Friday, June 18, 2004

Wrocław, Poland—Day 139

Today we went to the Wrocław Zoo. It is located just outside of the center of Wrocław so we took a taxi there from the hotel. We bought our tickets and headed in, straight for the hippos. We found them without a problem and walked up to the enclosure. The only problem was that there was only one, poor, sick looking hippo lying down in mud in the right portion of the divided enclosure. This poor hippo honestly looked so sad and sick that we thought it must be old and dying. There was way around it.

Soon a large truck filled with more hay than I have ever seen in my life pulled up and several Polish zookeepers hopped out and started shoveling the hay onto the ground. That’s when we spotted two more hippos on the left side of the divided enclosure. They had been hiding in the water all along.

We thought this would be the perfect time to ask the keepers what the hippos’ names were and if that one hippo was sick. Armed with our trusty polish phrasebook we attempted. The keepers were confused but we persisted with asking about them and they told us that the hippo on the right was not sick, no, not at all, and we managed to get the names of the three of them.

We then had to wait for the hippos to be fed but it was apparent that it wasn’t going to be soon. The keepers had other things on their minds like smoking and eating their own lunch. So we waited outside and that is when Sarah spotted a cat. Now Sarah has this thing for cats and is really unlike anything you’ve ever seen—she has to start talking to any cat that she sees and ask, where is your mother? Don’t ask.

So she sees this cat and I cannot explain to you how funny it was when the cat bolted into the hippos’ enclosure. I mean, it like ran into it and both of us stood there shocked. Sarah was horrified. Wouldn’t’ the hippo eat the cat?? Good god. But the cat had something in its mouth and the hippos took absolutely no notice of it darting past them. They were more interested in the large piles of hay.

We then discovered (as Sarah followed the cat) that there was in fact an inside area for the hippos. That’s when we found Tobi, the hippo that was confined to an indoor enclosure. Saying that it was an enclosure is giving it more credit than it deserves—it was more like a cage. It was awful and poor Tobi had no room to really move around. On top of that, people kept coming up and spitting at poor Tobi and there was no one to stop them from doing so except for us who gave them dirty looks. If only we could have told them off in Polish.

We found out Tobi’s name from the zookeeper and took pictures of him, however it was difficult with him being inside and in such a damp and dark place. We then went back outside and took pictures of Knabbel (the “sick” hippo who suddenly became active) and Sarah impressed herself when I showed her a little hippo trick that I’ve learned. If you clap your hands out in front of you up and down (sort of like a mouth opening and closing) some hippos will open their mouths. Tobi did just that and Sarah was pleased with her amazing hippo training skills.

We then took pictures of Samba and Rumba II (not be confused with Rumba or Rumba I) and one of the Polish zookeepers rode by on his bicycle shouting out at us “Mother! Son!” to us (in Polish) as he whizzed by. It didn’t take long for us to realize what he was saying in English and it helped us fully understand their names.

Afterwards we headed back out of the zoo and walked back into town via the University. We found the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist and climbed up the spiral staircase up to the top of the cathedral to see the view over Wrocław. Afterwards we walked around for quite a while getting seriously lost amidst all of the rivers and bridges in Wrocław, finally asking a man how to get to the center. We finally did and after having lunch at a Polish cafeteria for about 50 cents, it began to rain. We dodged the rain by visiting a shopping center and then catching a taxi back to our hotel. We then walked around the old main square near our hotel (the rain had stopped at this point) and we sat outside drinking beer with a shot of raspberry in it (“sok do piwo”) and then having dinner while watching quite the scene going on outside with some street performers and the police. After getting ice cream, we ended the night with a little taste of American cinema by seeing a movie before we made it back to our hotel.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.