Prague Zoo

The Prague zoo has had some pretty exciting news as of late and so we decided to pay it a visit this week. A few weeks ago, a baby elephant was born, making it the first elephant to be both bred and born here. And a little while after, a surprise baby gorilla was born. Surprise  because nobody knew the adult gorilla was pregnant. And yes it would be easy to blame the caretakers for not knowing, but if you factor in the fact that the gorilla was old, had been treated with hormones in the past and was never able to carry a baby to term, it makes it for a highly unlikely event. Alas, the baby was born and is now one of the Prague zoo’s prized possessions. And we just couldn’t pass up all the cuteness.IMG_8963

We decided to go on a work day to try to avoid crowds – and we partially succeeded. When we walked into the zoo, there were only about 3500 people. We immediately made our way up the hill, into the upper portion of the zoo and towards the elephant enclosure. On our way, we stopped by in one of the newer and cooler pavilions – the Indonesian jungle. You walk in and you’re transported into a jungle – you see the monkeys, walk through a path between ponds and around tree trunks. The walk ends with a walk through a darkened “cave” where they have bats flying freely.

Between the Indonesian jungle and the elephant enclosure, we stopped by to see polar bears. First, we saw two, who were just lying there, one using the other as a pillow. We honestly had doubts whether or not they’re alive, but then they shifted slightly. Around the corner was a third polar bear was significantly more active. It was swimming around, then pacing. We were surprised how crazy fast its fur dried.

We then finally made it to the elephants, where it was crazy busy.  We managed to snag a pretty good spot to watch the baby frolic around its mother. It’s still too small to go off on its own, but it definitely wants to. We stayed there quite a while, watching.

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From here, we went across a bridge, towards the giraffes and meerkats. The giraffe viewing area was crowded, so we continued along the path to the meerkat enclosure. It’s open on top and glass all around, so you can see the meerkat’s clearly. Since it’s definitely a favorite of the little kids, the open top makes it nice for adults to look over and see things nicely. We couldn’t tear ourselves away because the most recent additions to the meerkat family were born on April 1st, so they were still tiny and cute. We then slowly made our way back around the giraffes and elephants and stopped by for food.

Right next to the elephant enclosure is a restaurant with outdoor seating. You go up to the counter, order and pay and then carry your food to a designated table. They have a great selection of food, so even we, both picky eaters, were able to chose something. They have european, middle eastern, and typical Czech food. A tip for non-Czech speakers – the boards on top of the counter are written in Czech, but they have english menus near the register, so keep an eye out for those. We got an order of fried cheese and fries (a staple in Czech food establishments) and gyros and were pleasantly surprised at how good both meals were. Finally, if you have more people in your party, decide on your orders and have some people stand in line, while other scout for a table. We were there on a weekday off-season and had trouble finding an open table outside (there were tables inside, but we didn’t want to sit there).

 

FullSizeRender 2Tip # 2: Go for the draft drinks – beer, Kofola or Malinovka (a local raspberry flavored soda).

 

From here, we continued to circle the elephants and make our way towards the lonely big cats in the back. Warning – there are two locations for the big cats, so keep an eye out on where you’re going. The zoo is pretty big so you might have to make choices on what you see and what you skip. We saw the leopards and tiger (which was far) and walked back past the wolves and other animals.

We then took the cableway down and didn’t have to stand in line (since most people prefer to take it up and walk down). It can be a bit daunting if you have a problem with heights, but it’s completely safe.

FullSizeRender 6The lower part of the zoo seems smaller, with everything closer together. We saw monkeys (where we stopped by for quite a bit, watching them climb trees and seeing how far up they can go).

When we finally made it to the big cats, it was feeding time. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t feel too well watching the tiger devour the giant piece of meat he was given. In a separate enclosure was a different tiger, who received food last and you could tell how nervous he was by his fast pacing and general reactions to the people watching him. I normally like big cats, but this was too much – I preferred the snakes and lizards on the other side of the building.

 

 

Because the weather was nice, the lions were in the outside portion of the pavilion. The lion and two lionesses were clearly done with lunch by the time we got there, so they were significantly calmer than the other cats. The lion was asleep and while the lionesses were awake, they were just sitting there, watching the goings on.IMG_9088

After a short break by the lions, we went to the gorilla pavilion, which has a restricted entrance right now because of a recently born baby. One of the gorillas gave birth a couple weeks ago without anyone knowing she had been pregnant (due to old age, past fertility issues and her being overweight). There was a ZOO employee at the entrance, letting in groups of five or so at a time, warning visitors to be quiet and telling everybody to move on if they lingered too long. So we only stayed for a little bit, but still saw the baby and it’s mother, which was adorable.

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From there, we walked through the water world and monkey gardens, where you walk on wooden paths between ponds and see stuff like ducks and flamingos and everything else that lives in or around water. This is great for kids because they can run around and have fun. You can also go inside a small pavilion and see gavials, which were scary looking.

If you have kids, there’s a petting zoo nearby, which we decided to avoid, but it should be worth visiting.

Our last animal viewing stop was for the penguins, which were being their adorable selves. You can watch the time lapse Pav took to see their shenanigans. Unfortunately, the seals weren’t in their enclosure due to cleaning, but normally they’re great to sit down and watch.

 

We were then in desperate need for refreshments, so on our way out, we stopped by a food stand, where we got iced coffee and ice cream, which was a perfect way to end the day. We rested our feet a little, went up to see how many visitors there now were (at that point 6624) and headed out to the bus. Warning! The exit is near the entrance, but not exactly in the same spot, so watch the arrows pointing you there, you can’t leave through the entrance. A great thing is that the buses are outside the zoo, between the entrance and the exit, so you don’t have to walk far.

We definitely had a great day at the Prague zoo and recommend it to anyone who’s visiting Prague, it’s no surprise it’s been ranked 4th best zoo in the world by TripAdvisor.

Final tip: it’s better to take public transportation than to drive to the ZOO, the traffic gets pretty crazy and you have to walk pretty far.

 


READ MORE:

Prague Zoo Time Lapse Video

Czech Traditions: April 30th


Top 10 Castles, Château, and Palaces in Czech Republic

Czech Republic has hundreds and hundreds of castles, chateaus and palaces. Though we haven’t visited all that many of them, here are our 10 favorite castles. Why they are our favorite varies, some are just beautiful and some we have loved since we saw them in fairytales as little kids.

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1. Prague Castle – this is one of the most beautiful places in Czech Republic. If you are going to Czech Republic, then this is a must! For me, summer isn’t quite the same if I haven’t gone up to the Castle at least once. Dating back to the year 880, the Prague castle is one of the oldest and the largest castle in the world. Though the paid tours are definitely worth it, I also just love walking around the castle grounds and through the gardens for free.

 

2. Karlštejn – this is a very popular castle, mostly because of the numerous movies it showed up in and its history. Charles IV, the Holy Roman Emperor, built it in 1348, mostly for his treasures, including the Czech coronation jewels. And eve, though we haven’t been there recently, we have quite a few childhood memories of hiking up the steep hill (that got less steep and shorter as we got older) towards the castle. Best times to visit are around Christmas and Easter with markets and beautiful decorations.

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3. Konopiště – this castle was built as a fortress in the 13th century, but in the 15th century was expanded into a castle and a mansion, that was eventually served as a home of Franz Ferdinand d’Este, who was very fond of this castle. You can still tour his personal quarters and see his extensive collection of trophies around the castle. I’ve visited this castle twice and found it was worth it to go on a tour both times. The interiors are beautiful, and I found myself wishing I could live there :)

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4. Křivoklát – this is one of my personal favorites. Growing up, we would go to Křivoklát at least once a year. Over the past 900 years the castle survived numerous attacks and fires, but always ended up being reconstructed and expanded, into the beautiful structure it is today. Though all of the interiors aren’t furnished, there is definitely a lot to see, like the large library that has 52,000 books. Every time I’m there, I desperately want to spend hours going through all of the books.

 

5. Lednice – the Lednice castle is very fairytale like. I was 11 when I went there on a class trip, so I don’t remember much about my visit, but I do remember being in awe of how beautiful the castle is. The complex doesn’t only include the palace, but a greenhouse and a minaret, which seems to have appeared there out of nowhere. Of course when we climbed the stairs up to the top of the minaret we carefully counted the steps and then compared our numbers, competing for who was the closest to the actual number. It is also quite a young castle, dating only to the late 18th century.

 

6.Bouzov – this is another castle that appeared in various films, mostly Czech fairytales. This medieval castle was built in the 15th century and its still fully furnished, making the tours of the castle even more magical and fairytale like. It’s the place where you can daydream about what it would be like to live in a fairy tale.

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7. Chateau Jemniště – Chateau Jemniště was built in 1381. The history of this palace is long and complex, because the owners changed frequently. Some of the most important owners include Sternberg, Trauttmansdorf and Lobkowicz. Eventually the Germans occupied it during the Second World War and the communist regime nationalized it in 1951. In 1995 it was restored to the Sternberg family, who own it to this day. Since the history of this place is so complex, taking the tour was a very detailed history lesson, mostly of the 19th and 20th For history lovers, like us, this was amazing and so much fun. But then again, we might just be history geeks :)

 

8. Kunětická Hora – This is a 14th century castle was built as a fortress during the Hussite Wars, but it was eventually reconstructed into a large castle that was a very popular social destination in the 15th and 16th Eventually the castle started falling apart, and became too dangerous to stay in. Now it’s mostly just ruins, but you can still visit and climb up to the tower to see the surrounding countryside.

 

9. Chateau Lány – this is the presidential summer palace. Unfortunately this means that entrance into the chateau is not allowed. But it is definitely worth it to go walk around the gardens and checking out the palace at least from the outside.

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10. Červená Lhota – this is a picturesque little chateau, with a beautiful park surrounding it. However, inside it is a little different from other castles and palaces. Instead of gorgeously furnished and decorated rooms, filled with furniture dating back to the renaissance era, this palace is just a state museum. Though this can be interesting, it was a little disappointing when we visited.

 

If you go to Czech Republic, definitely visit these, they are very much worth going to and paying for the tours.



Sources

https://www.hrad.cz/en/prague-castle/prague-castle-tourist-information/visit-of-prague-castle.shtml

http://www.hradkarlstejn.cz/history/

http://www.zamek-konopiste.cz/history/

http://www.krivoklat.cz/

http://www.zamek-lednice.info/en/

http://www.czechtourism.com/c/bouzov-castle/

http://www.jemniste.cz/en/history-of-the-chateau/
http://www.hrad-kunetickahora.cz/