It is fair to say we packed a lot in to our week in Bavaria, starting with a trip to Nuremberg Zoo located in the Imperial Forest. This is a large zoo, spread over 170 acres in a beautiful woodland setting, that even on the hottest days, offers plenty of shaded areas and native wildlife.
We spent the whole day in the park and definitely didn’t see all of it but our highlights included the tropical Manatee House where we could view the sea cows both under water and from above, allowing you to get a really good idea of how huge and graceful they are. When you walk into the exhibit the humidity hits you, along with the sounds and smells of the rainforest, making the whole experience that much more sensory – all the children, but Alex in particular, loved it.
The kids’ play areas were also excellent with all manner of slides, climbing apparatus and pendulum swings to keep the boys happy which gave me the opportunity to grab a coffee for each of the adults in our group; I almost had a heart attack though when 5 coffees and a coke came to nearly 25 euros (bearing in mind that a family day ticket for the zoo is only 31.5 euros) until it was pointed out to me that 10 euros of that was the refundable deposit, ensuring that I (and everyone else!) returned the mugs after we had used them. This meant that the zoo wasn’t littered with discarded disposable cups and felt much more environmentally friendly in general – what a good idea.
One slight downside for our family was that all of the keeper talks were all in German, as one might expect. Our friend’s 9 year old son proved an excellent interpreter, however, and particularly made me smile when he translated the opening 5 minutes of ebullient welcome with the rather more succinct “they say hello”! It seems that the efficiency the Germans are well known for may be rubbing off on him.
Day two was spent in a lovely town called Pottenstein where we all had our first experience of the “Sommerrodelbahnen” – toboggan and bob-sled tracks which wind down the hillside allowing the riders to pick up deceptively high speeds. We decided the older boys could ride on their own and Alex would go with an adult, but the truth is that I needed a riding companion more than he did and after 2 runs, whilst everyone else was keen to keep going, my pelvic floor and I decided that enough was enough and it would be safer all round if I watched from the ground! It was tremendous fun though and in my younger days I’d have kept going back for hours.
After lunch we walked along a beautiful river bank to the Teufelshoehle; over 1500 meters of dripstone cave with amazing stalactite and stalagmite formations and an impressive collection of animal bones, including the reconstruction of a bear skeleton shown off to full effect with ambient lighting. An English audio guide was played though a PA system and immediately captured John and Teddy’s attention with the translation of Teufelshoehle – the Devil’s cave! Unfortunately Alex found the dim lighting, dampness and enclosed spaces just a bit too scary and insisted that Nick carry him the whole way round which wasn’t easy given the number of stairs throughout. Bless his heart though, despite a few lip trembling moments, Alex made it to the end of the tour without letting his imagination get the better of him and bravely earned his promised day out at Playmobil Land the next day.