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If you spend some time in Wien, Austria, you might consider giving a try to Haus des Meeres – a large vivarium hosted in a former flak tower in the heart of Wien, near the Esterhazy park.
The first saltwater aquarium in Austria is a part of the vivarium and occupies two tall floors and holds around 100.000 litres of water (almost 26,5 thousand US gallons) hosting various species of fish, sharks and turtles. Apart from these you can see various reptiles, ants, arachnids as well as fresh and salt water fauna. You can also cross a tropical hall (some other two floors) where small monkeys, birds, turtles and – in a dark, moist cave – even bats roam freely. (Well, Milady HATES birds and bats, especially bats so she had to avoid the cave – unlucky me…) It’s not unusual to see at VERY close range, or maybe even pet, small monkeys, turtles, frogs or crocodiles [IMG_0376.JPG]. Ok, ok, don’t pet the crocs unless you have either LOOONG arms (to reach them) and FAST reflexes :).
Even if the best represented species come form the aquatic environment, you can find some interesting terrariums hosting reptiles (especially snakes) and ants. Regarding the ants, the curators found a very interesting solution to both challenge the ants and create a show for the visitors: the feeding site (where the ants receive the leaves) is separated from the colony site, these two being connected by a chain of polycarbonate tubes. These tubes allow a clear view of the ants going to and from the feeding site, carrying bits of plants back to the nest. A really interesting solution, although it makes one wonder “what if” someone accidentally breakes one of these tubes…
I would recommend to start from atop the tower, where the four corners that used to host the WWII AA guns provide an excellent spot for a wonderful perspective over Wien (such as this one I’m disturbing with my presence…). The “pay-per-view” telescopes hosted in each of these corners also provide an audio guide service, inseveral languages (English, German and French included). The stairs descending to the museum are depicting the history of the military use of the tower – the only minus here is that the posters are written in German only, a bit frustrating for a non-German speaker like myself. And, unfortunately, Milady was not very interested in the military section, but maybe the management will complete the arrangement with English texts.
Another nice treat at this museum was the free booklet they provided with the tickets, booklet that proved to be really useful on the long run although it’s impossible to present even half of the museum’s living exponates. Still, it’s a nice-to-have that reminds you of a very interesting site.
This brief review is by no means trying to “compete” the official site of the museum, but it’s one of those places in Wien really worth paying a visit if you happen to make a stop in the beautiful Austrian capital city.