Here we are in Copenhagen, city of design and culture. So yeah, we’ve looked at some buildings, been to some museums, gazed at all the statues that have been donated to the city by the Carlsberg brewing company, admired the poster next to our hotel elevator entitled “A Century of Danish Chairs”, and generally been appreciative of all the cultural superiority.

Obviously, though, the highlight was today’s trip to the zoo.

Let me tell you what’s good about the Copenhagen zoo. First up, in a nation of around 5 million people, it stands to reason that it’s walking distance from the centre of the city. I’m not saying it’s a short walk, but it’s doable. Thanks to Danish socialist sensibilities, the public can even view the elephant enclosure from the adjoining park, without having to pay the entry fee.

Secondly, evidently Danish animals are particularly fertile, because basically all of the animals (except, we heard a keeper say, the polar bears) have bred over the course of the last year. Which means zoo babies! Baby elephant, baby giraffe, baby zebra, baby baboon, baby lions, you name it.

Thirdly, as a nation that loves well-designed objects, it makes sense for the zoo to be stocked with special-purpose animals whose shape has been selectively engineered by evolution over the millennia. These include such awesome-looking animals as tapirs, anteaters, Patagonian cavys, caracals, bactrian camels (now with built-in saddle!) and my favourite, the mouse-deer, which looks exactly like it sounds. We did run into a slight obstacle when Sim, in his enthusiasm for the tapirs, dropped his lens cap over the fence into the dry moat surrounding their enclosure. After some deliberations about where to find a reaching stick (nowhere) or a staff member (seemingly absent), this was solved with a leap into the abyss. Thankfully, it was a pretty shallow abyss.

It must be said, however, that the best part of the trip to the zoo was the zoo skilltesters. Allow me to now explain what is great about the Copenhagen Zoo skilltesters.

1. Relevance. Each machine is stocked with toy animals which correspond to the surrounding exhibits. Simple, right? Yet so effective. Makes you want to win one heaps more if you’re standing next to the real thing.

2. “Skill”? Unlike the ones at home which zip around and require you to pinpoint with split-second accuracy the moment to change direction, these skilltesters allow you to move the arm side to side and back and forth as many times as you need to, as long as you stick within a 30 second time limit. So you can duck round to check the side view and make adjustments as necessary.

3. Charity. Presumably, these are designed for children, because for 20 kronor (about $4), you can keep playing AS MANY TIMES AS YOU NEED TO until you win something. No one walks away empty-handed. Sim and I played in the arctic circle exhibit machine and “won” a seal and a polar bear, score! (On the other hand, Denmark has a 25% GST, so I feel like we probably did pay for them somewhere along the line.)

Being Denmark, the gift shop was stocked with to-scale Schleich versions of all the animals (except the sadly-absent anteater, which if you haven’t seen one up close is an AWESOME-looking animal) and reprints of vintage promotional posters from the zoo’s glorious past. We got some small (less crush-able) versions of these to put up at home; I figured they’re more our kind of thing than the century of chairs.

And that’s the story of the Copenhagen Zoo.

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