Friday, August 28, 2015

Day 15: The Zoo

One of Berlin's United Buddy Bears
Venice likens these to the Oregon Ducks
found all over Eugene. They are similar
in size and varying designs, but always
the same position.
First, I must update that the 1 Euro coin is smaller than the 2 Euro coin. However, the 1 Euro coin has gold on the outside and silver on the inside, and the 2 Euro is opposite. This confuses me as, if I designed them, I would have the one worth more have the golden-outer ring. Whatever, I just have to memorise it. I'm getting better.

Today I decided to take the kids to the zoo. I guess that this is something, perhaps, Chris wouldn't mind missing, as well as it's set to be a cooler day (topping at 70). So it's a perfect day to spend walking around looking at animals. I figure, we'll be cooler and the animals will be more active as a result.

So, another U-Bahn and we're on our way to the Zoo. This time, we do get to transfer to the S-Bahn. We transfer at Alexanderplatz (the really short ceilinged transport hub, mentioned before) and it's a crazy, giant rat maze. There is amazing signage, so you just follow the signs to the train you want to take, but it was a really long series of down some stairs, across a low ceilinged area, then up some stairs, around a corner, then up more stairs, then another a low ceilinged area, back down some stairs... I feel like it took about 4-5 minutes to navigate the maze. We ended up traversing the enter "Platz" underground, thus the crazy labyrinth. But, it means we don't have to "leave the station". It's kind of fun, but it's very airless and hot. Looking back, I wonder if it's easier to exit to the outside, cross the "Platz" and then enter the S-Bahn station. I don't know. In the end, as hot as it is down there, it is kind of fun, following the signs below.

This is my first time on the S-Bahn. The S-Bahn is also an electric tram, like the M trains that run on the street. However, the S-Bahn runs above ground on an elevated railway. It makes less stops, so it faster, if you can take it. It circumvents the middle of the city, a bit, so you can get from one side to the other in less time than if you went through and made a lot of stops. Anyway, we are able to see the city from above, enjoying a beautiful view through the windows.

Look how far the L.A. Zoo is!
I had looked up the Zoo ahead of time and found that there was a "Kleines Familienticket" available. I'm seeing this ticket style at many places, you can either buy individual tickets, or a small family ticket (1 adult and 1 kids) or a large family ticket (2 adults and 2 kids). I've also seen packages that include up to 3 kids, and I even saw one that said you might have to bring birth certificates if you had 3 or more kids (guess they get suspicious after 2 kids!)

So, I practiced my German, but, as usual, got nervous and just blurted, "Zwei kinder... and me (two kids and me)". Good thing German is so close to English, it almost sounds like it could have been real, "Zwei kinder und ich (or mich)." So, the nice lady behind the counter figured out that we are a small family, which is what I meant to ask for, and we were on our way with tickets and a map.

The Berlin Zoo is beautiful. I'm not a big fan of zoos, in general, I get sad seeing all the animals in cages. But, as the kids wanted to go, and here we were, I tried to enjoy. The grounds are gorgeous. Lots and lots of trees, shady areas, and a real feel of nature. Many of the enclosures seemed as good as a zoo can be.

Flamingo area (top), a living roof on the penguin habitat (left)
a stinky area behind the giraffes (middle), curious otters (right)

Since the signs were mostly in German, we didn't do a lot of reading. The species were listed in English, so we knew what things were, but all the descriptions were in German. However, there were pictures on each sign that showed what the animal ate and who its predators were. 

Xander braving the walk-in bird enclosure (left), a bird with a crazy coif (left-middle)
Venice with the bird (right-middle), a buzzard type with a weird "thing" on his nose (right)
We ended the zoo day at the Pirate Park within the zoo. It was incredible. HUGE, possible the size of a football field, filled with all sorts of inventive play structures. There were at least two mini-trampolines (you had to be under 14 to be on them, phew, Venice just made it!) And a lot of other really cool equipment. I could see how you might get a pass to the zoo JUST to be able to play at this park, it was that awesome. The kids played for a much longer time than planned!

While the kids explored the playground, I used the bathroom. I found the entrance to the bathrooms, but there was no attendant there, just a plate for coins. I almost walked right by it, but stopped, dug in my purse for coins (no 50 cent coin, so I had to use 1-20 coin and 3-10 coins, phew, had it!) As I clinked the coins onto the plate, I heard a "Danke" from behind me. The attendant was sitting at a table in the café area. Good thing I was honest (not that I wouldn't have paid) but, phew, still. I was proud and walked right into the bathroom.

That's when I heard a bit of yelling after me. I peaked my head out and the attendant and another person were waving me to another door... whoops! I had walked into the men's room instead of the ladies'. Doh. Now, feeling super embarrassed, I waved and ran into the other bathroom. Oy.

As I pretended to have my dignity back, I walked over to the park and waiting with the other parents as the kids played.

There was a little boy who had hurt himself and there was an Rotes Kreuz (Red Cross) worker helping out. He moved the boy to the same bench where I was sitting. I gathered he, and his brother, were there with their grandparents. I eavesdropped (after I offered to move for space, but they said they were ok). The grandmother, it turns out, is from Israel. She's speaking English for the most part. The boy, I think, is speaking Hebrew? And the emergency worker is speaking German. So, the grandmother is translating for all of them. Amazing. Since, she mostly spoke in English, I could follow along. Anyway, the poor grandparents (although they seemed in pretty good spirits) had to deal with the bureaucracy of the incident. If the boy couldn't walk on his own, he'd have to be taken to the hospital. If they took him in their own car (home, hospital, or otherwise), and were in an accident, insurance wouldn't pay because they should have gone to the hospital (by official vehicle). All very interesting. Meanwhile, the boy kept saying he couldn't walk and the pain was too much, but I never heard him cry. His mom arrived later with a wheelchair. She did NOT want him going to the hospital and she did NOT look happy to be there.

I did have a super short exchange with the emergency worker, during all of this. He said something to me with a smile and I said, my German is very bad. He responded that his English wasn't any better. Made for an interesting time for me while my kids were playing. More interesting than just sitting there waiting for my kids to be ready to leave!

On the way home, we got turned around a bit at the S-Bahn station. We had exited on the opposite side, so when we returned, we figured we'd enter on the closer side this time, but since it was different, we got mixed up and ended up on the wrong set of tracks. And let me clarify, I was turned around. Venice knew exactly where we were and kept trying to tell me where to go. I thought she was suggesting something else, but had I stopped to listen better, she was right and was telling me exactly where to go. That girl has some really good sense of direction and I need to listen to her more often (she'll be happy to read this :)

So, we went down some stairs, walked over, and went up the right stairs to get to the correct set of tracks. And there was a train there, not sure if it's the right one, Xander and I think it is, so we all hop on... Venice wasn't so sure... but there we were on the train. Seconds later, it pulled out, said what the next stop would be, and, yep, we were on the train going the wrong directions. Dang it. Venice was right again! So, we hopped off, got on the next train going the other direction. Phew. Now all we have to do is follow the crazy labyrinth back through Alexanderplatz, and we're home free!

Bonus, Chris is cooking dinner tonight.

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