As we distanced ourselves from the dealership, I learned the destination of the bonus trip they had in store for me. A visit to the local zoo in Rheine. Now I’ve been around the world, and I’ve been to the Memphis Zoo, but in all my travels as they’ve unraveled, I still enjoyed the view. At my age, the zoo is always more exciting when you have a child with you. It’s just as fun for me to watch the children react to the animals as it is to see the animals themselves! I have as fond a memory as any father whose ever lofted his young son atop his shoulders for a free ride (and a better view) at the zoo. The afternoon was going to be at least as much, if not more exciting than the trip to the Disneyland of car dealerships earlier in the day!
My hosts were quick to note that their wunderkind was already aware of our destination before they ever shared it with me (or him). He’d been to the zoo enough times to know we were on the road that leads there. He was pointing out the zoo signs well before we were anywhere close to the place. His excitement was as clearly palpable as it was contagious. The combination of excellent weather, the generous hospitality of my host family and the enthusiasm of youth bode well for my afternoon activities.
Upon arriving at the zoo, the first thing I noticed was the availability of several specialty bicycle lockers placed next to the regular bike rack. These are provided for people riding electric bikes (e-bikes) so they can charge their bikes while visiting the zoo. How cool is that?!?
I was barely within the zoo when I noticed several people had their dogs with them. I’m getting used to bringing my dogs along to all the restaurants (fancy or otherwise) my wife and I frequent, but I never even considered that they would find equal toleration at the zoo!
I’ve had many of these. “Toto?, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” moments since my relocation to Europe, but when we strolled into the monkey section of the zoo, I almost went into shock. The monkeys were all sitting around within a special enclosure (no dogs allowed in there). They were not caged in any way, and you could walk right up to them (no touching).
I got so close to this one that he reached out and tried to grab a pack of cigarettes out of my coat pocket….bad monkey!!
There was a similarly interactive display in the penguin area. The signs offered a disclaimer about them biting (they will!!), which roughly translated said “You have only yourself to blame”. The concept of contributory negligence must be unknown here. In any case, I couldn’t resist my primal impulse to pet one of them.
I let several of them bite me on purpose just to see how bad a bite they would inflict. My hands are tough, but one did manage to nick my finger just enough to draw a bit of blood. Best to keep a close eye on the kids. I tend to believe that a monkey going berserk and ripping a kid’s face off is a much bigger risk than a penguin bite, and that’s obviously a risk that this society is willing to take. If you ever get a chance to walk freely alongside the monkeys, I would encourage you to do so. As we left the zoo, I couldn’t help but feel as if I were leaving the set of a National Geographic special. We strolled “Out of Africa” and back into the parking lot for the short ride home, completing Teil Zwei of my perfect German Saturday. Here are parts three and four: Teil Drei – Das Große Spiel
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Sounds like you had a lot of fun.
How on earth do you pronounce the name of their car? Were they looking at a Ford Expedition? I wonder why, if they only have one child.
We have a 2001 Escape, the smallest of the Ford SUV’s and only rarely run out of room in it when we’re hauling friends and family around, but we are considering something very small, possibly a hybrid, for running around in when we aren’t hauling garden supplies or lumber. We still have the little pickup and it comes in handy for the really heavy stuff we still need to haul, but it sits idle most of the time. The reason we haven’t gotten rid of either vehicle is that both are paid for. Dave would really like a new hybrid Escape but not yet. I told him that if we do buy one it will need to be a 4 wheel drive because it does snow here and we live far enough outside of town that we are way down the list for snow plowing.
We still own a house in Southern California, a tiny cabin in the mountains near Lake Arrowhead. We use it for home base when we go down to visit my dad. He’s 93 and lives not too far away from the cabin, in Upland. It is a good thing that we don’t stay with him and my sister. A very good thing.
Good questions. All vehicles are smaller here than in the US. There are Ford models available here that aren’t even for sale in the USA. The ‘seven passenger’ Ford model they were looking at (I can’t remember the name) isn’t even/nearly as big as an Expedition. The extra seating for seven is really a couple small jump seats in the rear of the vehicle. The current five passenger (unpronounceable) Nissan they own is really more of a four passenger car when you factor in the size of the baby car seat. They want to be able to take their parents with them on vacation. Four adults and one child. The ‘extra seats’ are really just a bit of extra storage area behind the front five where luggage would be packed. So it’s really not as big as you might imagine. Remember that gas costs the equivalent of ten bucks a gallon over here!! If you travel with your family, you don’t take TWO vehicles. The family looking to purchase this new Ford has a second, smaller economy car for local driving. Another thing you have to keep in mind is that Germans often travel at 120 mph on the autobahn. They upgrade and maintain their cars at a level (government enforced) that is unknown in the US. This is absolutely critical where you have MANY people driving 120 mph. Just running out of gas on the autobahn is a huge fine. If the police find a mechanical defect (worn tires e.g.) on a traffic stop it’s a huge fine. The government is also making it difficult to own OLDER cars (pollution). The Mercedes (diesel) we drive is an older model that will be forced off the road by pollution regulations long before the motor fails. It’s already illegal to drive it into any of the larger urban areas!!! The flip side of this is that the speed limit in NEIGHBORHOODS is….drum roll….18 mph, and believe me when I tell you that it is as heavily enforced as any of the other driving laws here. It’s not unusual to see a person get a ticket (speed camera) for going only a couple miles per hour over regulations where speed limits (anywhere but the autobahn) are posted. The autobahn isn’t wide open all the time either. Construction, heavy traffic areas around cities, and weather can all affect the top speed allowed. Digital interactive speed signs vary the top speed as road conditions and congestion change. I think they’ve also got that digital system tied directly into their vehicle GPS systems. I noticed the speed limit sign displayed on the corner of the factory installed GPS unit (they call them Navi’s) in a new Audi A-1 I was driving last week. It changed in sync with the posted traffic signs as I drove around the area.
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