The Zoo of Vienna - Part II
By 1980, the Tiergarten Schönbrunn was in very poor shape: The Baroque enclosures did not meet any modern standards of zoo keeping and the Tiergarten was a prison camp for animals rather than a zoo. I recommend prospective visitors of Austria to read John Irving′s novel "Setting Free the Bears" - among other things, the novel is a great testimony of the bad situation in which the zoo was up to the late 1980ies.
From around 1990, a large-scale modernisation program took place. The area of the zoo was extended and modern enclosures supplemented the historical, Baroque ones. The old enclosures are used for old animals or sick ones that need to be isolated. New buildings meet the highest standards of state-of-the-art zoo keeping and house a tropical aquarium with a glass tunnel for the visitors, a koala enclosure and giant pandas.
A Tyrolian Farm and garden shows some of Austria′s alpine heritage in the centre of Vienna, which is not terribly exciting if you are from the Western parts of the country (such as myself), but might be a nice sight for visitors who constrain their stay in Austria to Vienna.
Modernisation of the Schönbrunn Zoo & Current State
The modernisation of the zoo happened mostly under the management of Helmut Pechlaner, who retired in 2007. Through his job as the zoo′s director and his frequent TV appearances, he became something like a David Attenborough of Austria. He is still hugely popular in Austria, despite of two lethal accidents that happened under his directorship: A jaguar killed a young animal keeper in 2002 and severely injured Pechlaner himself when he tried to rescue the victim.
And in 2005 a keeper was killed by the young elephant bull named Abu - who had been everybody′s darling for being cute and little until a few weeks before the accident. The old core of Baroque enclosures ensures that visitors still get a feel for the history of the place and make the Tiergarten Schönbrunn one of the most attractive zoos that I know.
There is a restaurant in Empress Maria Theresia′s breakfast pavilion today, so you can dine like the Kaiserin in the midst of wild creatures. The zoo is fairly big and offers a combined ticket with the Palmenhaus or Imperial Greenhouse just next doors. For a thorough visit, plan to spend a day in the zoo - for a quick tour of the historical core, two or three hours should be sufficient.
How to get to the Zoo & Nearby Attractions
Note that for entering the zoo, it is best not to stop at U4′s "Schönbrunn" station (which is directly by the palace′s main entrance), but one stop further down at "Hietzing". That way you will also see Otto Wagner′s pompous "Imperial and Royal Subway Station" in something between Jugendstil and neo-Classicist Style. For even more attractions beyond the palace, parks and zoo, try the cemetery "Hietzinger Friedhof", which almost borders the zoo.
Celebrity corpses of the cemetery include Gustav Klimt, Otto Wagner and the Fascist dictator Engelbert Dollfuss, alongside with at least five complete editions of a 19th century Who-is-Who in Imperial Austria. The Gothic parish church of Hietzing was spiced up with a Baroque fašade and looks like the church of a small town or village - it is ten walking minutes from the zoo′s main entrance and worth a glimpse.
Return to "Tiergarten Schönbrunn - Part I"
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