Animals and mazes in Vienna

My brother left this morning,  so now I can get back to my regular blogging. I’m so behind on the things I wanted to write about! So now I shall go back in time to the end of June and continue where I left off with Vienna…

On our second to last day in Vienna, we decided to head to the Schönbrunn area. Schönbrunn is the name of the palace, but that wasn’t what we wanted to see! Our first stop was the zoo, called Tiergarten Schönbrunn (Tiergarten is an alternative German word for zoo, and literally means animal garden). It’s the oldest zoo in the world that’s still open, having started as an imperial menagier in 1752, and as far as zoos go, it’s a really nice one. They have both red and giant pandas, rhinos and, most excitingly, a tropical forest house with flying foxes! Also known as megabats, these are right up there among my favourite animals ever! Those of you who don’t like the idea of animals being locked away in cages should look away now. For the rest of you, here are some animals to admire. Our first stop involved reptiles and sea creatures.

I spent ages standing in front of a giant fish tank trying to get a photo of one specific fish. Eventually Jan managed to get one for me. It’s not the best of photos cos that damn fish was fast and also seemed to be the only one of its kind (there were millions of the plain yellow ones), which meant catching it while it was actually in sight was difficult, but hopefully you’ll be able to see why I was so excited by it… (hint: I’m not talking about the blue fish!)

Vienna

Not sure whether you can tell, but the fish in the middle has a yellow body with a red and black striped fin. I have no idea what kind of fish it really is, but it doesn’t matter – to me, it will forever be Germany fish!

After leaving the acquarium/reptile area, we wandered around looking at some of the animals who were in their outdoor areas. There were various babies among them, including elephants, a young giant panda and even baby mongeese! Also, if you click on the flamingo picture to make it bigger, you should be able to spot some young (not really baby any more) flamingos. They fascinated me because I had never seen a flamingo that wasn’t fully grown (and pink!) yet.

Next stop: Tropical house. It was warm in there… and humid (well duh!). There was even a sign outside warning people of that. It was well worth it though, because flying foxes! (Flughunde in German – literally flying dogs). I’d never seen one before, and now I want to see one up close. Way too cool! There were also various tropical birds in there and some cool frogs – some of them were so shiny they looked almost plastic!

After leaving the tropical bit, there was a kind og walk through the woods over bridges. Below the bridges there was a huge crater, which the information said was from where a bomb had hit the zoo during World War 2! Then, in the wooded area after the bridges, came bees! Mostly there was just a huge information board explaining the lifecycle of bees, how a bee hive works, etc. The actual hives were mainly behind in an area you couldn’t get to, but in some places there were glass panels where you could see in. It was incredibly difficult to take a photo of the bees, but I tried! And I then also had to take a photo of one of the items in the small play area nearby, because that too was a bee! I may have got a little overexcited…

Just past the bees, we came past a little girl and (presumably) her grandfather. Grandad was reading while the little girl stood near him with a bag of buts. As we went by, we saw a squirrel come running up to the girl, whol held out a nut. The squirrel then took said nut right from her hand before running back into the trees to bury it, then running back, getting a new nut and burying that one in a different place. Watching the squirrel and attempting to get photos must have kept us occupied for a good five minutes!

Vienna

Fiiinally moving on, we ended our trip to the zoo with a visit to the penguins and the polar bears.

After the zoo, we stayed in the Schönbrunn area. I had seen on the map that there was a section of the grounds labelled “Mazes and labyrinths” and I really wanted to go and check them out! First up was a simple maze where you just had to find a viewing platform. There were two entrances next to each other, so Jan and I decided to take an entrance each and see who could find the platform first. I won! 😉

Maze

Next was a labyrinth containing various activities (for want of a better word)… a square of rectangles that could be stood on to make music, a kind of pump to spray water and a kaleidoscope of mirrors. A second labyrinth had a pole with a bell a top (which I failed to climb) and a mathematical puzzle that kept us occupied for far too long! At only €3.50 for an adult it was certainly worth the entrance fee 🙂

The ultimate mirror selfie!
The ultimate mirror selfie!

We were forced to leave the maths puzzle unfinished when it was time to leave (well, we managed the simple version at least…), so we headed into town to watch the Germany vs USA match. Then we decided to have dinner at a place that our Dialog im Dunkeln guide had recommended – Jonathan and Sieglinde. Everything on the menu involves Äpfel or Erdäpfel – apples or potatoes (Erdapfel, literally earth apple, being the Austrian word for potato). Since potatoes are one of my absolute favourite meals, this was right up my street! I chose the baked potato with a spinach sauce, and it was positively green! Jan went for potato and wild garlic pancakes. I tried a bit of one, and let me tell you it was delicious! Of course, we both had to drink fresh apple juice. There were so many tasty looking things on the menu… if I’m ever back in Vienna I definitely have to go there again!

And thus concludes our penultimate day in Vienna, and my June 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge.

Amnéville Zoo, take 2

My first trip to Amnéville Zoo was in May 2011 (you can read about that here) and I’ve been meaning to go again ever since… four hours just wasn’t long enough to take it all in! So we decided to take the opportunity that the four-day Easter weekend provided and go there again, this time for an entire day. We had also wanted to take our frind, K, along with us knowing she would love the falconry display as much as I did, so having checked that she had time, the date was set. With a two-and-a-half hour drive to get there, we needed to be on the road early, but the day was well worth the 6:30 a.m. wake up call (and the 32 euro entrance fee)! Apart from the falconry show, there weren’t any specific exhibitions we wanted to see, so we chose to just wander and see which animals we came across. Here are some photos from the morning and early afternoon, which included the petting zoo and reptiles, among other things. How adorable is the baby orangutan?

Once again, the falconry display alone would have been worth the drive. I’m not sure what the angel of death/birdman/giant crow thing was supposed to represent (that part didn’t happen last time and the talking was all in French!), but the actual birds were impressive. I don’t need to understand the explanations to appreciate a good flying display!

Birds of prey done, it was time for gorillas, various cat-shaped animals, red pandas (there’s were bigger than the ones in Karlsruhe) an ice cream stop and finally the African plain, home of elephants and zebras and white rhinos (most of which I have no pictures of because my camera battery died…).

Once we’d seen everything, we stopped at a Buffalo Grill on the other side of the carpark for dinner. I had a country burger, which was basically a cheese burger with giant round hash browns instead of a bread bun – delicious! I would have taken a photo, but I was too busy demolishing it! The blue cheese dip was also incredibly tasty. Then we piled back into the car for the drive home, a good time having been had by all.

I am counting Amnéville Zoo as my April 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge. For more trips, follow the #take12trips hashtag on Twitter

Travel theme: Play

As soon as I saw this week’s travel theme on Where’s My Backpack, I knew I wanted to join in. The theme is Play… what could be more fun than that?

The first thing that came to mind when I read the title of the theme was playing games. Then I remembered this photo that I took right here in Karlsruhe a few years ago:

Flying frisbee
Flying frisbee

A few people from the student residence I was living in were throwing a frisbee around and I managed to get a shot of it in mid-air. Not bad, even if I do say so myself 😉

My next photo shows a different type of game… Rugby! Jan wanted to attend a rugby match, so my dad bought us tickets for Newcastle Falcons vs Worcester Warriers on 27 December 2008. The game was fairly disappointing, ending in a draw, but at least he can say he went! If you look closely at the photo, you’ll notice the ball on its way between the posts. A conversion for the Falcons!

Rugby

Of course, games aren’t the only thing that can be played. How about instruments? Here’s KT Tunstall playing in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh on 1 January 2011.

KT Tunstall and band
KT Tunstall and band

And finally… humans are not the only creatures who like to play. I took this picture at Karlsruhe zoo last year:

Looks like somebody found himself something to play with...
Looks like somebody found himself something to play with…

Cute, isn’t it?

The weekly travel theme is open to submissions until Thursday. To join in and see how other people have interpreted the theme of “Play”, go to Ailsa’s blog post.

Weekend fun

I have more to tell you about Berlin, but the photos are taking ages to sort, so for now I shall tell you about my weekend instead.

Yesterday my friend brought her Wii round and a few of us had a games night. We invited my downstairs neighbour over so we couldn’t disturb anyone and did Just Dance. It was a lot of fun but sooo exhausting! And I can really feel my thighs today! At least I can definitely say I got my exercise this weekend! Photos do exist, but they will not be finding their way on to this blog ever.

Today, the sun was shining, so after watching Newcastle United lose horribly in a football match against their local rivals (I wish I’d stayed in bed!!), Jan and I headed out to look for signs that Spring has finally sprung. We found them in the form of blossoms… finally here a month later than usual!

Spring tree

My new shoes finally got their chance to go outside! Hopefully this is the start of this year’s good weather and I won’t have to get my winter boots back out again!

Polkadot shoes

Our yearly passes for the zoo ran out a week ago, so we decided to go and renew them, and pop in to the zoo while we were at it. We got to see the new baby giraffe! Very cute.

Baby giraffeWe also went to visit the alpacas, but they were too busy eating grass to pay any attention to us.

Alpaca

Walking round zoos is thirsty work, so we decided to head to a cafe and have an iced chocolate (well, I did. Jan had some yoghurty fruit thing).

DSCN2974

Then it was time to head home for our tea (or dinner, if you prefer), which is currently cooking. Meanwhile, I’m off to watch The Big Bang Theory.

Autumn days

I’ve been meaning to show you some of the photos I’ve taken recently, but somehow time has been getting away from me and other topics to post about kept cropping up, leaving my poor blog devoid of autumn colours (and now winter is approaching!).

Here are some of the photos I’ve taken over the past few months.
Home made beef and pumpkin stew. There’s nothing like it on a rainy autumn day!


An autumny tree in Mannheim.


The sun goes down so early these days.


I love how there’s just a little bit of red in amongst all the green.


Penguins at Karlsruhe zoo.


Beautiful leaves!

That’s all. I hope you like them.

A surprise and a concert

Hello!
Did you all have a good weekend? I did, but it was very busy, which meant I spent most of today trying not to fall asleep at work and wishing I could just go home already.

We had tickets to a concert on Saturday evening, after which a friend was planning on staying over, and Jan had been telling me all week to keep the afternoon free because there was something he really, really wanted to show me at the Natural History Museum, which was having an open day. The thing at the museum (at this point I had no idea what it was!) was starting at 4 p.m. and the concert was at 8, so I thought I had better prepare some food before hand in case there wasn’t time for cooking in between the museum and the concert. I decided to make a Couscous herb and fruit salad from the BBC food website which I’ve done twice before and was a hit both time. And I bought some chicken breasts for us to quickly cook and season to go with them.

I finished preparing the salad at 3 o’clock and my friend’s tram arrived at 3:07. Perfect timing! The three of then had a cup of tea together before heading off the the Naturkundemuseum where we found…. hedgehogs! To be specific, a presentation on hedgehogs which was followed by the listeners getting to stroke the hedgehogs that had come to visit. They were so cute! One of them was just born in August. He’s still a baby… awww! And no, I didn’t get prickled (as someone on Facebook asked me). So, that was my surprise… and now I really want a hedgehog! Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a photo of any of the hedgehogs (the one I was closest to was being held against a woman’s breast… somehow I don’t think she would have appreciated me whipping a camera out!), so here’s one from the Internet instead. I do love their little faces 😀

A young Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus). Espera...
A young Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus).(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the museum, it was off back to my flat for food, then we had to head to Europahalle for the concert. We went to see the Wise Guys, who are a German a capella group who do some serious but mostly funny songs. In German, unfortunately, so most of you won’t understand but here is one for the German speakers amongst you. It’s called Denglisch, and is about how English (and pseduo-English!) expressions are taking over the German language.

I hope it works ok. This computer doesn’t actually have any sound at the moment…

My ex-colleague had come from Luxembourg for the concert (it was actually her that suggested Jan and I go too, seeing as we live in Karlsruhe!) and it was lovely to see her. The concert was really good as well – the Wise Guys are very talented and the songs were pretty funny. I didn’t understand everything, of course, but enough to have a good time.

On Sunday morning we met up with my ex-colleague and her friends again for breakfast – which involved me getting up at 7:30 a.m! Suddenly today’s tiredness doesn’t seem so surprising. We went to a place called Cafe Palaver, which is fabulous. The food is always really good and reasonably priced as well, for example 2 croissants with butter and a little pot of jam costs €4. Highly recommended if you’re ever in Karlsruhe!

After breakfast, the rest of the group had to head for the train station so Jan and I decided to go to the zoo (we have annual passes). We knew the snow leopards had had babies a few months ago, so we were looking forward to seeing the kittens (I think that’s what baby snow leopards are…), but we also discovered another new addition to the zoo. I want to visit the meerkats, because I think they’re great, and two enclosures down we discovered these guys:

Otters! They were so playful and kept looking up at the people watching them and squeaking, almost as if they were trying to communicate. They were probably saying “go away and let us play in peace!”. We then had an hour at home before K came over and we headed off to Mosbach to see another friend perform with her choir, but I’ll write about that in a separate post I think. I have photos to show you of the town (it’s very pretty!) and this post is already long enough…

Things to do when you’re bored

My stats are telling me that those people that aren’t enquiring about Joachim Loew (please can someone explain to me what the obsession is?) mostly find my blog via Google searches for things like “I am bored”, “I’m getting bored” or “so bored now”. Unfortunately my blog isn’t very interesting, so all these poor bored Googlers probably went away feeling even worse than when they’d started. But just in case any of them does decide to stop for long enough to actually read something on my blog I thought I’d compile a list of things to do when you’re bored.

  1. Read a book. If you’re not normally much of a reader try getting hold of a book that a film you like was based on. The books are almost always as good if not better than the film. Stephen King’s The Green Mile for example is an excellent book, and one of the few I’ve read where the film actually stuck to the plot. If you’re female and enjoyed the film Beaches, see if you can get hold of the book by Iris Rainer Dart. Much, much, much better than the film.
  2. Go somewhere. If you have a bike go for ride, otherwise take a walk. Even in the smallest of villages there’s always somewhere you can walk. Take your mp3 player with you if you like and listen to your favourite music while breathing in the fresh air. Maybe you’ll find something else to do on your travels – a football game you can join in or a new shop to look in. You won’t be bored anymore and you’ll be getting some exercise. Double bonus!
  3. If you can afford it, try getting on the train or bus and going somewhere new for a day trip. You could even go by car if you have one. Take a trip to a nearby town that you’ve nevr been to before, take a look around and see what’s there. Or go to the zoo or sealife centre. Always fun, no matter what your age.
  4. Learn a new language. There are plenty of websites where you can learn the basics for free. To start you off here’s the URL for the BBC languages website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/
    If you don’t feel like learning one language properly try learning four words in a few languages: Hello, goodbye, please, thank you. Brilliant for impressing the locals on your next holiday! They’ll be so much more friendly if you can thank them in their own language…
  5. If you’re not interested languages there are plenty of other skills out there waiting for you to discover them. You could learn to knit, or the art of paper folding or even teach yourself to play an instrument. The possibilities are endless.
  6. Start a blog. Write about whatever comes into your head. Before you know it loads of time will have passed.
  7. Bake a cake. Always fun, and you get to eat it afterwards. The only part that isn’t so fun is cleaning up the mess you make…
  8. Write a letter. It’s all about e-mails these days and hardly anyone sends proper post anymore. Sending snail mail is guaranteed to brighten up someone’s day as well as making you feel less bored.
  9. Play a game. A board game or a card game. Get your whole family to join in. Games nights are a lot of fun.
  10. Take an Open University course. They have so many there’s sure to be something you’ll like!
  11. Go out ans get some exercise. Join a gym or a football club. Take salsa lessons. Go jogging or take up yoga. There’s bound to be some kind of sporting activity you’ll like doing.
  12. If you really can’t think of anything better to do watch a DVD or play a computer game.
  13. Take a nap. You can’t be bored when you’re sleeping…

That’s all for now. I’m sure there are many more things I do when I’m bored, but right now I can’t think of them. If anyone else has any suggestions feel free to leave them in my comments. Maybe the next time a bored person stumbles across my blog they’ll find something more interesting to do than telling Google how bored they are…