The ABCs of Cologne: Day 3 – Cologne Zoo and Gardens

One thing I need to remember when on holiday is that I need breakfast and caffeine, else my depressive streak comes out. Sounds so first world considering here I am on holiday post-pandemic, but the bratwurst we had at the tapir hacienda helped to set me up for a nice, long and sunny day.

Since today was the final guaranteed day of blazing sunny weather, we moved a bunch of things around. This meant that today we explored Kolner Zoo and some of the city’s green spaces, all just two stops away from our very conveniently placed hotel. 

The first, and major, stop of the day was the city zoo. Going to zoos around the UK has been a way I’ve dealt with wanting to travel whilst still having the safety net of being in the same country – also they have an enclosure featuring probably my second favourite animal: tapirs. This maybe the first zoo that I’ve visited that truly gets why tapirs are special. I mean, they are one of three animals to have a named eatery (the other two named after flamingos and tigers) and they even have some tapir merchandise. 

However, good luck seeing tapirs who are not asleep. Which is what happened on the first, second and third visit to their enclosure. Oh well. Thankfully Kolner Zoo has plenty more to offer. 

Firstly, they have the largest elephant enclosure in Northern Europe. It really is something to behold as you can watch elephants being elephants. We were transfixed for a good while as a pair of adolescents play-wrestled in the water. Given all we know it could still stand to be bigger, but this is how zoos and breeding programs should be. 

This zoo has a great variety of animals considering it isn’t even a capital. Most of the big cats you’d ever want to see, sun bears, sloths, hippos, orang-utan, capybara and a wide array of birds. I dont think I’ve seen so many birds in a zoo outside of an aviary. Not sure how I feel about it as it means flight feathers being clipped…but also aware how hypocritical this is given I have fewer misgivings about meerkats and otters. 

They also have okapi. I don’t think this animal gets near enough love, so here it is being its beautiful self. 

Anyway, we checked in on the tapirs a fourth and final time before leaving and… well reader my cheeks hurt from the smiling. We arrived the moment the keeper entered the enclosure and started to lay out food. So for the next 10 minutes I was just snapping photos, taking videos and just enjoying seeing these beautiful creatures have lunch. I could have been there longer but… I have a husband to think of and he had been more than accommodating with my tapir love. 

The zoo ticket also includes access to a separate building with an aquarium, reptile house and an insect house. Compared to the zoo itself, these suffer being separate as you expect them to be a bit more extensive than a typical zoo aquarium or reptile house tends to be. Still not too bad as an extra feature of the ticket, the aquarium having some cool fish like a very inquisitive porcupine fish. 

For a very late lunch, we quick marched to a nearby Rewe to get some baked goods and Mezzo Mix Zero to eat in the botanical gardens. So impressive was the haul that a garden worker, who noticed me pose them for the above picture, stopped his bicycle to comment that he was jealous of our lunch. About £6 for six bakery items and two 1 litre bottles of drink. I love the continent. 

If I lived in Cologne, I would be by the Botanical Gardens so often. For one thing they are free, which seems normal on the continent whereas the UK makes you pay for them. But also, on a warm summers day, they are the perfect place for a stroll. Even better when they have finished the works on a bunch of the plant houses. This initial visit was a flying one as something else on the itinerary was going to close in a few hours. 

That thing was the Rhein-Seilbahn – a scenic cable car that goes over the river and between two major green spaces. The queue to get on was a bit nuts, but it does allow for some good views of the Cologne skyline…  whilst also being a bit of a sweatbox when in direct sunlight. 

The cable car drops you off at the Rheinpark, which is a city park in the vein of London’s Green Park, except with a little train and a number of water features that can be played in when it is as hot as it was today. I can see this being a perfect picnic park – although the number of wedding photography sessions going on did confuse me a bit. 

Back over the river we went so we could finish off going around the botanical gardens. There was a really lovely part we came across that reminded me a bit of the gardens around Versailles. You had this large lily pond and next to it was some overgrown “ruin”. Very much like a fairy tale and beautifully done. 

It was getting well past dinner time and we were in need of a proper meal. So we walked in the shadow of the medieval gate on Eigelstein to find something filling and German. We found just the place and got one of the few remaining tables. I was close to ordering the sauerbraten, but that would have just been to check off an imagined list. So I went with the Krakauer with fried potatoes and sauerkraut. It was delicious and I have no regrets. 

Tomorrow will be interesting as it is Sunday in Germany (so a lot is closed) but also a day where the forecast is an all-day thunderstorm. We have postponed the original plan of going to Bonn and will instead remain in Cologne. If it gets too bad, at least the hotel is nearby. Hopefully we won’t have to resort to that. 

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