Why is Berlin Full of Bears?
One unique feature we found during our visits to Berlin were the bears.
The heraldic symbol of Berlin was everywhere. Life size bears, vibrantly painted bears. Upright bears, bears on all fours. Touristy bears and cultural bears. Bears were certainly a Berlin landmark.
We discovered there was more to the Berlin Bears than a cute tourist photo opportunity. The Berlin Buddy Bears and United Buddy bears are more than a tourist photo opportunity.
Lonely Planet Berlin Travel Guide available on Amazon may be useful when planning your trip to Berlin
What are Berlin Buddy Bears?
Berlin Buddy Bears was a series of life sized, hand painted sculptures in various poses which could be found throughout Berlin. Klaus and Eva Herlitz developed the scheme in 2001 in co-operation with sculptor Roman Strobl. More than 100 bears soon appeared in various locations around Berlin.
The fibreglass cast bears were each individually hand painted, their unique poses symbolic of their chosen locations. Gymnastic poses, doing handstands, standing upright and standing with hands raised. Our Bear was “Capital Bear”, who had been purchased during a charity auction. More on that later.
Buddy Bears began with an artistic exhibition in Berlin in 2001, with the idea of bringing art into the streets. This eventually developed into the circle of United Buddy Bears in 2002, an exhibition which travels the world promoting “peace, international understanding and tolerance among the nations, cultures and religions of the world”.
United Buddy Bears
The United Buddy Bears today can be found in exhibitions outside embassies around the world.
Standing with hands upright, their stance is a gesture of friendliness and optimism. The circle of United Buddy Bears stand hand in hand, a bear for each country recognised by the United Nations, each uniquely crafted to uniquely represent that country.
Here’s the Australian Buddy Bear we found in Berlin. Note the incorporation of traditional aboriginal motifs with contemporary Australian beach culture
Many of the original Berlin Buddy Bears, such as our friend earlier, were auctioned to assist charities such as Unicef. Continuing their charitable legacy, during their tours the bears also assist with fundraising appeals. During their time at the German Embassy in Riga, Latvia recently the Bears were a central focus for a fundraiser for the children’s hospital.
You can still find classic Buddy Bears around Berlin. Be sure to look out for them. Also look out for the United Buddy Bears in a city near you.