Monday, September 27, 2004

Hanover, Germany--Day 240

After spending one night in a hotel room supremely far away from just about everything, we checked out and got a taxi to our new hotel which was centrally located and on the same U-Bahn line as the zoo. We dropped off our stuff and headed out to catch the U-Bahn. Figuring out and paying for our tickets was quite a feat, especially when the green machines would not accept our money, but soon we had our tickets and were waiting for the train to come.

The Hanover subway system is impressive. Very modern, clean, digital advertisements and train times displayed on large screens. It was very nice, something a little bit more organized than we had seen in Koln and Frankfurt--or I guess easier for us to manage. Well, at least we thought so. Turned out that Hanover decided to mark like half of their lines in the color yellow, the others in red and blue, making it very difficult to determine one line from the next, and one station from the next. What happened to color coding each and every line?

Luckily our line ended at the Zoo, so we just had to make sure that we caught the one that took us there. We got to the zoo and headed in, getting our maps and zoo book to keep us on track. We found the hippos alright--six of them. Four that were separated from the other two, with the four being in an outside enclosure and the two being in an inside viewing area with a glass wall that you could look under and through the water to see the hippos.

To my luck, there was a hippo feeding scheduled for noon and it was about 11 o'clock at this point, so we just had to wait for the keeper to come. I took a few pictures but really wanted to get their names straight and of course see the feeding time.

Noon finally rolled around and out came an older looking blonde woman dressed in khaki and armed with a portable headset and a bucket of goodies for the hippos. She came up to the platform that overlooked the hippos but was directly across from the zoo visitors. It was perfect. Elizabeth jotted down notes from her talk--including their names--while I snapped photos. When she was done she told everyone that she would come around the back to talk to any of us that would have further questions.


The hippos were of course pleased to be fed--we saw just the four being fed since the other two were on the inside. Three of the hippos got up from their lazing around, one of which was clearly the most enthusiastic about being fed and pretty much stayed with its mouth open the entire time waiting to be thrown lettuce. The other two occasionally sought lettuce that was thrown in while the fourth seemed to take no notice for much of the feeding.

That was because she was swimming laps the whole time! Back and forth, back and forth. She would come up to the wall, flip over, kick against it and push off again to the other side, where she would repeat her moves. It was quite funny to watch and she truly seemed to be enjoying it. When we asked the keeper about it, she said that at first they were really worried about her--they thought something must be wrong since she was doing it over and over and over again, all day long, but then they just figured that she liked it since she does not do it when she is in the inside pool.

We talked to the keeper--well, Elizabeth did while I took more pictures and we learned that all six hippos are females because they don't want to breed them and have more baby hippos right now. On top of that, one of the hippos Zora has had TWENTY-TWO children, which is quite a feat!

We talked to the keeper a bit as she showed us each hippo and she left us. I continued to take more pictures until the hippos settled down after all of their eating and eventually Elizabeth and I decided to make another trip tomorrow to get more pictures now that we are able to tell each hippo from one another.