Monday, October 04, 2004

Berlin, Germany—Leipzig, Germany—Day 247

Elizabeth and I parted ways today. Our separation was quite sad which I guess is natural when you spend two full weeks together. I had to get to Leipzig for the hippos, of course, and Elizabeth had a meeting in Weimar which is just south of Leipzig. WE were able to take the same train down to Leipzig, where I got off in search of the zoo while Elizabeth continued onwards.

At the train station I took a taxi to my hotel which turned out to be in the boondocks of Leipzig. Some hotels that I have been to have been pretty far away, but this one is up there in the ranks of being the farthest away. It took quite a while to get there via taxi (my driver didn’t know what hotel I was talking about initially, until he realized and exclaimed to me, ohhh, that hotel—in the country.

Yes, I guess, in the country. I finally was dropped off at my hotel which seemed to be in sort of a shady area of Leipzig, and by shady I do not mean lined with trees. Nonetheless, the hotel was nice and I checked in and headed up to my room.

My attempts to establish an internet connection at the hotel was just destined to fail from the beginning. I walked in and found the little desktop advertisement on my dresser claiming that the hotel has internet. Wireless in fact. Even better. So I set up my computer and clicked on the internet explorer icon.

Immediately popped up the T-Mobile connection page, the one where you enter your name and credit card details and are immediately assured that you will have instant access and will be able to endlesslessly search for the next twenty-four hours. Perfect.

Problem was, when I actually tried to connect (after having paid of course), I couldn’t connect. It just wouldn’t let me, and kept showing either the error page, or just the t-mobile homepage. To make matters more frustrating, when displayed the t-mobile homepage where you could enter your newly purchased access code, I was informed that I “was already connected.”

I gave up after several attempts which involved turning off and on my computer several times to see if it would work. But it never did, so I decided to leave the country and head into the city where the zoo was. I would try internet later.

So I got onto the tram which was luckily located just down the road from the hotel. Maps in hand, I was determined to find the zoo and make it there to spent the entire afternoon with the hippos.

I got onto the tram after having bought the wrong ticket (a short trip ticket which I think was good for like two stops---I was going just about fifteen) and headed into Leipzig. Going back into the city, I watched the stops on the overhead screen and checked my map to make sure that I was going to get off at the right stop. I finally got to where I needed to switch onto the other tram which according to my map would lead me directly to the front entrance of the zoo.

When I stepped off, I had quite the time trying to find the number 12 tram—the one that was supposed to take me to the zoo. Couldn’t find it listed anywhere on the tram station, even though my map said that I could catch it there. That is when I realized that the big black pieces of tape on several of the signs were in fact blocking the number 12 signs for the tram. Whatever this meant, it definitely didn’t mean that I would be getting a tram from there anytime soon. Based on the construction going on around the tram station, the next number 12 tram would probably be sometime early next year.

So I had to walk. I followed my map and maneuvered the construction and a short while later found the zoo. Success! I went in and after trying to buy my ticket from the information office rather than the ticket booth, I was redirected to the booths that sold the tickets and was soon inside the zoo.

It took me a while to figure out where the hippos were since they were not listed on the zoo map or on any zoo signs. When I figured out that they were hiding in the elephant house, it then took me a while to actually find the elephant house. I managed to walk around to the African savanna area (where you actually would expect to find hippos really) but then eventually found the elephant house and went in.

I found the two hippos—Brandy and Stenek—swimming around in their pool which was not all that impressive. It was rather small for the two hippos and based on the construction going on outside of the enclosure (the whole house was having an addition put on it outside) it seemed like the hippos weren’t going to be going outside anytime soon. However, according to this great website which documents the history of hippos at Leipzig, it seems like Brandy and Stenek will eventually be transferred over to the African animals section which will no doubt have more room for them than at the elephant house.

So I watched them swim around and around for a bit, taking note of the 3:30pm feeding time scheduled. I had just over an hour to wait around for the feeding time to begin, so I sat down on a bench across from the hippos and read my book to fill up the time, ignoring the pungent smell of animal dung that seemed to swirl around the room.

Time passed and I sat and waited until the room began to fill up with people. The elephants had already come in and been fed fifteen minutes before the hippos. There is a baby elephant at the zoo which was quite the site and I was hoping that people would be too distracted by the elephants to want to see the hippos.

Not the case. There were an ungodly number of people trying to see the hippos after seeing the elephants. Because there was only about fifteen minutes until the hippos were to be fed, people crammed in and waited. I was getting really annoyed—who just STANDS there and doesn’t allow other people to get a good view? Just because I do it, doesn’t mean that others should! I had to fight my way through the crowd up to the front and stand there, holding my guard. I was armed and ready, waiting for the keeper to come out with a nice big bucket of apples or something to throw to the hippos.

If only! Instead of that happening, when the keeper finally appeared all that happened was the opening of a small gate in which the hippos got up and walked over to another small area (more like a holding pen with big black bars around it) and started to munch on their hay. No no! This wasn’t going to work! I took as many pictures as I could as they got up and out of the water, and struggled to get a good view through the bars.

It was no good—I sat down on the bench again, defeated and waited for the crowds to disperse. Unfortunately there was a large division between you and the hippos (I couldn’t just stick my camera through the bars since there was like six feet between me and them, blocking me off by a wall and another gate). I decided to wait it out—see if the hippos would make a move back into the water.

Why I thought that, I don’t know. Anyone who has watched hippos for a long period of time when they are eating knows that it takes them at LEAST two hours to munch their way through the infinite heaps of hay. I was at a loss and couldn’t find a keeper to help me if it was the last thing on earth. So I continued to sit and watch the hippos—time passing and getting very close to closing time. Eventually (two hours later) the hippos were defeated themselves. Stuffed and seemingly content, both Brandy and Stenek resigned themselves to the floor of the feeding enclosure, letting out huge sighs of relief as they made themselves comfortable on the concrete.


I got up and gathered my stuff and headed out, making it out of the zoo just as it was closing. I would have to come back tomorrow—the only problem was that I needed to meet Elizabeth in Weimar, which is about an hour away from here. I decided not to think about it and worry about it in the morning and headed into downtown Leipzig for a bite to eat. Feeling sorry for myself for NOT getting good pictures today and for my complete and utter lack of German (what I had learned seemed to escape me while I was trying to order my dinner—which was ITALIAN food no less which would seem to be much easier to order since it was in Italian!) and eventually took my thirty minute tram ride back to my hotel for the night.