I didn’t think there would be any kind of outlet to visit a sanctuary while I was in Budapest, but with the help of google, I soon found a bear sanctuary within a 45 minute train ride from the city.
When I travel in Asia, I am prepared to see animals being abused and exploited for tourism, but I didn’t think I would find that in Hungary. I don’t know why. The US is just now passing laws banning animals in the circus, and there are plenty of road side zoos and attractions that are still in operation.
Medveotthon, which means bear home, is a sanctuary for bears rescued from the circus or other animal performance acts. Along with the bears, there is also a large pack of wolves and a few other farm animals that call the sanctuary home.
Getting to the sanctuary is pretty easy. Alan and I grabbed a train from the Nyugati station that took us to a stop that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. Other than a small neighborhood, we didn’t see any signs of a town being nearby.
At first we thought maybe we had gotten off at the wrong station, but we saw signs pointing in the direction of the sanctuary as soon as we left the platform. We made our way through the neighborhood and continued to follow signs guiding us to the bears. The whole walk took about 20 minutes.
I really don’t know how the sanctuary stays in operation. The entrance fee was only 600 forint per person, which equals about $2.20 US. They also offer honey for sale to feed the bears on long wooden spoons. Alan and I did not choose to do this, but I kinda wish we had. Not necessarily for the opportunity to feed a bear, but I would’ve liked to have given the sanctuary more money to go back into the facility.
From what I have read, Medveotthon is the only sanctuary like this in Central Europe.
The sanctuary itself is not as elaborate as others I have visited, but I still appreciated what they were doing. The bears have a fairly large enclosure to roam around in. They have also built multiple man made dens for the bears to sleep and hibernate in.
We happened to show up just after feeding time. The bears were all scattered about enjoying their lunch.
There are also a few wolves in the bear enclosure, but the large pack is in their own space.
We walked around the enclosure and found a big group of wolves lounging in the grass and enjoying the warm afternoon. We could hear the sound of a tractor off in the distance, and the wolves all heard it too.
They all jumped up and started running in a pack. They knew it was feeding time, and the alfa was rounding them all up.
I really enjoyed seeing this. I have only experienced observing wolves in their pack mentality on TV. They were calling to each other and breaking off to cover ground. It was pretty exciting!
After viewing the wolves for a bit, we made our way back around to the bears. Most of them had finished eating and were becoming little bit more playful. One big guy climbed in the pond and started swimming around and playing in the water. He was really cute.
As scary as bears can be, I still can’t help but think of them as a cuddly creature (of course I would never cuddle them). Maybe it’s from all the years as a child watching Winnie the Pooh.