I went to a place called Urzeit park today expecting to either turn around in disgust after a quick glance, or gather enough photos and material to write a real scorcher. Maybe an angry scorcher, maybe a funny one, maybe both. That’s usually pretty easy when plastic dinosaurs are concerned. To my utter surprise, what’s below the fold is anything but a scorcher.
Mamenchisaurus walking out of the sun toward me over a small hill.
The place I went to today is amusement park and zoo in Germendorf near Berlin – in fact, not that small! It has grown to a rather large place, with plenty of animals and attractions. The largest attraction besides the animals is a Primeval Times park. Normally, those words make me puke. In this case I have to admit that it is nicely done, and that most of the models are pretty good. Instead of the cheaply done, garishly painted and often quite nonsensically proportioned and posed abominations I have so often encountered, the models look rather sturdy, carefully painted and are scientifically about an order of magnitude better. Just check out the Mamenchisaurus above! Admittedly, the place is brand new, so maybe the chipped and weathered look will develop over the course of the next decade. But I don’t think so: I expect the operators to keep it tidy and pretty.
This was taken from the far end of the “Urzeitpark”, and makes the place look a lot smaller than it is. In fact, it covers roughly 170° – and the sauropods are life-sized! It’s quite a big place, and although there are a lot of animal models in it, it doesn’t feel cramped in any way.
Additionally, kudos to the management for not calling it “Dinopark”. It has non-dinosaurs galore, and the name “Urzeitpark” (primeval times park) in entirely appropriate (it sounds good in German, not ridiculous). I estimate the area at 73,500 square meters or 73.5 ha (~182 acre), based on a scaled map I photographed and analyzed in a CAD program.
The Urzeit Park is split into different areas: Permian/Devonian/Carboniferous (Mississippian+Pennsylvanian for those from US and CA), Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Tertiary, Quaternary, volcano, playground, bathing lake. There also is a small Educational building. And all geological periods have – believe it or not – animals in exhibit that belong there! Seriously! I didn’t get photographs of all exhibited models, and I’ll show some now and some later. Here’s the one that obviously interests me the most:
That’s supposed to be Plateosaurus, and while the species seems to be a fictional one (should I name it P. germendorfensis?), this model avoids many of the errors I so harshly criticized in my paper. The foot is digitigrade, the forelimb length is not exaggerated, the glenoids are placed low down, the body cross section is high-oval, the thigh to shank ratio is OK – head and shoulders above many other models, even those created in the last decade! There are a bunch of problems, such as the pronated hands, quadrupedal posture and the “missing” caudofemoralis longus. But these were lege artis until my paper came out.
As mentioned, the Urzeit Park has a volcano. It is quite nicely done, and provides a great lookout over the Urzeit area. You can see it on the left in the panorama picture above. Its flanks are covered by block stones and gravel, next to that is an open grassland and moat area, so that the sauropod and large theropod models can be seen well from a distance. Somehow, this emphasizes their size and at the same time makes them come across as pretty ordinary animals, not as weird monsters. I have no idea why this is the case! The open area with the sauropods has a somewhat Jurassic Park-ish aspect to it, because of the tall pines int he background. With the delicate and sparse looking tree crowns it reminds me of the rearing-Brachiosaurus scene in JP1.
I mentioned that the geological periods have fitting animals in them. That’s also true of the playground.
One last thing to note for now, and again it is something that is not quite ideal, but much better than I expected to see – and I won’t blame the management for not getting it perfectly right: the labels. They are bilingual, have explanatory text that goes beyond a factoid collection, have a proper time bar with the temporal range marked. I’m impressed! The content is not always correct, but it is up to current “public knowledge” – i.e. the stuff you find in books for interested laypeople or even in The Dinosauria II. If Dinosauria II is out of date and thus wrong, I won’t lay the blame for a wrong label text at the feet of an amusement park. It’s all very well done! Here’s the one for Plateosaurus: many news reports do worse!
Overall, I enjoyed the Urzeit Park a lot more than I expected, i.e., I expected to not enjoy it and ended up having fun. More on it soon!