were describing was very much like what Bill and I witnessed in Arran last night.

Evidently, what Arran experienced after dinner is not uncommon in dogs when their humans start using new appliances. The air fryer was very quiet to us, but as a dog, Arran can hear things that we can’t. After reading the Reddit thread, it occurred to me that the high, whirring, fan sound of the fryer must have disturbed Arran’s inner ear, which would have affected his balance and probably made him feel sick. For him, it must have been like he was trapped at a super loud disco or something, and it just took awhile for his ears to quit ringing. That would explain his odd behavior last night. Thankfully, about an hour after we were finished eating and after lots of hugs and reassurance from Bill, Arran was back to his normal self. He’s just fine this morning.

People commenting on the Reddit thread wrote about their dogs not liking the Instant Pot, smoke detectors that beep, or other appliances that make a high pitched noises. We do have an Instant Pot, and Arran doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. In fact, he loves it when Bill gets it out, since he uses it to make homemade dog food. But clearly the air fryer is a problem. Fortunately, we have a fenced backyard Arran can hang out in, as well as a large house with distant rooms we can take put him in when we use the fryer. Or, I can just take him for an extended walk… which he loves and I desperately need to do more of for my health’s sake. According to the Reddit thread, just getting the pet away from the appliance when it’s operating is enough to prevent this odd attack.

For more reading about how our latest technology drives pets insane, click here.


Wiesbaden’s fabulous Fasanerie…

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.



 A wildcat… 






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.

Hessian lion…

 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.


Places near Stuttgart to get your animal fix…

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 NymphaeaEsslingen

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!


Tierpark Nymphaea and an onion fest in Esslingen!

Everybody’s got a hungry goat…

Bill and I decided not to do anything yesterday because I was entertaining everyone’s favorite aunt.  Said aunt has mostly vacated today and we had absolutely beautiful weather, so we decided to do something we hadn’t done before– visit the Tierpark Nymphaea outside of Esslingen.  Although I don’t have children and this is a very kid friendly activity, I do love to visit animals.  I had heard from many of the mommies in the Stuttgart area that the Tierpark Nymphaea was a very nice park and I could see from their official Web site that they had plenty of animals, some of whom could be fed or petted by visitors.

I do love visiting animals, but I also like to do new things so I can keep my blog posts fresh.  So, even though Esslingen is a good distance away from where we live, we decided to make the journey.  Fortunately, the weather was lovely today.  There was nothing but sunshine and agreeable temperatures with a very pleasant breeze.  It was the perfect day to visit the park.  I know this for certain because a shitload of other people had the same idea we did.

Lesson learned…  Don’t assume the lot by the front door is full.

Information about the park and its restaurant.

And yes, there is a Biergarten for the adults.

And a playground for the wee ones.

Here’s one thing to know about the Tierpark Nymphaea.  Parking is kind of limited.  There are a couple of small lots that were mostly full when we got there at a little after noon.  Many people were parked on the side of a narrow road.  Fortunately, we drove my Mini Cooper, so parking wasn’t too bad for us.  Also, it turned out that a lot of people had parked before they reached the lot closest to the entrance.  There were several spots open there, though they were claimed when we left about an hour later.

So… anyway… the Tierpark Nymphaea was well-attended today.  There were lots of mommies and daddies there with their little ones, many of whom rode in strollers.  We purchased two adult tickets at four euros each and a bucket of popcorn for 1,70, which can be used to feed some of the animals.  The ones that aren’t allowed to be fed have big signs on their enclosures.  The lucky ones that can be fed will beg for your popcorn and follow you like a hungry dog along the fencelines of their pens.  Below are some pictures I took of some of the animals.  I was hoping to visit with the pony, but s/he was in a stall and didn’t want to come out.  Ditto for some of the other animals.  I did have a good visit with the goats, ducks, donkeys, and deer, though.

Bill grabs the popcorn.  It was plenty for the loop around the park.  We had enough to go back for another visit with the goats.

A duck pond which opens into a small lake, where lots of other fowl and fish live in harmony.

A colorful golden pheasant.  It comes from a small part of Asia.

This male donkey was wearing Hosen on his front legs.

Other ducks were cavorting among the masses.  Delighted children were tossing popcorn to the happy birds.

The goats were popular and friendly.  A couple of them were happy to be petted while they munched popcorn.  I liked that the fence was low so that it was easy for kids to pet them.

The lake was pretty.  I spotted one person with their dog, who was well-behaved and on a leash.  You can bring yours, too, as long as he or she doesn’t try to eat the ducks like mine would.

Brave man!

An impressive honeybee exhibit.  They sell honey at the cashier’s booth, too.  

Colorful birds.

And the turtles… we happened to get there just in time for them to be fed.  The attendant walked into their enclosure and started tossing the food into the water.  The turtles went for it like a pack of hungry dogs.

Guinea pigs from Chile, where they are a delicacy.

There were also snakes.  I didn’t take pictures of them because they were all hiding.  I did take note of this sign, though, since the snake is from California, but the map indicates the southeastern USA.

We spent some time with the deer, since we had plenty of popcorn and they were eager to have it.  That buck was especially assertive about begging for popcorn.  He followed me as far as he could, pleading for more.

It wasn’t as easy to visit with the deer.  Obviously, if they had a lower fence, it would be easy for them to peace out of the park.  But they did seem to be a happy and well fed lot.

A female donkey sans Hosen.  She wasn’t social.

A plucky goat begs for food.

The goats were a real hoot.

Once we ran out of popcorn, we headed to the gastatte, where there are toilets as well as a small aquarium.  A terrarium is in the process of being constructed.

I liked the aquarium.

Our visit to Nymphaea took less than an hour, but it was an hour well spent.  I enjoyed hanging out with the animals.  Last year, we visited a different Tierpark located in Göppingen, a city on the way to Ulm.  It was interesting to compare Nymphaea with the Little Tierpark in Göppingen.  Göppingen’s park is much smaller than Nymphaea, but offers many more exotic animals.  They have camels and monkeys, for instance, while Nymphaea has chickens.  You can read about my experience there by searching the blog.  I think Nymphaea is overall a nicer park, but Göppingen has a wider variety of animals.

Here’s a view of the parking situation as we were leaving.  A man stopped me as Bill was backing out of our spot.  He wanted to claim it.  If you come on a day like today, I recommend getting there early. I have heard there is a garage nearby, but I didn’t actually see it.


Rather than eating at the crowded park, we decided to go into Esslingen.  It’s always a pleasure to visit this beautiful city, but we don’t get there often because we live pretty far away.  Today happened to be one of the days of the annual Esslinger Zwiebelfest, too.  You know the word Zwiebel, right?  It means onion.  That’s right.  The Germans will have a fest dedicated to onions.  The Germans will party for any reason at all!

A couple of shots of the pretty main square.  Esslingen was pretty chill this morning, despite the onion party.

The entrance to the onion fest.

And the church.

The onion fest appeared to be mainly about eating German food and swilling beer.  I wasn’t in the mood for traditional German food, though.

We ended up at HendlBurg, which I guess is the new name of what used to be called HendlHouse.  HendlBurg is a chain restaurant that specializes in roasted chicken, although there are also other choices available for those who would rather eat something else.  


We both had Hefeweizens.  Bill had the half garlic chicken, which is a rotisserie chicken smothered in garlic and served with fries.  He loved it.  I tried it and liked it, too.

I had the barbecue half chicken.  This came with a sweet and spicy sauce that tasted of oranges and attracted bees, wasps, and flies.  It tasted good, although next time I think I’ll get a plain chicken or maybe the garlic chicken.  The sauce was a little too spicy for me.  If you’re a fan of spicy, you’d probably love this.  I’m afraid my roots are a little too Celtic for that stuff.  

The fries came with a side of ketchup.  Notice the container it’s in– basically the bottom of an ice cream cone.  I guess they do that for environmental reasons.

Lunch was very economical.  It came to just 26 euros.  The restrooms were clean, although if you want to use it and aren’t a customer, they ask you to pay fifty cents.  I was a customer, so I didn’t pay.  I wonder how many people boldly go in there, pee, and don’t bother with the fifty cents.

After lunch, we wandered through the very small onion fest so we could say we were there.  Then we headed home.  It was a perfect day to enjoy my convertible on the Autobahn.

Yeah, the Zwiebelfest was the place to be today, if onions are your thing.  I noticed a couple of familiar food trucks who will surely be at the upcoming annual Weindorf that will be going on in downtown Stuttgart in a couple of weeks.  If you are curious about the Esslinger onion fest, I believe tomorrow is the last day.  

A Frauenplatz in the parking garage.  How civilized!  No, we didn’t use it.

That about does it for today’s blog post.  I will end with one last thought.  I think as animal related outings go, my favorite is the Wildpark Pforzheim.  I like it even more than the Wilhelma Zoo, although I will admit it’s been about ten years since my last visit to the zoo.  Maybe we’re due for another visit to either place.  We’ll see what happens next weekend.


Fine weather for a visit to the Alternativer Wolf und Bärenpark Schwarzwald

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.  😉


A visit to Der Kleine Tierpark Göppingen and Alte Statione in Rechburghausen

Continuing the animal theme Bill and I started yesterday when we visited Wildpark Pforzheim, today we visited Der Kleine Tierpark in Göppingen.  When Bill and I lived near Fort Bragg, I had a German friend from Göppingen.  She had married a guy from the tiny rural county (Mathews) next to where I grew up in Virginia (Gloucester County).  I have since lost touch with my German friend and I have a sneaking suspicion that she and my former “neighbor” have split up, though I do have her to thank for helping me acquire my dog, Arran, from Triangle Beagle Rescue.  Anyway, long story short, I had been curious about where my friend was from and, when I heard Göppingen had a Tierpark, decided I wanted to see it.

Göppingen is not that close to where Bill and I live.  While Pforzheim is a bit northwest of us, Göppingen is east… well past Esslingen and a bit on the way to Bavaria.  It took about an hour to get there from Unterjettingen.  If you’re on the other side of Stuttgart, it will no doubt be much more convenient for you to get there than it is me.  I knew going into this trip that the tierpark in Göppingen was not going to be as large or impressive as the Wildpark Pforzheim is.  Having now seen the park, I can now say that I found Der Kleine Tierpark Göppingen a little bit depressing in comparison.  I see similar comments on their Facebook page.

Entrance to the Tierpark.

We arrived at the park just before one o’clock.  A lot of people were there with their small kids.  We parked on a rather poorly maintained access road and walked to the entrance, stopping to say hello to some ponies on the way there.  Parking is free at the park, but there is an entrance fee.  It was 3,50 euros per adult.  Bill also sprang for a box of food for the animals that were allowed to be fed.  As soon as we walked into the park, we were immediately met by a couple of eager goats.  Seriously, they were like dogs!  They saw us coming and were there to greet us with demands for food.  The goats were housed in an enclosure with a pig or two.

I quickly realized that this park, while it did allow for feeding and petting some of the animals, was more of a zoo.  It houses monkeys, exotic cats, snakes, kangaroos, a couple of camels, as well as a few more pedestrian animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, alpacas, llamas, and goats.  It’s also working on a smaller budget.  The park itself is compact and rather cramped.  It’s built on a hill and not particularly stroller friendly.  The walkways are a bit narrow and the pavement is not that even.  There are also some steps.

Cute ponies/mini horses on the way in.  I stopped to say goodbye on the way out.


A *very small* play area that looked to be somewhat poorly maintained.

This friendly billy goat was the first to greet us.

This one was also clamoring for food.  I obliged them, but then went searching for the bathroom.  There is a small one in the park’s very petite gasthof, which has a small selection of snacks and drinks.  That’s also where the snakes and fish are kept.  I can’t comment on the food or beverages at the park, because we didn’t try them.

Dogs are allowed, as long as they are on lead.

I checked out the fish on the way out of the tiny bathroom.

They also have a corn snake who wasn’t feeling very social during our visit.

Lop eared rabbits.


These information signs, along with signs informing whether or not the animals can be fed, are on the enclosures.

There was a bit of a crowd around one of the more active primates, so I got pictures of the ones who were not as popular.  The one in the picture above appears to be multitasking…

Colorful birds.

A couple of cute bunnies.

I was pretty charmed by the camels…  They were surprisingly friendly.

Like the Highland cow I met yesterday, these two figured out how to be fed…  The bigger one just opened his mouth and waited for me to throw food in it.

They shared a pen with a couple of Jacob sheep.

This one followed me to an area with a lower fence and really laid on the charm.  I got several photos.


I think this picture may be my favorite.  She was totally posing for me and, at this vantage point, I didn’t have to toss food into her mouth.  I offered some from my palm and she took it gently.

More birds…

More monkeys…  these guys were pretty active.

Clipped wings.  

I got a huge kick out of this donkey…  I could have visited all day.

The white donkey was a bit crankier and greedier.  She kept bullying the other animals.

Spotted kitties…  😉

A pig.

The ponies/mini horses were happy.

The whole tour took about 40 minutes and that was only because we were going slowly.  It was a little hard to get around the park, since there isn’t much room.  We were held up for a few minutes by a family that was enchanted by one of the monkeys.  And when we did get past them, they didn’t necessarily give us a chance to check out the animal ourselves.

I don’t think I would necessarily recommend making a special trip from Stuttgart to see this park.  Moreover, although I got the sense that some of the animals did not stay in their enclosures 24/7, the pens did seem a bit small to me.  On the positive side, the animals did all appear to be healthy, well fed, and mostly contented.

The tierpark itself looks like it’s outgrown its environment.  There are a lot of different animals packed into what seems to be a rather small place.  I did see some attempts at teaching, with small signs informing visitors in German what they were looking at and including information where the animals come from.  I know this park relies on donations, but if I’m honest, I found it a little sad… especially compared to the Wildpark Pforzheim, which has a lot more room for their animals to move around.  It does appear to be a popular spot for young kids, though, and if you happen to be in the area, it may not be a bad place to stop.

After we visited the animals, Bill and I went into the adjoining town of Rechburghausen and had lunch at the Alte Statione Pizzeria and Restaurant.  It has a nice terrace, as well as a pleasant indoor area.

Bill decides on lunch…

We had a couple of beers that appeared to be special at the restaurant.

I had tagliatelle with rose sauce and smoked salmon.  This was very good, but filling.  I brought half of it home.

Bill had the paprika schnitzel with chips.  This was the “small” portion, which was plenty!  I noticed the pizzas coming out looked and smelled great.  Service was good and prices were very reasonable.  Parking was also easy, since there’s a big grocery store across the street.  I noticed people parked there to take walks or bike rides on the nearby nature trail.  

Good lunch stop.

All in all, it was a pleasant enough afternoon, but I would definitely recommend the Wildpark Pforzheim over Der Kleine Tierpark Göppingen.  On the other hand, I did enjoy interacting with the animals and feeding them… even if I did get a little bit closer to the camels’ teeth than I wanted to be!


Feeding frenzy at Wildpark Pforzheim…

Today, Bill and I discovered yet another kid friendly local attraction that we should have discovered years ago.  I am not sure how we missed it after being in this area for a total of five years.  Nevertheless, this afternoon we visited Wildpark Pforzheim for the very first time and we both had a blast.

The Wildpark Pforzheim is a really cool park full of wild animals, many of whom are no longer all that wild.  Quite a few animals at the park can be fed zoo feed, which you can purchase at the park.  A few animals can also be petted in the petting zoo.

Amazingly enough, there is no entrance fee for this park.  You just pay for parking– five euros for three hours (ETA: I’m told it’s only two euros on weekdays).  And, if you want to feed the animals, that’s another two euros.  Naturally, there’s also a biergarten.  I think we spent a grand total of 21 euros for parking, one little bucket of food, and a snack of wurst, fries, and beer.  We did pay six euros total as a pfand for the beer glasses, but that was refunded after we returned them.

Anyway… here are some photos I took today, along with some lightweight commentary.  I think this will go down as another great weekend activity, especially if you have kids who love animals.  Dogs are also allowed at the park, as long as they are on a leash (though I did see a couple who weren’t).

This is the entrance to the park.  It’s a surprisingly big place.  Several parking areas are available, but it was still a bit crowded today.

The first thing Bill did was buy some food.  You can buy it at a stand near the biergarten, or at one of the many machines scattered around the park.  The animals that get this food are quite ready for you to offer it to them.


The animals that can be fed will have green signs on their enclosures.

The ones that aren’t allowed to be fed will have red signs.  Be careful with this.  If you get caught feeding animals that aren’t supposed to be fed, you will be stuck with the vet bill and kicked out the park.


Bill being the good provider…

There are cool carvings all over the park.

These two alpacas were very keen to be fed.  They stuck their heads out in an attempt to vacuum some food from my outstretched palm.  

A honey exhibit.  We stopped in on the way out of the park.  They show you how they collect it and sell some products there.

A very friendly creature… followed me eagerly down the fence line begging for food.

This one was not quite as eager.

I love donkeys and they had several lovable ones at the park.

The Highland cow was a little bit tricky.  Basically, the mouth opens, the tongue sticks out, and you dump some food on it.  

In the honey bee exhibit…

There were also a couple of aquariums.


A fish otter… sleek and shiny slips out of the water.

This deer got the last of my food.  She was working it.

So was he!  

A cooperative owl.

Wild cats…

The Wildpark Pforzheim also has a small ropes course, complete with ziplining, rope bridges, and climbing walls.  

I wish I were more athletic.  Parts of this really looked like fun!  

Smaller kids also have lots of activities to occupy them.  I took notice of several play areas for kids under age twelve.  The equipment was very sturdy looking and was well attended by happy children.

Kissing geese.  The animals in this area had signs on their enclosures showing the people sponsoring their care.

Donkeys grooming each other.

These two started butting antlers after I gave them a snack.

I’m not certain, but I think these pacifiers are left by people looking to have kids.  Someone can correct me if I got the wrong idea.  They were over by the chickens.  ETA:  My German friend Susanne has corrected me about the pacifiers.  Here’s her explanation…


LOL – I have to correct you, because you got the wrong idea about the pacifiers.  You even have the answer written on one of your photos. It’s a so called Schnullerbaum. An idea born in Denmark (1920’s). It’s for the children to help them to say goodbye to their pacifier often combined with a nice ceremony. ‘Ich bin jetzt ja schon groß und lasse meinen Schnuller los. Dem Taubenhaus geb ich ihn her, jetzt hab ich keinen Schnuller mehr! Die Tauben haben ihren Spaß: und ich geb jetzt ohne Schnuller Gas! – oder so ähnlich, couldn’t read the whole text because of the pacifiers. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schnullerbaum

Ein Schnullerbaum dient der einfacheren Schnuller-Entwöhnung eines Kleinkinds. Es kann sich sowohl um…

I loved the owls.  They were so majestic!

There was one mini horse…

A good snack for after our walk.  They also had ice cream, soft drinks, and wine.  The nearby bathrooms were clean and ample and there was no Klofrau looking for 50 cents.

Another play area for small kids.  

I do love animals very much, but even I was surprised by how much fun I had interacting with all of them at the Wildpark today.  Most of them were really tame and happy to take food gently.  A few were bonafide hams in front of my camera.

Bill and I were marveling at how many awesome things there are to do in Germany… and how little they cost to do.  I was telling him that in America, it would probably cost $40 a person to attend a place like this, plus parking, overpriced food, and constant encouragement to buy souvenirs.  Also, there would be a lot less animal feeding going on and constant supervision by bored minders.  I love that here in Germany, there are places like the Wildpark where people are trusted not to be stupid… and you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to have a good time.

So… I highly recommend the Wildpark Pforzheim, especially if you have youngsters who love animals.  It’s a really good time!  I think I liked it even more than Monkey Hill.


Alsace and Burgundy… Animal farm and animal parts! pt. 6

I think my favorite part about our stay in Saint Marcelin-de-Cray were the animals on the farm.  I could tell they were all happy and well cared for.  I grew up riding and showing horses, so it was a particular treat to get to hang out with the donkey and horses that live on the property.  The donkey and the nanny goat both stole my heart, but I was especially fond of the donkey (whose name I think was Anton).  If you check the video below, you’ll see why.  I went around and took footage of most of the animals, but the first part of the video is probably the most entertaining.

The sights and sounds were at the farm, while the music is by a wonderful harp guitar player named Stephen Bennett, who used to play during my many dinner shifts at the Trellis Restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia.  I will post a link to the albums the music came from, for those who want to check them out.


This donkey was my best friend!

These two were good sports when Zane and Arran came over to meet them.

Llama parents.

My dogs are not used to seeing livestock, so they barked a lot at the donkey and his Friesian horse friend.  Much to my delight, the donkey cut loose with a sassy response, which I managed to catch.

I loved this friendly goat!

Mama and baby!

Rabbits everywhere!

On our first morning at the farm, we had yet another collision with French culture.  Jean Pierre told us we could leave Zane and Arran alone in the gite if we wanted to, so we took the opportunity to go to the nearby town of Cluny.  Cluny is a very charming place, but we were there for lunch.  We made the mistake of stopping at the very first restaurant we came to that was open.  It was called Brasserie du Nord.

I shouldn’t say it was a bad place, per se.  It really wasn’t.  I did see one person leave a comment on a review in English that only the French could mess up French food.  Things got off to a shaky start when Bill misunderstood the waitress and we ended up ordering two half liters of wine.  An English speaking waiter came over to clarify and we only kept one bottle.  In retrospect, we should have definitely kept them both.

I had entrecote and frites there and they weren’t horrible, although the steak was a bit grisly and fatty.  It was also cooked well-done when I asked for medium.  But at least I wasn’t grossed out by it, which is more than I can say for Bill and his meal.  I hasten to add that it’s not the restaurant’s fault that Bill got grossed out.  You see, he fell victim to not knowing what he ordered.

Bill is a fan of spicy, smoked, cajun style Andouille sausage, which is found in Louisiana and was brought there by French people.  He thought he saw a dish with that sausage in it and was psyched that he’d be getting a treat.  He was a bit puzzled when his lunch came out and it had a very distinctive odor.  Although Bill’s people come from Arkansas and have eaten their share of exotic meats, he had never been faced with what he ordered in France… andouillette.  Andouillette is also sausage, but it’s made of chitterlings.  I should mention that in France, Andouille is also made of chitterlings.  In the USA, it’s made of pork shoulder roast.

I was pretty proud of Bill, though, because he gamely ate most of it.  And he didn’t complain too much, either.  He also ate dessert!

Cluny has a very impressive abbey.

We should have ordered more wine in light of Bill’s lunch.

Andouille… otherwise known as chitterlings.

My steak was not as scary.

Bill’s expression when he realizes what he’s eating.

I think he needed to recover.  Over Bill’s shoulder, you can see a guy wearing a hat.  We saw the same guy two days later eating at the same restaurant.  He’s obviously a very colorful regular.

I had tiramisu for dessert.

Bill had the apple tart of the day.  I think it came with butterscotch ice cream.

If you see this sign in France, take heed before you take the plunge.

Cluny offers a nice diversion.

After lunch, I think we needed to go back to the gite and process things.  So we went back and rested for awhile… and Bill digested his pig intestines along with lots more wine.