By Simon Jones
On our Day City Tour we pass by the Berlin Zoo, Germany’s oldest zoo with the highest number of species in the world. That’s impressive, but did you know Berlin has a second zoo in the old East, as well as Europe’s largest animal rescue shelter? If you’re interested in seeing some alternatives, here’s a rundown of what to expect.
The Tierpark Zoo, located on the U5 line, was the zoo created in East Berlin in 1955, as the East’s answer to the popular Berlin Zoo in the west. Nowadays it consists of a huge area of parkland, containing monkeys, buffalo, zebras, elephants, bears and more monkeys. Plus all the smaller rats, chinchillas and birds which are dotted around. You can easily spend five hours in here without seeing everything.
The zoo itself costs €12 (a bargain in comparison with many other zoos in Europe), is strikingly quiet, and in some areas almost devoid of people. This means you are guaranteed a good, close up view of the muddy rhinos and the excitable animals at feeding time. You also get to see what a bucket of dead chicks being fed to tiger cubs looks like. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty gross.
In keeping with the Fat Tire way of life, zookeepers in the Tierpark use bikes to get themselves and the animal feed around, and it’s very common to see them silently zipping between the enclosures. And for that extra bit of excitement, the petting zoo allows you to fulfill that lifelong dream of stroking a tame goat and playing with the dangly bits around its neck.
We also have Tierheim Berlin, the animal shelter located in the north east of Berlin (at the end of the M4 tram line). The modern, open air centre opened in 2001, and has over 10,000 animals per year passing through its doors and cat flaps each year, including those abandoned and abused by ill-prepared owners or traffickers. It’s open to the public, free to enter, and well worth visiting if you want to escape the hustle of the capital city.
With a huge outdoor area bigger than 22 football pitches, there’s more than just cats and dogs. You can also indulge in window shopping for rats and rabbits, birds and lizards, and the occasional turtle. There is also housing for illegally imported monkeys, parrots and snakes, which actually makes it almost like a mini zoo. The Tierheim has a farmyard petting zoo with chickens, pigs and sheep, if you’ve ever wondered what a sheep feels like.
Of course, the re-homing centre really focuses on finding happy and suitable homes for all the animals. Vets work on site to nurse diseased and often badly injured animals back to health before they can be rehomed. Each cat and dog has a profile detailing their personality: likes, dislikes, vaccinations, suitability for children etc. It’s a bit like Tinder but with more matches. Be warned though, there’s a risk you may accidentally find yourself coming back with a super friendly German Shepherd (don’t worry, I’m sure the owner of your AirBnB flat will love him too!).
You can also volunteer at Tierheim, and help prepare food or tend to the grounds. Tourists and travellers are increasingly registering with volunteering organisations when they visit Berlin to see and give back to communities that they otherwise wouldn’t interactive with.
One final fun cat fact for you that will probably be useful during any visit to Germany – did you know that the two German words for hangover are Katzenjammer (literally meaning cat’s sorrow) and Kater (the word used for a male cat). I’ll leave you to guess why that is…