Sunday, January 3, 2021

Monkey Mountain, France and Le Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle

Just the cutest family photo ever!
Feeding it popcorn
The playground
      One of the things on our summer itinerary that I was excited to do was take the girls to La Montagne des Singes, "Monkey Mountain." There were over 200 monkeys in the forest that are able to roam free in the park! That is just something we could not experience in the US. Included in the entrance fee is some popcorn to feed them with. We were instructed to avoid the young as there parents might become aggressive. We walked through the forest in disbelief that there were monkeys playing everywhere around us. We sat on a bench with one. I slowly inched closer and closer to it to see if it would allow me to sit next to it (for a selfie of course.) I held a piece of popcorn in my hand to it, and it quickly swiped it and ate it. The kids were then very excited to feed the monkeys themselves. Deeper into the woods we found a large playground for the monkeys. It had a stream of water with docks built over it for the monkeys to run and play. We sat and watched a few young and rowdy ones play tag along the planks, it was just so cool. On the other side of the park was a hill that had many adult monkeys resting on. This was just such an amazing experience and if you are in Alsace you HAVE to visit Monkey Mountain. I cannot wait for you to see the episode on Monkey Mountain!

 La Montagne des Singes, "Monkey Mountain,"  is a 60 acres of forest home to over 200 Barbary Macaques. Since 2009 they are on the endangered species list. Scientists believe there are less than 8,000 left. Contrary to most other primate species, male Barbary macaques take care of babies from an early age, they look after them and use the babies as a social mediator to have friendly encounters with their counterparts. Besides humans, they are the only free-living primates in Europe.

The habitat of the Barbary macaque is under threat from increased logging activity. Local farmers view the monkeys as pests, and engage in extermination of the species. they are the predators of several destructive insects and pests of plants and participate in seed dispersal in many plant species. They are also sold as pets in Morocco and Algeria and exported to Europe to be used as pets and fighting monkeys. The last wild population in Europe is that of Gibraltar, which, unlike that of North Africa, is thriving. Currently, there are around 230 monkeys living on the Rock of Gibraltar, and they form groups of up to 75 and will occasionally enter the town.

King Alexander of Greece (1893-1920) was famously killed from the results of an attack by a Barbary macaque. On 2 October 1920, Alexander, strolling through his gardens while walking his dog, was attacked by a macaque following a fight between his dog and another monkey. He was bit on the leg and torso, before servants chased the animals away. The wounds became infected and Alexander, not wanting the event to be publicized, was not properly treated. He died of sepsis on 25 October. I did not know this before taking the children to mingle with them. 

The goal of this park is strengthening wild populations through re-introductions of entire groups of Barbary macaques. Since the park was first established in 1969, almost 600 monkeys from our various parks have been reintroduced into the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco.

The walk along a marked course of half a mile, has many surprises; a baby on the back of a male, females who find food, young monkeys playing acrobats above the water point or taking a nap
on a bench... By attending these scenes of life the audience becomes a witness privileged of the social life of the macaque. Sociable in nature, the monkeys circulate freely in the park and come at any time meet the public, along the route between pools, waterfalls and rocks. Monkeys live outside all year round, even during in winter, when the park is closed. The monkeys sleep high up in the trees at night, just like they would in the wild. The trees act as protection from predators in the wild.



So cute

When driving through the mountains to get to Monkey Mountain, we stumbled upon a large 12th century medieval castle, Le Haut-Koenigsbourg in Orschwiller. It was built at an altitude of 800 meters. Of course we stopped to wander around. The outside was free to visit and there was a lot to see outside, many passages and pretty areas and even drawbridges! It had a panoramic view of the Vosges Mountains, the Black Forest in Germany, and the Swiss Alps! The castle has been the setting for 5 movies including Renoir's masterpiece "La Grande Illusion," a music video and the inspiration for the design of the 'Citadel of Minas Tirith' in 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy.

Beautiful seating area inside near the gift shop

We were able to go inside to the gift shop and bookstore. Aubrey found an old inkwell pen and wax stamp set she loved. Briella a children's book about castle that was in English and I got a magnet to add to our collection, and we then sat and just enjoyed the beautiful seating.

And if you are still reading, I reward you with this awesome selfie I took right as a bee flew by Aubrey at the castle.

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