A Lemur riding a Tortoise - Vesprem Zoo, Hungary

A Lemur riding a Tortoise - Vesprem Zoo, Hungary

A day at the zoo on a glorious summer day! Why not?

Kittenberger Kálmán Garden and Zoo in Vesprem is where we spent our last day on Lake Balaton.

What a lucky shot of a lemur and a tortoise. Housed together, giant old turtles roam and lemur swing from trees entertaining their roommates.

The Zoo, founded in 1958, was named after Kálmán Kittenberger (1881-1958), the renowned hunter-writer of Hungary. He had spent nearly 10 years in Africa as a field worker of the Hungarian Museum of Natural Sciences and discovered approximately 300 species, 40 of which have been named after him.

Opened in August of 1958, this zoo is among the oldest of Europe. Situated in the beautiful city of Vesprem, known as the city of Queens for the rich history of their Bishop crowning the queens of Hungary. History of this pretty city dates back before to the 9th century, when it was discovered during Hungarian occupation, probably a Frankish 900 fortress.

We walked along wooded paths twisting and winding through the forestt, with signs stating the indigenous plants and animals from the area. We enjoyed shaded rest areas giving us a cool break from the midday sun.

Vesprem is about 15 km from Balaton Lake. A quick trip to the zoo can provide easy educational learning for kids. Daniel and Angelina loved seeing the animals play and move around. They hand fed some, watched the bigger animals, glad to have a fence in between them and wondered and asked endless questions.

Inside the kids’ area are a few snakes, turtles and monkeys to watch. We got a peak at these two pythons.

Praire dogs are hilarious cheeky buggers. They pop up and down in their holes, and they play the day away. I got a picture of these two biting each other, after they chased each other around. It was cute to watch, and were drawing a crowd.

A monkey and his family sat near the front of their pen cleaning themselves, picking flees from the others coat.

The animals seemed happy and content with the exception of one lion that was really old and a little crazy. I asked the man what was wrong with the giant feline? He said he would have died long ago, and has simple lost his mind and was a rescue animal. He seemed happy. I guess if you live long enough to loose your mind, you wouldn’t  know any different. Lucky cat!

The tigers rolled around in the shaded area of their home, and cleaned themselves, played and slept. They were in good shape, and lovely to see. One opened his eyes as I took a picture and you could see he was looking at dinner. Their natural impulses are definitely intact.

This chimp played with the kids through the glass. He seemed to enjoy himself, as the kids laughed and played on the other side of the transparent wall. You could see he wanted to play with them too.

Outside are two huge play structures made of wood and rope, intertwined with greenery, for the chimps to play and exercise on. It is brand new to the zoo and sponsored by the European Union. Two are necessary for the two separate families of chimps they take care of. It was spectacular! I could happily live among the chimpanzees, my cousins!

There are many: camels, limas, wild pigs, kangaroos, birds of every variety, otters and deer. Each had crowds of people taking their pictures. It is a busy place in the summer.

The brown bear, rarely seen at midday, came out of hiding, to check out the kids. I was surprised, as this is my 3rd time at this zoo and he finally made an appearance. He was huge, and definitely had something on his mind. He made his way towards the barrier between us, and turned back sharply. He shook his head, as if to dry his hair in an aggressive action. We left him alone after that. Even scary through the electric fence!

A huge bull ran from one end of his long pen to us. Daniel and I stood watching, wondering what would happen next. Thinking he would storm the fence to try to get to us, we realized he was just trying to get away from the flies swarming him.

It was a 3 hour slow go with kids in tow kind of a day. It was a nice day. After we hit the lake for a dip and it was an early evening as the kids were wiped.

I would recommend either of the zoos in Hungary. Budapest Zoo is in the City Square or this one close to Lake Balaton. You can not go wrong!

We personally love seeing the animals. I understand and sympathize with animal rights activists, and agree cruelty to animals should be punishable by law. The natural environment for an animal is always best but being from Hungarian decent, I often think how lucky my parents were, being able to see these animals as children. They couldn’t switch on the TV in the communist days and watch National Geographic or Animal Planet. In fact they didn’t have a TV at all. People couldn’t pack up and leave the country either. If I were a kid stuck in a country without freedom between 1958-1989, at least a zoo could give me some type of escape. Just saying.

Times are changing and zoos are becoming platforms for conservation work. Like this zoo, that does rehabilitation as well as protection and breeding of species. They are part of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and offer zoological workshops, outdoors environmental and biology classes as well as summer camps for kids. Since we were here last, they added a huge kids centre with loads of information to learn in many different languages offered in a fun way. The pens and holding cages are getting bigger, and simulate their natural homes. The Safari spreads out over acres of land, and is home to 3 Rhinos, 5 giraffes, and countless zebras and is a good example of what their natural surroundings might look like in Africa.


Written and contributed by Eva Hamori