While we were visiting Budapest, one of my friends that I was traveling with told me before they came they had read a children’s book, ‘Hanna’s Cold Winter‘ about the zoo. As soon as I was back at the hotel, I ordered myself a copy sight unseen, and I am so glad I did. This is one of the most beautifully illustrated books I have ever seen. To make it even better, this little book has all our favorite sights from Budapest- the river Danube, the bridge and it’s lions, the market, and of course, the zoo.
The book tells the story of a family of children coming to visit the hippo house, which looked like a palace, and Hanna. Hanna was special. She was friendly hippo, and sleeps out in front of the hippo house with one eye open, just waiting on the zoo keeper to come bring her hey. She would sit with her mouth open, and eat, eat, eat, and the people loved to watch.
But WWII was going on, and soon, food was running low. There was hardly enough for the family to eat, let alone the precious hippos in the zoo. They grew skinny, and sad, and would not survive the winter without food. Luckily, the father had an idea to save them. He started going through the town, collecting straw for the hippos. Door mats, slippers, hats, anything made of straw was donated to helping Hanna and her baby Hippo.
By the end, the Hippos did not get fat again, but they did eat 9 thousand hats and slippers and mats, and survived the long, cold winter and the war.
I wish I had thought to ask someone if that story is true, or if Hanna the Hippo was real. But, she was real to us.
She was every bit as friendly, and every bit as hungry as the Hippo in the book.
The hippo house was every bit as magnificent.
You get some filming from Bug, and some from me, so pardon the shaking- but it’s so beautiful I couldn’t not share it. The end is the best, so stick it out!
That’s the beautiful thing about children’s books, isn’t it? They become real to us, and enrich our lives, and I am so glad to have Hanna’s Cold Winter on the shelf to remind my kids of the beautiful things they saw in Budapest.
*Sorry about the awful photos, the computer ate most of our travel pictures so we’re making due with what survived! *
I’m from San Diego. I grew up visiting the world famous San Diego Zoo. One summer, my Gramie bought us passes, as we spent weeks there drawing and painting the animals. That was the summer I fell in love with zoos, and one special Orangutang named Jane, who would sit with me on the other side of the glass, playing games, and gesturing to see the paintings I made of her.
I didn’t think it was possible to find a zoo “better” than the San Diego Zoo. But I did. (oh my gosh, what a traitor). Nothing can top Jane, but holy cow, does Budapest have a Zoo. It’s worth every cent they charge, and plan on spending the whole day. We went twice on our trip and still did not have time to see everything. Take my word for it and GO!
If you’re studying WWII with the kids, Pick up Hanna’s Cold Winter. You don’t have to visit Budapest to enjoy this story of survival- it has a beautiful message, and beautiful art.