Ok, I have to admit, I made the first mistake in the headline. DON’T call the zoo in Stuttgart a zoo, it’s the WILHELMA! People in Stuttgart are very proud of their zo… excuse me, Wilhelma – because it’s not simply a regular zoo. The Wilhelma is a botanical and zoological garden and belongs to the national heritage of Baden-Württemberg. The park and the buildings look back on a very interesting history.
In the 19th century, King Wilhelm I build the park and the buildings as a private retreat and named it Wilhelma. In those days, the “Moorish” architecture was very fashionable and the Alhambra in Spain served as the great example. Because Wilhelm was so fond of this style, he asked his architect, Karl Ludwig Zanth, to build for him the Alhambra on the River Neckar. The construction began around 1842. After Wilhelm’s death in 1864, the Wilhelma got slowly opened for the public and from 1888 onwards, everybody was able to obtain an “admission ticket” and enter the Wilhelma.
In 1919 the Wilhelma became state-owned and when the monarchy came to an end in Germany, the park opened its doors for the general public. After the bombings of World War II, a lot of the historic buildings were gone or damaged. The Moorish Garden, some glasshouses and a few other buildings are all that’s left from the former estate. In the after-war period, the gardens were used to grow vegetables for the surrounding hospitals. But now and then, special exhibitions took place in the Wilhelma as well. One of them was “Animals of the African Steppes”. And this exhibition brought the first animals to the Wilhelma: giraffes, zebras, antelopes and penguins. More exhibitions followed and the animals always stayed in the Wilhelma afterwards.
One queer story, I need to mention, goes like this: The Minister of Finance didn’t like that the former botanical garden turned more and more into a zoo and gave the order that the animals must disappear. Director Schöchle went to the Minister and took a lion cup with him. He kindly asked the Minister whether he could baptise the little lion. The public and the press were watching this affair closely, of course. The Minister played along and allowed that the Wilhelma could keep the animals. What a clever Director, hum?! 🙂 After this, the Wilhelma expanded and became the only zoological and botanical garden in Germany.
Moritz and I are huge fans of the Wilhelma, especially because the mixture of historic (looking) buildings, flowers, the gardens and the animals is just very special and beautiful. My Christmas gift for Moritz last year was a membership of the “Freunde und Förderer der Wilhelma” (Friends and supporters of the Wilhelma). You pay 60 Euro a year and you can enter the Wilhelma as often as you please (if you also get a Partner Membership, this second one costs only 45 Euros per year). Moreover, you are invited to several events and a special festival in summer, which is only held for members. Plus, you support this great place.
So two weeks ago, Moritz and I used our membership card for the first time and went to the Wilhelma.
When you enter the Wilhelma, you stand in front of the greenhouse. And that’s were we went in first.
Inside the greenhouse, you find a huge variety of plants and beautiful flowers…
… but also some animals like sloths and rodents:
When we left the greenhouse, we went to the Moorish Garden. This place is always worth a visit: in summer because of the fountains and the flowers – especially the water lilies. But also in winter because you can enjoy the architecture. Make sure to walk along the covered walkway that is surrounding the garden. Because this walkway has a secret which it kept to itself until 2010!
Physicist Uwe Laun found out that the walkway is – due to its round shape – a “Flüstergalerie” (I have no clue how to translate that, literally it would be “whisper gallery”)! You can communicate with another person standing meters away from you only by whispering. Only a few buildings with “Flüstergalerien” exist, there is apparently one in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The Wilhelma website states that the best place to try it, is between the entrance from the aquarium and the one next to the Ape House. Sit down on a bench and whisper something in the direction of your partner, who can sit up to 40 meters away from you. Both of you should face the wall. Try it, it really works!! 🙂 And in order to enjoy this phenomena at it’s best, the winter season is the perfect time to do it, because only a few other visitors are around and nobody will spoil the experience!
Now we were ready for some more animals:
As it was very cold, we decided to have a hot cup of coffee in the restaurant next to where these nice two fellows live.
I liked their “animalistic Corporate Identity” 🙂
After this little break we were strong enough to face more wild animals. But maybe there was something in my coffee, because out of the blue, I could hear their thoughts…
“Hmmm, it’s never too cold for a good piece of ice… hmmm!”
“Could someone please come and free me? Please!?!”
“Ups,I think mum found out I stole her stick…!”
Our last stop was the huge aquarium.
Can you see the fish sticking his nose out of the water??
Last but not least, I would like to introduce some of the beautiful buildings to you:
The Wilhelma is always worth a visit. In summer because you can enjoy all the blooming flowers in the gardens, but also during winter, because you have the place nearly to yourself.
More information about / Sources:
Freunde und Förderer der Wilhelma (only in German)