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LaughingDove's Trip - March-April 2015-Poland, Czech Rep., Slovakia, Austria, Hungary

Discussion in 'Europe - General' started by LaughingDove, 15 Mar 2015.

  1. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    In just over two weeks, I will be embarking on a trip south from Warsaw by car. I will be stopping six times in five countries (this being the reason that I haven’t put it in a particular country forum) which as shown in the title will be Poland (Wroclaw), Czech Republic (Dvur Kralove and Ostrava), Slovakia (Demänovská Dolina which is in the Tatra Mountains), Hungary (Budapest) and Austria (Vienna). Below is a basic itinerary (all hotels have been booked so not changeable and in the end not my decision but partly my family’s):

    Sunday 29th March: Drive Warsaw to Ostrava (Czech Republic), evening in Ostrava
    Staying night in Ostrava
    Monday 30th March: Day in Ostrava (Probably Ostrava zoo visit)
    Staying night in Ostrava
    Tuesday 31st March: Leave Ostrava in the Morning drive to Demänovská Dolina (Slovakia), evening in Demänovská Dolina
    Staying night in Demänovská Dolina
    Wednesday 1st April: Day in Demänovská Dolina, aim to do some birding
    Staying night in Demänovská Dolina
    Thursday 2nd April: Leave Demänovská Dolina in the morning drive to Budapest (Hungary), evening in Budapest
    Staying night in Budapest
    Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th April: Day in Budapest, probable visit to Budapest zoo one day and possibly Lake Balaton the other (or is there something better to do?)
    Two more nights in Budapest
    Sunday 5th April: Leave Budapest, drive to Vienna (Austria)
    Night in Vienna
    Monday 6th April: Day in Vienna, probably visiting Tiergarten Schönbrunn
    Night in Vienna
    Tuesday 7th April: Leave Vienna, drive to Dvur Kralove (Czech Republic)
    Staying night in http://www.hotelsafari.cz/en/ within Dvur Kralove Zoo
    Wednesday 8th April: Day in Dvur Kralove (I think the only thing there is the zoo?)
    Staying night in http://www.hotelsafari.cz/en/ within Dvur Kralove Zoo
    Thursday 9th April: Leave Dvur Kralove and drive to Wroclaw
    Staying in Wroclaw
    Friday 10th April: Do Wroclaw Zoo in the morning and afternoon then drive back to Warsaw and get back to Warsaw late that evening

    So, quite a packed schedule, as an overview the zoos I plan to zoo are Ostrava (Czech), Budapest (Hungray), Tiergarten Schönbrunn (Austria), Dvur Kralove (Czech) and Wroclaw (Poland). Any advice on how to do these zoos, any things that are easily missed or really anything that you thing would possibly be useful would be gratefully appreciated. Also, if there are any interesting things that you know of around those zoos for the non-zoo people in my family then I would appreciate it. I would also appreciate any information about things to do in the Slovakian side of the Tatra Mountains, particularly bird or mammal watching.

    I plan to write about what I do in the trip and opinions about the zoos in this thread so I look forward to any ideas and advice.

    :)
     
  2. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    Disregard the Northern White Rhinoceros at Dvur at your peril, and lifelong regret :p
     
  3. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    It had better last for the next 24 days!!!
     
  4. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    If it does not, I will feel your pain - albeit by a slightly wider margin; the last Baikal Seal at Leipzig died between the booking of my trip to Berlin et al, and the trip itself.
     
  5. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Think positively, TLD. Positive! (At least with the Baikal Seal you still have a chance to see one or even one coming back to Europe but with the Northern white rhino....)
     
  6. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Sounds like a great trip LaughingDove! I have been to Wroclaw and Vienna zoos, but not the others. They were both fairly straightforward to explore, I don;t think there was any hidden things especially in either, although Wroclaw especially is a mission to get around to everything in a day - you've got to keep moving there. Let us know what you think of all five though!
     
  7. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    Nice tour.

    Is there? Lots! You can visit one of Budapest's famous thermal baths
    Spas in Budapest ? Budapest thermal baths ? Budapest Spa Guide
    or the Central Market Hall
    Budapest Market Events

    or climb Castle Hill, take a boat tour on the Danube, go to a club/pub at District VII...

    Just don't forget to try some Lángos ;)
    Get the Dough: savor Budapest's best lángos | WeLoveBudapest.com
     
  8. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Thank you both for your ideas and suggestions.
    I will probably have to go quite quickly to see Wroclaw Zoo properly but even then I might not have enough time so will probably have to visit again another time.
    Thank you for the ideas for Budapest, Batto. I don't think I will have any problems finding things to do :)
     
  9. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    I will be leaving going on the trip in five days. Any other comments or suggestions from anyone?
     
  10. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    I leave tomorrow :), any last minute suggestions? I plan to be reviewing the zoos in this thread when I get back and possibly as the trip goes on (time and internet access permitting).
     
  11. Ned

    Ned Well-Known Member

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    Regarding Budapest Zoo, there is lots to see inside the mountain, and tropical glass house, the Australian section and reptile house. These areas have some less common animals so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to see them. Go up the mountain to the walkthrough vulture aviary.
    In the park opposite the zoo it a great thermal baths open until late, a great way to relax after a full day at the zoo.
     
  12. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Ostrava Zoo:

    Today, I did Ostrava Zoo. I will not be doing an exhibit by exhibit 50 million word review like some people (TLD :p) but I will be generally discussing the zoo – the good points, bad points and my general opinions. Ostrava Zoo is located in Ostrava (obviously) which is a city in the Czech Republic and fairly near to the Polish border. I’m going to be honest here and say that Ostrava is really quite a depressing city, it is an industrial city and the skyline is covered with the towers of factories, some are shut-down and rusting and some are still bellowing smoke. There used to be lots of coal mining going on around the city (though this has stopped now, I believe completely) and as a result there are lots of huge slag heaps and old railways for transporting coal into the factories that do whatever they do with coal (refineries?). There isn’t any beautiful architecture in the city but just fit-for-purpose buildings. It’s not a tourist town or a pretty town (apart from the river) by any means, but it is an industrial city and that is what you get with an industrial city so if you go in expecting one then it meets your expectations.

    The zoo is on the edge of the city, just as you start to get into the countryside but still in the city. It isn’t a huge zoo and I did it completely in 5 hours, although the ‘evolution pavilion’ was closed, if it was open and you went at a leisurely relaxed pace you wouldn’t need more than 6 hours to see everything to your satisfaction.

    (As I go around a zoo I make bullet point notes in a note book of whatever comes into my head at certain points so what I have done here is grouped those notes and expanded on them)

    General Notes and Observations:

    - I really liked Ostrava Zoo. I thought it was fantastic overall and it lands itself in my top five zoos (disclaimer: I don’t actually have a numbered list of zoos but I have been to over 50 and Ostrava Zoo is better than at least 45 of them). I liked the overall feel of the zoo with the setting in a woodland environment, lovely enclosures (with exceptions, the big cats being very notable on this front) and landscaping but also the way the zoo was organised. With the exception of the big cats and the primates, it was all organised geographically and this gave a really nice feel – there was no bird house or aquarium or reptile house but everything was geographical, for example the Papua house had birds, reptiles, amphibians, freshwater fish and saltwater fish together.

    - ALL heated houses had hot air blowing things to dry out the lenses of cameras (or glasses) so they didn’t get misted up and there were around 10 different heated houses and there was not a single one that didn’t have one. This really impressed me to be honest because I have seen them before but I’ve never seen a zoo with so many heated houses have one in each, I wish other zoos would take note.

    - Today there was a lot of construction going on, the main car park was being re-surfaced so we had to use the overflow car park and the gift shop was being (re?) built (it was nearly done). I actually thing it is good that a zoo is doing good maintenance and expanding.

    - Attached to Ostrava Zoo is a Botanical Garden, I had a little look around there and I’m sure that for a lover of plants then I would be great. It looked quite nice but all around the zoo was nice landscaping with signs for the plants so it was all very nice. (Note that when I said it takes less than 6 hours to go around the zoo thoroughly, I am not including the botanical garden)

    - There was a big new construction going on in Ostrava Zoo that I think when done will be fantastic. It is the ‘Evolution Pavilion’ (I have a feeling that it was there before but is just being added to, does anyone know how much it is changing?) and the building was completely done with only finishing off the interior to do. Looking through the widows, there were lots of interesting looking exhibits with tropical plants, tanks, aviaries and more. Attached to this is a large area that is glass walls with netting (very tall) over the top and signs saying that chimpanzees would be coming. Inside was just grass but I assume that some climbing equipment and other things will be added before chimps arrive. On the doors of the ‘Evolution Pavilion’ was a sign saying that it would “open in the course of the year” (Note that it wasn’t called ‘Evolution Pavilion’ but was written in Czech as something that looks like the words evolution pavilion with slightly different letters). I really think that this will be good when it is done and it looked like it would be finished around summer time.

    The Bits That I thought were bad (not the mediocre things that could be improved but the downright bad)

    - The absolute worst bit of the zoo was the big cat building. It was quite frankly terrible. It is a rectangular building that has cages along one of its walls with outdoor and indoor sections. Getting to this building from the gate (as I did and probably all visitors would for the first time), the first thing you see is the cage for the amur tigers. This is far, far too small and there is no enrichment at all (there are some popped balls and some logs but this is just superficial). The sides are metal bars that are the colour of rust and the ground is just sand. There are some ledges that the tigers can get up on but this isn’t enough. There are two tigers in separate sections that could be connected but weren’t when I was there. Next is a very similar cage for a sri-lankan leopard and the zoo has done its best for both of these in terms of adding the logs and branches but the cage itself is too small. Then is a cage for binturong which is possibly acceptable because there is climbing space but again, the area is too small. Then is the only enclosure that I would consider fully acceptable which is for Indian-crested porcupine. This is an area larger than that given to each tiger but for porcupines is fine (purely because of the size of the animal, I’m not suggesting that it is ok for porcupines to be in very small cages but tigers not) and has similar logs, substrate and little ledges for them to hide under. There is also a fake-rock covered house that has a glass viewing window to the public so that the porcupines can be seen asleep. Next is another far too small cage for a pair of indian lions (I personally don’t think it is acceptable to keep lions in a pair anyway because they are pride animals). This has various ledges that they can sit on but it is too small, there is a small grassy area that was signed for lions as well but the lions couldn’t access it when I was there and even if they could, I think that the overall area would be too small. Inside the building were the indoor areas for these species, these were also too small (apart from the binturong’s which I thought was OK) and under-furnished but the porcupines and tigers didn’t have an indoor space and instead was an extra space for the Sri-lankan leopard which had an additional animal that was confined indoors today and also a too small but not so bad enclosure for a rusty-spotted cat. Overall, I think that the whole house needs to be demolished and the whole area turned into the enclosure for one of the big cat species. Even then it would be only adequately sized. Next to this building were a couple of enclosures for fishing cats which were fine, not bad but nothing unusual about them.
    This is the only bit that I thought was really bad and everything else was mediocre to good

    The bits that I thought were mediocre:

    - The Africa building. This was a large shed type building surrounded on all sides by paddocks which used the building as an indoor area. There was nothing wrong with any of this but nothing particularly worthy of note. Species were: Rotshchild’s Giraffe, Eland, Grevy’s zebra, beisa oryx, marabou stork, sacred ibis, southern ground hornbill and grey crowned cranes.

    - The primate house. This is the only other taxonomically themed section (the other being the big cat house), there were some very nice species including blue-eyed black lemurs but the enclosures themselves were pretty standard. In the middle of the monkey house though was a glass-walled aviary called ‘Madagascar’ with Madagascan birds in it and I thought this was a very attractive exhibit with lots of nice plants and water features and also good for the birds

    - The elephants. This exhibit was fine, possibly a bit small but I thought it was fine, nothing unusual. Inside though was a nice aviary with some nice Asian birds and turtles in a very attractive planted aviary with a pond, of course matching the geographical theming with the Asian elephants.

    The Bits I thought were Good:
    Most things are here:

    - First impressions. The entrance is a very modern looking building shaped like a hippo’s head which is the zoo’s logo. The first thing you see on entrance is a nice but not particularly unusual pond for Caribbean flamingos. This pond is shared with a big group of white-faced whistling ducks and a couple of Orinoco geese.

    - ‘Little Amazon’. This is a small tropical house ( actually more like a room) that is done up fantastically with tropical plants and in it has some fish tanks, a tank with dart frogs, tarantulas and cotton-top tamarins. All fish and herps of course being south American species.

    - ‘Papua’. A fantastic exhibit in my opinion. First is an outdoor aviary with pheasant pigeons, masked lapwings, pied imperial pigeons, southern crowned pigeons, black-capped lories and rainbow lorikeets. Through this aviary it leads into an inside building that various large tanks. These have turtles, monitors, freshwater fish and saltwater fish all native species to Papua/Australasia of course.
    - Dotted around were various large free flight aviaries for bird of prey including four for lammergeirs, these were all nice and large and well decorated.

    - ‘Chitwan’. This is a large Himalayan species exhibit based around a huge forested area that was a mixed species enclosure for hanuman langurs and Asiatic black bears. I found this mixture of predator and prey very interesting though with such a large area I guess they can avoid each other. There is also another mixed species enclosure with Asian short clawed otters and binturongs. It was a good size with a nice pond and rock work for the otters and climbing areas above for the binturongs. There is also a building that allows guests to look over the large wooded area for hanuman langurs and bears and in it are some tanks with fish from that approximate area of Asia (including clown knife fish)

    - ‘Tanganyika’- This is a large building where the hippos are. The inside area is slightly small but there is an outside area that is adequately sized. Inside the building is also a nice sized enclosure for two slender-snouted crocodiles and there is also a large tank with Tanganyikan cichlids. The inside is very nicely planted with tropical plants.

    - ‘Chinese Garden’ – This was my favourite part of the zoo and it was various large aviaries for Chinese birds and all of it was beautifully landscaped in a rockery-type way with some small streams and lovely plants. The aviaries were black stork (open topped), smew and mandarin duck mix (open topped), white-naped crane (open topped), red-billed chough and Himalayan monal pheasant mixed (walk-thorugh), white-eared pheasant and red-billed magpie mixed, Chinese bamboo partridge and temminck’s tragopan mixed, spotted dove and grey peacock-pheasant mixed, white-necklaced partridge and azure-winged magpie mixed (walk-through), great eagle owl and next to this were paddocks for Pere David’s deer and Altai wapiti.

    - Surrounding woodlands- All around the zoo are nice woodlands with paths through them and some streams and lakes. I saw some wild deer and quite a few different wild birds. There is also a hide which suggests that some interesting species of birds must come sometimes.

    Overall, lots of fantastic exhibits and a lovely setting make this a brilliant zoo in my opinion, though slightly spoilt by the big cats' area, if you are ever in the vicinity I urge you to visit.

    I have lots of pictures of all of these things and I will be writing full species lists in the pictures of the exhibits that hold them but I won’t even attempt to upload pictures with the terrible bed and breakfast wifi that I am using :p.

    Tomorrow I go to the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia :)
     
    Last edited: 30 Mar 2015
  13. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    I'll just note that I don't have internet access in all the places that I'm at on this trip so if people respond to this or ask questions, it may be a few days until I see them and can reply but I look forward to your questions or comments anyway :).
     
  14. lowland anoa

    lowland anoa Well-Known Member

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    What new species did you see at Ostrava?
     
  15. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    I only keep lists of birds and mammals so the bird and mammal lifeticks that I got at Ostrava Zoo were:

    Altai Wapiti, Brahimny Starling, Asian black bulbul, nominate beisa oryx, blue-headed macaw, cabot's tragopan, chinese bamboo partridge, crowned lemur, eastern black-capped lory, eurasian black vulture, green-thighed caique, indian emerald dove, Jamaican yellow-bellied amazon, lesser white-fronted goose, lion-tailed macaque, madagascar partridge, vinaceous amazon, western egyptian vulture, white-fronted lemur and white-necklaced partridge.
     
    Last edited: 30 Mar 2015
  16. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    I just thought of a good idea! One currency that is used across Europe! It could be called...erm...the Euro maybe?

    What I am actually commenting on is how annoying changing currency is and that the Euro doesn't really work because it is not over the whole of Europe. I left Poland with Polish Zloty, then I used Czech Koruna in the Czech Republic, then went to Slovakia and had to get Euros, then in Hungary used Hungarian Forint (which is slightly nuts, almost a bad as the Vietnamese Dong) and now I'm in Austria and back to the Euro! :p
     
  17. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    Of course, all the countries you cite are legally obliged to join the Eurozone in time.
     
  18. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Are they? No more so than the UK is surely?
     
  19. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    The UK and Denmark are not under a legal obligation, due to an exemption in the Maastricht Treaty - conversely all other countries joining the EU are legally obliged to eventually join the Eurozone as part of the admittance criteria into the EU itself.
     
  20. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Budapest Zoo
    Visit Friday 3rd April

    Budapest Zoo is already quite well documented on ZooChat so I’m just going to talk about what I liked, didn’t like and general opinions.

    - I thought that the best bit of the zoo was Magic mountain/great rock. This is a sort of mock-rock mountain and the exhibits are on the inside. You come in past the exhibits for gorillas and orangs and go through a corridor with signs about evolution and species going extinct. These signs were almost all in Hungarian (not a complaint, I was in Hungary so it is only to be expected. After all, no zoos in the UK have their signage in Hungarian) so my appreciation of it was limited but I could get the general gist of what they said from pictures. The place was a sort of hybrid between a natural history museum and a small animals house. There was a nocturnal section with various nocturnal rodents and bats and there were also lots of tanks with fish, insects, herps, rodents etc. all of this was dotted around various museum-like displays. There were various stuffed (is it more proper to call it taxidermy?) animals, skeletons and models including a life-size sperm whale. There were also various interactive things and I thought the whole area was really cool.

    - The primate area was alright with a walkthrough bit and also free-roaming ring tailed lemurs and birds within the primate building but the inside enclosures weren’t very natural looking. I noticed black-and-white ruffed lemurs in with red-ruffeds, I’m assuming this is either a non-breeding group or a group with all animals hybrids of some degree?

    - In the zoo I noticed a fairly large aviary full of jackdaws and I thought this to be very weird. The aviary was perfectly alright for the jackdaws as far as I am concerned and there were also some rabbits mixed with them but why display jackdaws?! I’m all for zoos having native species (especially threatened ones) but there were wild jackdaws all around the zoo with some even sitting on top of the aviary and on the path next to it! I honestly don’t see the point of the jackdaws. Were they rescued birds that were being rehabilitated? Otherwise I couldn’t see why the zoo would keep an aviary full of just jackdaws and a couple of rabbits.

    - The only water that could be bought in the zoo was fancy expensive water in glass bottles. These were also only 250ml and you had to stand next to the shop and down the lot to give the glass bottles back to the shop, it was also expensive. Tip: If you go to Budapest Zoo, take enough water with you.

    - There was a mixed tank with Harbour seals and African penguins which I though was quite cool (if a bit small for the seal), are there any problems with mixing pinnipeds with penguins? I’m not sure that I have seen this before.

    - The African Savanna area had a range of different taxa including some reasonably unusual hoofstock as well as the ABC animals like rhinos that visitors want to see as well as quite a few species of rodent and a couple of reptile species, aardvarks and some birds like guinea fowl and ground hornbills. I would however say that the inside of the building which visitors walk through to look at the hoofstock outside and smaller enclosures inside lacked a feel and was a little basic feeling and the outside area(for hoofstock) was a little on the small side. (The inside enclosures for things like rodents were really good though, well decorated to look good and suit the inhabitants needs and also fairly large for the inhabitants sizes). I would however say that the hippo enclosure is far too small, both the inside and outside areas.

    - I also really liked ‘Amazonia’ which is a South American Exhibit. There is a central area with 6 side rooms going off from it that represent different parts of South America. The planting was lovely with waterfeatures that gave the place a nice feel. Each of the side rooms was also really good with nice natural-looking enclosures for various mammals, birds, herps and fish from the different parts of South America. The only one complaint that I have is that the central area doesn’t have enough birds. It has signs for six different species but I only saw one individual animal which was a roller right up at the top of the place and that is after spending a fair bit of time looking. Under ‘Amazonia’ is the aquarium which has quite a few tanks. These were mostly freshwater tanks and very nicely planted with quite a variety of fish species. There was also a tank with a very large electric eel and on it was a display of the voltage being produced by the eel at that time and also a display of the last electrical pulse. I thought this voltage display was really cool.

    - Quite a few of the geographically based houses (if not all of them) also have quite a few cultural displays of the cultures of the areas that the animals are from. The main place that made me notice this was the India house which had various Indian cultural bits and bobs.

    - In the middle of the zoo there is a very large lake with various species of waterbirds which is really very nice; there are also lots of wild cormorants and grey herons that nest in the trees next to the lake. Next to this lake is the biggest aviary in Budapest Zoo which has a very nice fake mountain and is a walk-through with a path leading up to the top. There is also a pond at the bottom and halfway up the ‘mountain’ is a pit-like (pit has negative connotations but It’s not bad) enclosure for African porcupines. The free-flying birds are European griffon vultures, Northern bald (waldrapp) ibis, white-faced whistling duck, fulvous whistling duck, bataleurs and grey crowned-cranes.

    - So far I have been mostly positive about Budapest Zoo but overall, I didn’t think it was fantastic (not bad, but not really good). The overwhelming reason for this is that the zoo is not big enough for the animals that it has. Simple. Elephants, tigers, lions, sea lions, seals, hyeanas, leopards, hippos, elephants, forest buffalo, two subspecies of brown bear, komodo dragons, several hoofstock species, rhinos, great apes, hippos etc. are all displayed in Budapest Zoo and to be honest, I don’t think there is room for all of them. Therefore the enclosure size for the large animals suffers and many are displayed in areas that are too small. The big cats, bears, hippos and komodo dragons have the enclosures that are the worst in terms of size in my opinion but all of the species listed above (with the possible exceptions of great apes, rhinos and some of the hoofstock) are in enclosures that are too small. Many are also very concrete and not natural looking. (I will note that for the smaller species, this was absolutely not true and many were in quite roomy enclosures). I have just googled the area of Budapest Zoo and the area of London Zoo (a city zoo that is in a comparable position to Budapest Zoo with both being part of a main park of the city) and London Zoo is 15 ha and Budapest Zoo is 17 ha according to google. I couldn’t even image London attempting to keep half of the large animals that Budapest does and Budapest isn’t much bigger…

    - I didn’t want to end this post on a low note so I have left a fantastic bit of the zoo and what it is most famous for until last, the Australia section. This covers about a quarter (just judging by looking at the zoo map) of the area of the zoo and has an extremely impressive collection. There are quite a few nice bird aviaries and a nice walkthrough nocturnal building with brush-tailed bettongs, Lyel’s flying foxes, sugar gliders (though didn’t see them), common brushtail possums and some very friendly grey cuscuses. There is also a typical wallaby walkthrough which is made much nicer with the use of tammar wallabies over the usual red-neckeds, a few nice big kea aviaries as well as a few buildings dotted around with various gems such as echidnas, wombats, kowaris and quolls. There is also a building with koalas which as you would expect was packed with people staring at grey balls of fur sleeping behind eucalyptus leaves :p

    Overall, it’s an ok zoo. Quite a few very interesting and rare species and a few really nice exhibits. However, there are also quite a few old, sub-standard exhibits that really take away from the good bits and there is a general lack of space in the zoo with (as is true with pretty much all city zoos) no bits of open space. Definitely worth a visit if you are in Budapest though and I am interested to see how some of the smaller, not natural-looking exhibits change.




    Update on the trip: I wrote this review in Vienna after visiting Tiergarten Schonbrunn today, tomorrow I will be going to Dvur Kralove in the Czech Republic and then to Wroclaw in Poland before going back home to Warsaw.