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  Some people seem to think this zoo is outdated and poorly maintained.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!


Ribeauville… AGAIN! Part 3… Primates with personality, French dining, and Sunday shopping!

On Sunday morning, I told Bill I really wanted to visit Kaysersberg, which is rumored to be a beautiful town as well as the birthplace of Albert Schweizer.  I also wanted to go to Montagne des Signes, which is basically Alsace’s version of Monkey Hill.

As many readers may know, Germany has Affenberg-Salem, which is a place where visitors can feed free roaming monkeys popcorn.  Bill and I went to Monkey Hill last year and had a great time, so I wanted to see the French version.  Montagne des Singes is in Kintzheim, which is in the opposite direction of Kaysersberg.  Since there are specific opening hours for Montagne des Singes, I was thinking maybe we could visit the pretty town of Schweitzer’s birth later in the afternoon.  Bill was up for it, so off we went.

I didn’t realize that Kintzheim also has an eagle park, which mostly gets good ratings on Google and Trip Advisor.  It didn’t open until 1:30pm, so we decided to see the monkeys, have lunch, and then maybe go see the eagle park.  We managed to make one plan work out.  Oh well.  We can always visit Alsace again.  Below are some photos I took at Montage des Singes, which doesn’t take a lot of time to visit, but really is a lot of fun, especially if you have kids.

This park is only open from March until November.  We usually visit Alsace during the off season, so this was the first time we were in the area when it was working and we were staying longer than a night.  I’m glad we stopped in for a visit, although I probably don’t need to visit the monkey park again.  One other thing to know– during the tourist season, a lot of places on the Alsatian wine route are open on Sundays.  That means you can go shopping if you want to.  During our previous visits, we’ve been during the short off season, when it’s more like being in Germany on Sunday.

Kintzheim is also a very pretty town.


Montagne des Singes has a very large, free parking lot.  There’s also a snack bar, free toilets, and a playground for kids.

Map of the complex.

Entrance into the park.  It costs 9 euros per adult, while children from ages 5 to 15 cost 5,50 euros.  Children under five get in free of charge.  I saw a lot of people with very little kids with them, having a ball.  Like Monkey Hill in Affenberg-Salem, Montagne des Signes has Barbary Macque monkeys.  In many ways, this park is very much like the one in Germany, except it seemed smaller and lacked a lake.

At various times during the day, they have demonstrations.  We heard one in German.  Quite a number of the young people working there were trilingual– French, English, and German speakers.

Same signs that are at Monkey Hill…  Incidentally, my German friend explains that this park was founded and is owned by the same guy who founded the one in Affenberg-Salem, Baron Gilbert de Turckheim.  There is also another park in France and one in England.

Off we go to pick up our very small handfuls of popcorn.  

Some of the monkeys were very charming and flat out posed for the cameras.

Bill feeds one of the residents.  It’s like giving candy to an exceptionally calm toddler.

I got a kick out of this monkey… I like to hang around this way, too.  Especially when I’m naked.

These two monkeys by the exit were taking advantage of all of the people who rationed their popcorn and had leftovers.  If you wanted to, you could go through the park again.  It doesn’t take very long.  I think our visit was only about an hour.

Another primate with personality.

More monkey pictures appear at the end of this post.

After we visited the monkey park, we decided to have lunch in Kintzheim.  There are several restaurants there.  We chose to dine at Hotel Restaurant Jenny, not just because Jenny is my name.  They had a rather extensive menu posted outside of their terrace, but when we sat down, we were given a very limited menu.  However, all of the dishes we saw yesterday looked good and we had no complaints about what we ordered.

I talked Bill into Riesling.  We shared a split.

A sign bearing my name.

I went with the asparagus with Black Forest ham and dried ham.

It came with two sauces.  One was Hollandaise with lots of dill.  The other, I couldn’t tell you the name of, although it tasted fine.  Both were mildly flavored.  I preferred the Hollandaise, although it wasn’t like any I’d had before.  It was more like mayonnaise.  I don’t like drowning my food in a lot of condiments, so this kind of went to waste.

I was especially pleased with the dried ham, though.  It was very good.

Bill had jambonneau with cheese sauce.  Basically, it was like a pork knuckle that had been boiled instead of roasted or baked.  The inside of it was very moist and tender, although the outside was less appetizing.  I think Bill and I both like our pork knuckles with cracklins.  

I couldn’t resist dessert.  I saw a bunch of really enticing ones coming out to the terrace.  I went with a chocolate Charlotte, with is basically chocolate mousse surrounded by ladyfingers.  It was served with vanilla sauce, whipped cream, and toasted almonds.  I liked it because it wasn’t too much.


While we were waiting for lunch, I looked up the eagle park and was rather put off by some of the negative reviews of the place.  While most people seem to think it’s a great place to see eagles, I was reminded that these magnificent birds of prey are basically kept on short leashes until it’s time for them to perform.  I understand that this is how it’s done with these types of shows, but figured it might be depressing.  So we skipped it and headed back to the apartment, so the boys could have a break.

Besides… the clouds were starting to roll in…  If we had gone to the eagle park, we would have been caught in the rain.  By the time we got back to nearby Ribeauville, there was a steady downpour.

Pretty Bergheim, which is very close to Ribeauville and quite attractive.  There’s a lot to do in Alsace, which makes it a great place to go for a quick weekend out of the Stuttgart area.  It’s only a couple of hours away, yet you could come back several times and not do the same things twice.  

We took it easy for the rest of the afternoon and enjoyed the bottle of sparkling wine our host, Yannick, left for us.  Although this time, we rented one of his tiny studio apartments, we didn’t really want for anything, except a little peace and quiet.  There was a group of German ladies at the wine house who were very nice, but kind of loud.  However, they didn’t stay up until an unreasonable hour and were very nice about Zane and Arran, so I can’t complain too much.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Yannick’s wine house would be really great if you had a family reunion or a big group and wanted to rent the whole thing.  It’s very convenient and he’s a great landlord.  In fact, he just texted me from the hospital, where his poor wife has been since Friday, trying to have a baby!  I’m sending them birthing vibes!

For dinner, we decided to eat at Chez Martine.  We ate there the first time we visited Ribeauville and I remembered how good the Quiche Lorraine was.  And even though I also had quiche on Saturday, I say one can’t have too much quiche in one’s life.  It turned out to be an excellent decision.  Our waitress was absolutely charming and sweet and the food was outstanding.  Bill had Chez Martine’s version of the dish I’d had on Friday at Restaurant du Mouton and it was vastly superior.

Last night’s wine.  Bill decided to try something different.  This grape didn’t thrill me because I like my whites crisp and this tasted a little flat.  But it was a change from Riesling, so that wasn’t a bad thing.

Bill had potato pancakes with smoked salmon and a salad.  His potato pancakes weren’t burnt like one of mine was when we ate at Hotel du Mouton.  I love that they serve the dressing on the side, too.  That dressing is a delightfully light and creamy Dijon mustard based creation.

That Quiche Lorraine was outstanding.  It was priced at about five euros more than what we were charged at Brasserie de La Poste next door, but it was also vastly superior in quality.  It was perfectly seasoned, generously proportioned, and piping hot.  I think Chez Martine serves the best quiche in Ribeauville.  

For dessert, we split a piece of cheesecake.  It was very simple, not too heavy, and not too sweet.  And we also had espresso.  Total bill came to a little over sixty euros.


The dogs were surprisingly well behaved this time, although Zane did let out an ear splitting yelp when Bill took him out to pee at 5:00am.  But it was just one yelp and this time, no one yelled at Bill in French.  We had a quick breakfast and cleared out of the apartment at 9:30am.  Yannick’s key box system makes it very easy to check in and out.  As I mentioned before, he was busy with his family this time, so we didn’t get to see him.

As long as we’re living in the Stuttgart area, I have no doubt we’ll be back.  Alsace is so easy and pleasant to visit.  I still can’t believe we really didn’t explore it the first time we lived in Germany.  I know we have to visit one more time, if only so I can finally see Kaysersberg.

One more Black Forest photo on the way home.  We took a different route that was less confusing, but slightly less scenic.

Below are some photos of the monkeys I took with my digital camera.

Another touching family moment.  One thing I did notice over Montagne des Signes is that it was less structured.  When we visited the one in Germany, we got a long spiel about the rules.  This time, the spiel was shorter and the overall experience seemed to be both more laid back and less crowded.  I’d say it’s worth a visit if you like animal parks, especially if you have small children.


I found my thrill at Monkey Hill– Affenberg Salem

Bill made friends with a monkey today!

Sometimes I see people suggesting fun activities for people with kids.  Then I feel sad because I don’t have kids, even though I am a big kid myself.  I kept seeing people referring to a place called Monkey Hill down near the Bodensee and commenting on how much fun it is to visit there and feed monkeys.  It sounded like something I’d love, even though I don’t have any wee ones.  Luckily, I have a very indulgent husband.

Although the weather was a little chilly this morning and there were clouds in the sky, we decided we were going to go see some primates come hell or high water.  We left the house at about 11:30am and headed down 81.  After driving past the lake and through a few quaint towns, we arrived at Affenberg Salem at a couple of minutes past one o’clock.  The parking lot was full of cars.  Some guy gave us a dirty look because Bill accidentally turned a way he wasn’t supposed to.  I returned the dirty look and laughed hysterically when the guy saw me glaring at him and reacted with surprise.

You gotta finish your smokes, food, and drinks before you enter.

We found a parking spot and paid nine euros each for admission.  Then we set off into the park, where ducks, swans, fish, water bats, and other water fowl cavort in a large lake.  Not having been to Monkey Hill before, I wasn’t sure when we’d be seeing the monkeys, but I had a good time feeding the huge fish with the free food provided.

One handful, please!

Loads of huge carp in this lake.

Feeding frenzy!

Stork nests are everywhere!

They have bats, too.

I was getting a kick out of the territorial swans.

Ever present rapeseed will soon turn my nose into a faucet.


As we approached the area where the monkeys were, a lady announced the rules in German.  Somehow she knew we weren’t German and offered us a book with the rules translated in English.  It was good to read them, since the monkeys are smart and engaging with them improperly can lead to disaster.  She said her trusty book had the rules translated into about 30 languages.  I guess they get people from all over the place, although I didn’t think the park was super commercial the way Apenheul in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands was.  Although Apenheul is larger and has more types of monkeys than Monkey Hill does, it’s also more expensive and not as interactive.  Apenheul felt more like a theme park.

The signage in the park is translated into German, French, and English.  They also use a lot of illustrations.  

This dude was sitting at the beginning of the route.  I guess he was the boss.  He got a lot of attention.

These monkeys were all sitting on the route, waiting for people to hand them pieces of the free popcorn the handlers pass out.  When you give it to them, they take it very gently.  I felt like I was handing popcorn to a small child.  

Touching family portrait.

Spot the monkey in the photo!

It’s not a bad life.

This was an interesting graphic showing everybody typical monkey behaviors.  Bill got a kick out of #9.

I had only one piece of popcorn left.  It was small and one of the employees told me in German, then English, that the monkeys don’t like the small pieces.  Oh well.  If you visit, I recommend rationing your popcorn.  You will run into monkeys along the trail who will be hoping for a treat and aren’t at the top of the pecking order.  Also, if you understand German, you can stop and listen to the keepers talk about the care and feeding of the monkeys.  I found myself understanding snippets of things I heard.  It reminded me of tuning in to a staticky radio station.  I’d catch bits and pieces of things and the rest was all distorted.

Welcome to the Monkey House.

I didn’t see any snakes.  I’m glad.

There are deer here, living a nice lifestyle.

So many storks!

After you stroll around the monkey park, you can stop by the biergarten for lunch.  There are brats, schnitzels, pretzels, cakes, and all manner of beverages.  There’s also a play area for kids aged 3 to 12.

I was intrigued by the trees.

Parking and bathrooms are free of charge, too!


We had a great time at Monkey Hill, though we didn’t spend too long there.  They have a few indoor activities to include a film room.  There’s also a large gift shop, though we skipped it.  Obviously, this activity is very popular with kids and we saw a lot of them today, although it’s also fun for big kids.  I did see some people with strollers, too, though I don’t think you’re supposed to take them into the monkey enclosure.  This activity doesn’t have to take long, either.  We were there for less than two hours, although we could have taken more time to enjoy the park.  Afterwards, if you’re not ready to head back to Stuttgart, you can always go check out the lake.  Monkey Hill is very close to the Bodensee.

It was fairly crowded today; I imagine it gets packed in warm weather.  The park is a great activity for Sundays and holidays.  Below is a video I took of some monkeys playing.  I could have stood there all day and filmed their antics.

These monkeys were a lot of fun!