“Would you like to come with me to the open-air Szeged Zoo?” My friends Szilvia and Dorina asked. Szeged Zoo is one massive animal playground, and it is supposed to be the best zoo in Hungary. It is also reportedly one of the best zoos in Central Europe.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SAFARI AND A ZOO
At first I was hesitant. I’m a safari person, after all. And having done about 24 safaris to date, I don’t get very excited about the idea of seeing animals in cages.
But Dorina said to me: “It’s really fun and Szeged Zoo is very different from a typical zoo. In fact, when my friends and I want to relax, we come here just to spend the day.”
THE FAMOUS FISH SOUP OF SZEGED
Szilvia added: “Then we can have lunch afterwards at a restaurant by the lake, which has very good fish soup.” The spicy fish soup of Szeged is supposed to be very different from the fish soup served in the rest of Hungary, you see. Locals are quite proud of their Szeged fish soup.
The schedule for the whole day looked very pleasant indeed, so I said yes finally to visiting Szeged Zoo. Well, all I can say is that I was so glad I decided to visit Szeged Zoo. What a wonderful experience.
A VERY NATURAL KIND OF ZOO
First, it isn’t at all like other zoos. In fact, it’s unlike any other zoo I’ve been to. It’s like one big nature park, 45 hectares in size. You feel you are seeing animals in the wilderness. And yet it’s only two kilometres away from the city centre.
There are lots of forests to walk through, the pathways are made of soil and rock rather than cement, and the animal enclosures blend so well with the environment. It’s obvious that the designers really thought about how to create a zoo that would be as natural as possible. So you don’t at all feel like you are seeing animals in any kind of cages.
FEEDING THE ANIMALS AT THE SZEGED ZOO
Second, there are so many opportunities to get up close and personal with the animals. The zoo management has lowered the fences for the non-dangerous animals so that visitors can actually pet these creatures.
Meanwhile, the zoo is open nearly every day of the year and there are scheduled feeding times for friendly animals that anyone can join in, on a reservation basis.
For example, I was able to feed carrots to giraffe. What joy this was. I’ve seen giraffes all over Africa, but I’ve never ever been able to get one to eat a carrot out of my hand. And I was able to do this in Szeged Zoo.
I was also able to feed some small monkeys a bunch of grapes. This was really enjoyable. If I had a bag of grapes, I would have given the monkeys everything.
ANIMALS FROM EVERY CONTINENT
Third, the zoo is really so well planned out. So you are able to see animals from all the continents of the earth, save for Antaractica. So this is a major plus, if we are comparing the Szeged Zoo experience with an African safari experience.
On safari in Africa, you’ll only be able to see animals that live in Africa. However, at the Szeged Zoo, I was able to see the most exotic animals from Asia, Europe, North America and South America.
BLIND MICE WHO LIVE UNDERGROUND
What was the most interesting animal at the Szeged Zoo, you might be wondering. This is a very subjective question. However, for me, it was definitely the tiny blind mice who live underground and who create a livable community for themselves.
Within a mound hill, they created bedrooms, kitchens, work rooms and even bathrooms. The most fascinating part was that every rat knew the function of each room.
This was utterly fascinating to me. And, even just this experience was clearly one big reason to visit the Szeged Zoo in Hungary. Because you might find one of these rats out on safari somewhere, for instance.
However, you will never ever be able to see in detail how they live, work and collaborate with each other to create a home for themselves.
I could have stayed at the Szeged Zoo the whole day, actually. Every exhibition was really fascinating, and I could have watched the rats for days. But a delicious fish lunch soup awaited.