Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Real Berlin Bears

I never even knew how to say Berlin properly till I visited Ian's class of adorable pre-schoolers.

"Where do you live?
BEAR-lin!"

Bears pop up all over the place here. After the formation of the constitution of Berlin, the bear became the animal of coats of arms and seals. The state coat of arms depicted, in a silver (white) shield, a red armed and red tongued, upright, grunting bear. A while back, the city had artists decorate a horde of them and painted bears can be found throughout the city. But I didn't realize the city had actual bears living in Mitte. Behold...

Berlin Bärenzwinger
Berlin Bear

Real bears in Berlin
Bärenzwinger
Beautiful Berlin Day

Berlin Museum in Mitte
Märkisches Museum

After hearing about it's existence from a friend, we stumbled across the Bärenzwinger (Bear Pit) today on a bike ride. It is a beautiful setting with leafy trees and Märkisches Museum in the background. But the real attraction is the bears. Two European brown bears, Schnute and Maxi live in a small, but scenic enclosure here. Schnute holds the title of reigning Statdbärin (city bear). We watched in fascination as one of the bears moseyed by a leftover Christmas tree and the other snoozed in the spring sunlight.

The site was established in 1939, another sign of connection between the city and the animal that has adorned the city seal since 1280. It is located within the oldest section of Berlin near the Nikolaiviertel - the original settlement of Berlin. The remains of the medieval city wall can be seen next to the nearby museum.

Apparently there are grumbles about the bear's health and safety as the enclosure is small  and largely unmonitored. This is understandable, but I couldn't help but stare at these two majestic creatures within the city's historical center. We weren't the only ones. On this quiet Saturday there were at least 15 other people silently taking in the bears. Some took pictures and talked quietly with each other, but mostly we all just gazed in wonder. I loved seeing the bears. I have loved reading about the Bärenzwinger's history since we got home. Obviously, I am no longer impartial. Go see for yourself and give Schnute and Maxi a wave for us.


Website: http://www.berliner-baerenfreunde.de/web/
Address: Am Köllnischen Park 10178 Berlin
Stations Märkisches Museum (U2). Jannowitzbrücke (U8, S-Bahn) 
Hours: May - September 7:30 til the bears choose to retire
            October - April 8:00 til the bears choose to retire 
            November - March The bears spend much of this time in hibernation and are rarely seen 

Food donations can be dropped off to the supervisors, but the self-feeding of bears is prohibited.

Want more hot bear action? Check out the bears in Bern, Switzerland

Update:

 Maxi died at the age of 27 years on Friday August 23rd, 2013. This brings into question what will happen to Schnute, her mother, as people are loathe to put a new bear in. This may be the end of the
Bärenzwinger...

 

6 comments:

Irish Berliner said...

What?! That's brilliant! I'll have to go check them out. I can bearly wait!

fiona said...

Wow, I never knew there were bears there. Must take the kids!

ianandebe said...

Pretty crazy right? Apparently many native Berliners don't even know they are there. Judging from the accents around us, it seemed like it was mostly a German crowd.

(p.s. Excellent use of "bearly" Irish)

~ cheryl said...

I actually knew of these bears from a House Hunters International episode. Found it a bit odd that these bears have lived there for so long - - think if it were in the USA they would've put them in a larger, safe from the public enclosure a long time ago. Glad you saw them an enjoyed them. Hope they have a good life.

Tiffany @ No Ordinary Homestead said...

Pretty cool, right? We almost took an apartment near here (at Spittelmarkt) and saw them during our apartment hunting tour. They were sleeping when we went by, but I found it wild that they are just there in the middle of the city. Of course, now we live just as close the Zoo over here and it's also a very open area -- plus I can't believe you can walk past the bird areas along the back side and see everything for free! ;)

ebe porter said...

Mom - find which house hunters! I would love to watch that one.

@Tiffany - For such a large city, I never feel that far from nature in Berlin. Definitely cool!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!
ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008