Where the wild things are – Wildnis Park Langenberg

Posted on April 16, 2010

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 There is no information about  Wildnis Park Langenberg on any guidebook I’ve read. When I type its name into Yahoo Images, only a handful of pictures turn up. A web search is not much more successful. There is, of course, an official website, but it’s only in German, as are most other online references to the park. On this particular website though, despite understanding nothing of what is written, a few random clicks uncover enticing pictures of large bison grazing in the sun and baby wild boar darting across a green field. Further research yields little more and makes me think that for a place which has the potential of being a spectacular wildlife experience, it is remarkably low-key. It is as if the locals are conspiring to keep it a secret, and judging from the lack of tourists around when I visit on a coldish April Sunday, they’ve been successful for the past 141 years, the length of time the park has been in existence.

 

Apart from the 5 CHF parking fee, there is no extra entrance cost. To one side, a gate greets me  to the western part of the park, located on a high hill boasting psychedelically green grass and a crown of forest. Inside the enclosure are smaller ones housing a variety of different creatures. In one of them, massive, dopy-looking European bison chew away at their food and a calf tries in vain to push an adult bison’s head out of a watering hole which it is blocking completely, like a giant live cork. In another, a young moose comes nosing around by the fence, even if no one feeds it because it’s prohibited. A herd of horses stands lethargic and motionless in the sun, except for the gentle flapping of their tails. Back onto the parking lot, a golden retriever, its lease tied to a ‘dog parking space’, yelps helplessly as its owners head into the part of the park where dogs are not allowed.

 

 

From here, a curved wooden bridge leads over the road which splits the park into two, onto a space where graceful deer graze calmly, undisturbed by people or traffic. Beyond the first enclosure, a little playground with a carousel is a big hit with the little ones. Then, winding along the contours of the slope are larger, beautifully natural enclosures where if you are lucky enough you can catch glimpses of more animals. Soon I understand that this is not a zoo, but a forest, a natural habitat fenced up, and in fact, the species housed here are either endemic to the country or used to be. On this particular day, the usually shy lynx strolls elegantly in front of the viewing platform, then settles to lick itself clean as far away from it as possible. All that is visible of the brown bear residents is a paw dangling over the edge of a sharp drop, occasionally pulled up, only to be allowed to fall back again a few seconds later. The wolves fail to make an appearance, but there is plenty of activity in the wild boar enclosure. Baby boars pester their sleeping mother for milk, walking all over her until she starts making half-hearted grunts. In a nearby clearing, people roast sausages over fires under the shade of trees, and children run around like little wild creatures themselves. A tiny souvenir shop sells stuffed animals and a restaurant feeds the crowd which seems to be expanding by the minute.

 

                 

When I make my way back to the car park, it’s hard not to wonder how Wildnis Park Langenberg could be such a well-kept secret, how there aren’t clusters of photographs on Google Earth as there are on every even remotely touristic spot on the planet. A sign bids me goodbye and asks me to return, surprisingly in English, and I find myself rather foolishly addressing it and saying that I probably would, but hey, it would have been nice for it to have been a little less complicated to get there in the first place.

 

www.wildnispark.ch (in German)

Getting there: SVU S4 train to Wildpark-Hofli

– Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @ www.travelwithdenden.wordpress.com

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Posted in: Zurich