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Living in the rush and hustle of a big city can make just about any urban dweller eager for a wilderness retreat.

If a vacation isn’t an option right now, there is an alternative for those longing for the smell of pine trees and the opportunity to gaze at animals in the wild: the Tier- und Pflanzenpark Fasanerie, located just outside of downtown Wiesbaden, Germany.

The Fasanerie bills itself as an animal-and-plant park, but it offers so much more than your typical zoo.

The Fasanerie’s 25-acre setup leaves visitors feeling as if they hiked through a remote wilderness, and the feeling lingers long after the rush-hour traffic on the drive home.

After entering the park, which was once a royal hunting reserve, guests can start down the hiking trails through the forest. The paths wind through meadows and offer a variety of native and exotic plants and trees, such as the Caucasian Fir.

Although a leisurely hike through the park is enjoyable in itself, the real stars are the more than 50 species of animals you’ll see as you make your way through the seemingly wide-open areas.

Guests in the colder months will miss out on one of the Fasanerie’s main attractions, the park’s resident bears, who are hibernating. But European bison, wolves, wild boar, lynx, deer and plenty of other species, large and small, still offer an impressive array of wildlife.

Park officials say that all the animals at the park are either native to the area or were in the past.

For the safety of visitors (and the animals), there are fenced-in areas or other enclosures, but the open natural setting makes it feel as though you’re stumbling upon the animals on a routine stroll.

Many animals, such as the deer, will come right up to the fence, allowing you to feed or pet them. Special areas are set up with young ones in mind as well, allowing children to forget they’re getting some exercise in while having fun.

The hiking routes offer trails that are easy to navigate. Although a majority of kids and adults would have no problem with the trails, comfortable walking or hiking shoes are recommended. The path can take visitors anywhere from one hour to three hours, depending on how often you stop to admire the views or the wildlife.

There are signs throughout the park that provide information on the various plants, trees and animals. Although the signs are in German, pictures make it easy to decipher the basic information.

The park also offers special information and guided tours for groups or school classes, but these must be arranged in advance. Visitors can also watch the feeding of select animals every day at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., except on Fridays and holidays.

Another perk is that it doesn’t cost a dime to enjoy all that the park has to offer. A box is set up for optional donations used for the upkeep and care of the park and its residents.

The Fasanerie is the perfect place to take a leisurely hike and enjoy wonderful sights, woodsy scents and impressive animals. Chances are, if you’re like me, you’ll be much more satisfied after a visit here than to the larger zoos that have you emptying your wallet to gain admission and leave you drained of energy, instead of invigorated with nature’s charm.

patton.mark@stripes.com

On the QT:Directions: Address is Wilfried-Ries-Strasse 22 / 65195 Wiesbaden. The Wiesbaden bus line 33 stops directly at the Fasanerie. From Clay Kaserne, follow Berliner Strasse toward downtown and it will allow you to continue on Gustav-Stresemann Ring/B54 near Hainerberg. Turn left onto An der Ringkirche/L3037 after a couple of miles. You’ll make several left and right turns on unnamed roads. Follow the signs to Fasanerie and parking is available for free in two lots, one across from the restaurant and entrance and another further up the street.Times: Open November-March from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and April-October from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Feeding of the bear, wolf and lynx occurs daily at 11 a.m. (except Fridays and holidays) and feeding of some other animals occurs at 3 p.m. (except Fridays and holidays).Costs: Free, but donations are welcome.Food: At the entrance to the park is a beer garden and restaurant. Information: Information available on the web (German only) at wiesbaden.de/fasanerie and at http://fasanerie.net/. Telephone number is (+49) (0)611-40 90 77-0 and email address is fasanerie@wiesbaden.de.Tip: Dogs are not allowed in the park. --- Mark Patton


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