Budapest Zoo

It is almost shameful to say that we have been here almost five years, but have not visited the Zoological Gardens. We remedied this situation today. Some American friends are renting an apartment here in Budapest for a couple of months, so we took them along.

The zoo is located in City Park, just past Heroes Square and to the left. It is one of the oldest zoos in the world, having been completed in 1866. Some of the original buildings are still intact including the welcoming elephant sculptures on either side of the entrance. After visiting so many museums in the city where I was the only visitor or definitely part of a minority, it was jubilant to see the zoo was packed with families.

As a botanical garden, one could not ask for better. The grounds are thick enough with trees, shrubs, and flowers to delight any gardener or anyone dazzled by plants. There is a separate greenhouse with an aquarium that we did not venture into. We were not aware that it required an additional ticket when we purchased our entrance at 1,2oo Huf. Strangely, we were entranced with the greenery and was wondering where they were hiding the animals. We did see a monkey cage, though not much else until we walked further toward the back.

The animals all seem to be well cared for and seem to be in twos. We found two elephants, two giraffes, two rhinos, and the same number of hippos. The rhinos were especially exciting; I had never been so close to one of these glorious creatures. It was possible to reach in and touch the sleeping giant and a small child took advantage of this, but pounding the poor rhinos side. The only response was an ear twitch.

My attention gravitated to the hippos who were hamming it up for the crowd. One stood at the gate with his mouth open while people throw in food bought at the concession for this purpose. After being sufficiently satisfied that it was possible to chew without missing a morsel, he or she did so, and then opened wide for the next revelers to share the goods.

The giraffe was enjoying licking the food right out of the hands of the children who were squealing with delight. Its tongue was incredible long and knowing its natural purpose is to get leaves from tall trees, made the knowledge click.

I did have some concerns about the small spaces the animals had to live in. The elephant house, though beautiful in design, looked dreadfully small when the two elephants wandered in to play with the food provided. If they grew another two feet in height, they would have to stoop to get in the door. Each room was barely spacious enough for one elephant to lie down in, but fortunately, there were two rooms that they could access.

We never did find the great apes, but the polar bears in their new housing were delightful to see. They did not give us the chance to see them underwater in the viewing area. They chose to stay on top and pace back and forth. I do not think this is a good sign in animal psychology.

Our energy waned long before we covered the park. None of us had a good night’s sleep the night before, so we were all dragging. I would definitely return and see more, visit the hippos and rhinos again, and be a financial support for the zoo itself.