Thursday, April 29, 2004

Royal Monkey Business

Well just as I was about to start climbing the walls with boredom, my co-worker Cecile came to my rescue and invited me on a daytrip. Hooray!

The destination was a mountain not too far from Strasbourg that features Le Haut-Koenigsbourg, a restored Chateau, and (dum da dum!) Monkey Mountain!

We took off this afternoon (Me, Cecile, and her friend Fred) and drove up a wind-y mountain with hair-pin turns to the chateau. After a short hike up the hill, we arrived at the castle, just in time for the guided tour.

Having spent the entire week by myself in bored isolation, I really had to make an effort to put my French hat back on. Unfortunately I don't think I did that great of a job. But I tried nonetheless and managed to understand most of the tour guide's schpeel.

After being warned several times not to get off the path because we would get lost, we were set loose to explore the tower and look at some incredibly belles vues.

We walked around, took some photos, then decided it was time to monkey around.

Destination: Montagne des Singes.

This was a sight my students had recommended to me, and it was really fun. After it stopped being scary.

Monkey Mountain is somewhat of a preserve (?) or natural habitat where humans can get up close and personal with the monkeys. After paying your admission fee, you're handed (literally) a handful of stale popcorn to feed the monkeys with. You're also told not to pet the monkeys, because they might see that as an act of aggression (gulp) and to hold on to your valuables, because sometimes the monkeys like to take them.

Pick-pocket monkeys?

I had my doubts about these animals liking popcorn at first, until we walked in the entrance and immediately saw a big fat monkey sitting on the fence. He glared at us all, as though daring someone to walk past and not feed him.

This intimidated me a bit.

After watching Cecile and Fred feed a couple of them, I began to relax. A little. Not much. I will admit I was relieved to see that the monkeys politely used their hands (not their teeth) to take the popcorn. Finally, after noticing that Cecile and Fred had not been bitten or scratched yet, I gathered up my courage, closed my eyes, and fed the monkey.

When I opened my eyes, I was relieved to see that my hand was still in tact.

We spent about half an hour walking around the park, watching them play, pick each other's fleas, and demand popcorn from the timid tourists.

Each monkey had a different way of taking your popcorn. Some would take it one piece at a time and daintily nibble. Others would make sure they got every little bit, stretching out their hand just to make sure they didn't loose a piece. Then they would cram the entire handful into their mouths at once.

Greedy bastards.

After finally reaching the end of the visit, we stepped outside the gates to a mini-museum, featuring posters and "fun facts" about monkeys. They were kind enough to include a gigantic picture of one of them viciously bearing his teeth.

I was glad I didn't see that on the way in.

All in all, the park was pretty damn cool. How many people can say they fed a monkey?

We ended the loverly day with a drink at a quaint little cafe close to Cecile's apartment.

After all that monkeying around, we were tired!

Check out the pictures.


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