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On another sticky hot afternoon in Pest I decided to head to see the local Budapest Zoo and Botanical Gardens, hoping that it would be a nice way to spend the day. I could not have been more pleased as this gem, located on the north end of the City Park is possibly the nicest zoo that I’ve ever been to. It wasn’t the largest zoo, but going at a reasonable pace you can see pretty much everything in two and a half hours, so it is well worth a visit, and for the equivalent of ten bucks, not an expensive afternoon.

Back to the beauty part! Unlike some zoos that go out of their way to remind you that you’re basically visiting an animal prison, complete with concrete walls and iron bars, the Budapest Zoo prides itself on its appearances. Yes, it still keeps animals in captivity under display (we can get into the pros and cons of this another time), but it gives them a nice habitat. There are lots of charming buildings that resemble a medieval village and then the foliage throughout the park lives up to the botanical gardens part of the name (don’t ask me to name plants, I’m not a botanist).

Gosh, that's a pretty swamp.

"Welcome to Budapest Zoo. Also, the gates will be closed at dusk to keep the peasants out."

I spent some time wandering around and met some interesting critters; let’s have a look at a few, shall we:

Rooster

You’ve probably seen these fellas from anywhere from Old MacDonald’s farm to the front of your Corn Flakes. I’m here right now to tell you that they ain’t so special after all. He may act like he’s the cock of the walk, but this guy was cock-a-doodle-dooing at three in the afternoon, unaware that the dawn had long appeared something like ten hours earlier. To Kellogg’s: you better start moving the Rooster to your cereal bars (an afternoon snack) and away from breakfast, because I don’t think he’s a reliable go-getter in the morning anymore.

Least efficient alarm clock.

Bats

Fact: not as cute as the book Stella Luna makes them out to be.

What else could feature prominently in both horror films and children's bedtime stories?

Billy Goats

Petting zoo darlings, these guys put up with a ton of shit. Sure, for every nice little girl that visits them the goats get a handful of “tidbits” (acceptable food the zoo sells to patrons to feed the animals with), but what about all the little terrors that go in there, too. I saw one kid torment a poor goat by chasing him around and around for about five minutes with not a single parent saying the word “nem”. If I were a goat, I’d put those horns to use.

Billy Goats: the abused puppy of the petting zoo.

Guinea Pigs

They live in a tiny socialist European village of their own.

"Sure, the taxes are high, but the public transportation is first-class."

Tapir

The Tapir: missing evolutionary link between an anteater and a pile of turd.

The ugliest thing on four legs. You suck. Even the other ugly South American animals don’t give you respect.

Move to the back, fatty.

Capybara

That fella above that everyone, even the much larger Tapir is bowing down to is the Capybara. The Capybara is the world’s largest rodent. I would hate him solely for that fact, but he’s also become a minor celebrity since appearing on Kenny vs. Spenny. Kenny (the devious one) decided to use a Capybara (or “South American Jungle Rat”) in their rat race competition. He lost.

Awful. Also, sucks at short distance races.

Vulture

In Berlin, I had the pleasure of attending a “mystery” movie night at the CineStar at the SonyCenter. Basically you pay five euro to see an unpremiered movie. I got to see the Bang Bang Club, which was really good. It’s a true story about a group of daring photographers in the end of the apartheid era in South Africa. One of them, Kevin Carter, ends up winning a Pulitzer for his haunting photograph of a vulture hovering over a starving Sudanese child (the ensuing fame and pressure of his responsibilities as a journalist eventually lead to his suicide – and a song by Manic Street Preachers). I just wanted to show how much of a dick vultures look like all the time, prey or no prey.

Missing: compassion.

Flamingos

Every neighbour’s worst nightmare.

Satan's lawn ornaments

Hippopotamus

It’s a well-established fact that Hippopotami take more human lives every year than any other animal (excluding disease-spreading mosquitoes), making them the most dangerous fat people other than Jack Black.

Also had the good sense to turn down role in Year One.

Zebra

Kinda looks like a painted horse, but I’ve been assured that this is the real deal (unlike that painted donkey in the Gaza Zoo). In any case, the Zebra acts just like a horse, trotting around, looking pretty, and begging visitors for delicious tidbits. One couple standing next to me did their best to try and feed a Zebra in the least effective manner possible, dropping a tidbit about six times, getting it stuck in the fence and having to retrieve it several times. Eventually the Zebra got its snack. Not before sneezing on my leg, of course. I’m not sure how to describe it other than it was a lot like getting sneezed on by a horse. One of my friends has told me that we’ll call it good luck in any case. So, um, thanks Stripey.

"I've heard that if one pees on you, you get to marry a prince."

Square-lipped Rhinoceros

Bad-ass mofo. Major props to you, sir. I have nothing ill to say of this animal.

Like an animal version of Teddy Roosevelt

Giraffes

They are just so awkward looking. It’s like nature made them to be in a constant state of being thirteen years old.

"Despite what you've heard, no, in your case, it won't get any better."

Macaques

These guys know what it takes to be a good pal. Picking lice out of your friend’s hair doesn’t sound like the most appealing thing to do, but you know that push comes to shove that poop-flinger has got your back too.

Macaques: ultimate bros.

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