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Posts Tagged ‘zoo’

Coming to you from Omaha…

We’re circling back. Going to make a couple more stops, then God willing, back home on Friday. Today I drove across South Dakota once again – but through the northern part of the state, west to east this time. I’d thought about a few different stops along the way, but finally just decided to forge on and do the Big Thing we’d been thinking about the whole time, which was the Omaha Zoo.

*Cue elderly mother doing one more speech on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and the old days of four channels and one nature show*

It’s said to be one of the top zoos in the country – second after San Diego, for some who rate such things. We got there mid-afternoon, and since most of the zoo closes at five, with the enclosed buildings remaining open until 6, we hit the outdoor exhibits first and saved the buildings for last.

What did we know? It made sense at the time. But honestly? We probably could have skipped most of the outdoor exhibits and headed straight to the buildings. It being late afternoon, most of the outdoor animals were sleeping, mostly hidden, and there really wasn’t much we hadn’t seen before. At this point I was thinking, Not so sure about these high ratings…

But then we got the desert building. And then the rainforest. Both were fabulous and well worth the price of admission. Well-designed, interesting, and with several animals we’d never seen before. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to the aquarium, which I’m thinking is probably just as good.

(The gorilla exhibit was fine – but the best of those I’ve seen was at the Atlanta Zoo, by far. Best chimps? Knoxville. They had orangutans in Omaha with a decent habitat, but orangutans in captivity always seem so depressed to me – it depresses me.)

Anyway, we spent as much time as we could in these buildings, but the story really is the bats.

We rushed to the rainforest building, noted a sign telling us there would be a “high level of bat activity,” thought it meant that the bats would be flying around a lot in their enclosure, so sure, fine, when whoosh! right by our heads. A bat. Followed by another and another – and we looked up – and there they were – everywhere. Clinging to the walls right beside us, swirling about, sweeping through the passageways – astonishing. I suppose they are “out” all the time, but of course, sleep all day – and we arrived at 5:30, just as they were awakening and starting to feast. It was fascinating – a bit daunting, but I trust the zoo to not be unleashing any danger on my head, so I was fine – I can imagine, though, someone being really terrified by this, and maybe even in these lawsuit-happy-days – moved to action. Which is why we were…surprised at the vagueness of the “warning” contrasted with the quite intense activity of the bats all around us. At one point we went to the lower level to walk on the “trail” on the “rainforest” floor. There was a woman sitting on a bench outside. She swept her hand over her hair, scowled and said, “I hope you like bats.”

I’m guessing she…didn’t.

If you’d like to see video of the spectacle, go visit my Instagram page. Phew!

 

 

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Today was Innsbruck day.  My daughter was working, and she’s already been once, so it was good day for us to go.

We originally thought we’d take the bus.  Daughter said it was cheap, faster than the train and there was free wi-fi.  But when I finally got around to looking up tickets, the soonest we could leave was noon.  It turned out that the train, while a little longer (about 80 minutes) was just a euro more expensive total, round trip for us.

So, after returning the rental car…

(what preceded returning said rental car? Well….getting car out of the overnight parking lot under a grocery store down the street, taking daughter to her workplace/residence, remembering…”OH! GAS!”…finding a gas station, figuring out the pump and what kind of gas, filling up, returning the car, walking back to the apartment, grabbing breakfast pastries….all by 9 am)

….we walked to the train station, bought tickets, found our train at the platform, and settled in.

So what to do in Innsbruck?

Yes, there are a few things to do – there are historic sites, nice churches, Olympics things (although the ski jump is closed for the season…not that we’d jump, but I guess you can go see it and maybe there’s a museum) and an Old Town section…the first thing on our docket was…

…the zoo.

I’d read about it last night, but not mentally committed to it until we pulled into Innsbruck.  I’d not mentioned it to anyone, either, until someone finally asked, “Hey.  What are we going to do in Innsbruck, anyway?”

So yes, there’s the difference between traveling with kids and without.  I just felt, at that moment, for that afternoon, the leg-stretching and freedom afforded by a zoo visit was important.

It’s the Alpenzoo, and it’s fairly interesting, the population being composed only of Alpine animals.  Plus, it’s built on the side of a mountain, lending not only authenticity, but…exercise.

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The views were spectacular.

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The structure to the left-center – the large cobra-like thing? The Olympic ski jump (1964 & 1976)

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You can get there any number of ways. It’s not far from the city, so you can certainly walk it, especially in this part of the world where people out for an evening stroll do so with walking sticks in hand. You can take the bus, but you can also take the funicular – so we did.

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The funicular station as seen from the zoo entrance.

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The funicular descending.

(The funicular continues up to the top of this mountain, and we considered doing that, but by the time we finished at the zoo, it was 3pm, we’d already done the Zugspitze anyway, so…nah.)

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(Not shown: a lynx up in a tree, wolves, a bear, beavers, bison, otters, various other mountain goat creatures and lots of birds, newts, salamanders and such. Marmosets were hibernating.)

For the rest of our time, we strolled around the Christkindl Markets – Innsbruck has several, spread through the Old Town. The boys ate schnitzel, I had a cup of guhlwein, we walked.

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I was intrigued by the juxtaposition of imagery…the Blessed Virgin , a steak house and Geox…

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Part of the town was decorated with these rather odd, sometimes creepy and crudely-made fairy and folk-tale reliefs.  Along with light projections.

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It’s a great atmosphere, although about 99% secular. I also learned that my expectations of finding unique hand-made items at a Christmas market were, at least in this case…way off.

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But if I was looking for a cannoli-like thing almost as big as my head…they had me covered.

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