Grrr-eet Berlin's real city bear

Berlin's real bear - the Bärenzwinger or bear pit in the city's centre

It's pretty impossible not to figure out that the bear is Berlin's official emblem - one has adorned the city seal since 1280, and you'll see plenty of brightly painted examples in all the city's tourist hot-spots.

Few realise, however, that Berlin's bear-fixation extends to the real, live variety, housed in the so-called Bärenzwinger, an urban bear pit established in 1939 to celebrate the city's ursine connections.

Berlin bear enjoying a Christmas snack

Home, for many years, to two large grizzlies named Schnute und Maxi, Maxi's recent death leaves Schnute as the sole inhabitant.

With activists repeatedly calling for the closure of the cramped, antiquated facility, she'll quite possibly be the last, too, although will remain in her long-term abode on the grounds that she's too old for a move.

If you're not unduly perturbed by the sight of a captive beast pacing a space only slightly larger than your average play pen, best time to visit is at 12.30, when public feeding takes place.

Remember, too, that during winter months Schnute may well be hibernating in her specially-heated bunker. (It's not all bad).

See also:

Berlin's scale city models
Free zoo views
Berlin's exotic bird aviaries

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Berlin city bear pen (Bärenzwinger): Rungestraße 31, 10179 Berlin

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