Monday, January 21, 2008


I went to a David Sedaris book reading a few years ago. While there, he said he would ask people in line for book signings random questions. One of his questions was, 'When was the last time you touched a monkey?' The woman responded, 'A few hours ago'. He was surprised by this response and soon discovered she worked at Helping Hands, near Boston. This website is worth a visit -it is simply amazing.

I have also always loved monkeys. There is something about them that is so fascinating. You can imagine how delighted I was when I saw photos of Stefan as a toddler, with monkeys that were just slightly smaller than he was. I immediately had to know more about it and the next thing I knew, I was feeding a monkey popcorn myself.

There is an undiscovered gem here in Germany that takes some effort to get to. It's called Affenberg (literally monkey mountain), near the Bodensee. Driving to this park is delightful as well - there's a nearby boarding school called Schloß Salem, for children of royals and other rich aristocrats, and there are also many beautiful orchards along the way. The monkeys however are the highlight. Oh... and the storks that are on top of the buildings when you arrive. I was happy to learn that storks also bring that babies to Germany, as they do in the US. I had never heard the clacking sound they make, which I enjoyed.

More about the monkeys - they are from Morocco (more the reason for me to visit!) and there are over 200 endangered Barbary Macaques living in this park. They are fenced in, although the habitat is very large. At the beginning they give you popcorn that is specially made for the monkeys, then you walk through the park and feed the monkeys as they sit on the barrier.They initiate contact and you aren't allowed to pet them. This isn't their primary meal, just a snack.

Also, the monkeys are quite tricky and will steal things if you are not careful. The park attendants instruct you to feed them with one piece in an open hand, while holding the other hand full of popcorn behind your back. Some of the monkeys are picky as well... don't try to feed them something that's been on the ground - they aren't interested.

I was reminded of Affenberg because it opens for the 2008 season when my parents are visiting. Perhaps they will get initiated into feeding monkeys popcorn.

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