• Deborah Kade

It's a bear's life!

"Brown bears in the heart of the city of Bern, in a generously-sized, humane enclosure - a unique experience. On the banks of the river Aare, opposite to the old town, live three brown bears.

You can observe the bears from the upper terrace or from the Aare how the powerful bears search out food, laze around in the sun or take a cool bath.

From summer to late autumn, the bears are preoccupied with searching for food and finding enough to eat. A bear’s life also includes regular bathing and taking naps in the afternoon sun or in the shade.

My Jellie Beanie does this same pose.

The bears are fed in keeping with the seasons, with a lot of vegetables and little fruit, and sometimes there is also meat or fish. As autumn approaches, they are fed an increasing amount of fruits and berries, which contain sugar, as well as nuts with a high fat content, so that the animals can build up a fat store for the winter.

The Bern BearPark is a unique recreation area at the lower end of the old town of Bern. It is open around the clock and free for all visitors. Brown bears have been living in this generously-sized enclosure on the banks of the river Aare since 2009.

He was pacing because he wanted to get to the enclosure for some treats. Unfortunately, he had to wait. He is smarter than the average bear!!!

The bears are not fed at fixed times of the day! The food is distributed and hidden in the enclosure, always in different places and at different times of the day. So the animals search for the treats and are often kept busy with that for hours on end, as is appropriate to the species.

Visitors are strictly forbidden to feed the bears. If you feed wild animals the wrong things, it can harm them. On top of that, we do not want the bears to beg but to be as natural as possible, so they have to find their food themselves and work for it."

Here is a "little bear biology" the park distributes.



Body length 170-220 cm, weight 100-340 kg, fur color from light brown to almost black. Young animals have a light colored ruff. They have powerful canine teeth but in contrast with other predators, their molars feature wide, flat crowns, in keeping with their mostly plant based diet. They have stocky legs, their feet each have five claws, but they cannot sheath them as cats do. Bears walk on their soles and are good climbers and swimmers.


Brown bears originally colonized most of Europe as well as northern America, north and central Asia. These days the few remaining European brown bears can be found in Abruzzi, in the Austrian-Slovenian Alps and in the Balkans. Larger communities live in the Carpathian mountains, Scandinavia and western Russia.


In our part of the world, bears live mostly in forests, right up to the forest borders. Had it not been for human interference, central areas of Switzerland (Schweizer Mittelland) would have been dominated by mixed beechwood forests, the perfect habitat for the brown bear, for over 3000 years. In the forest's glades and borders, where rich layers of herbs and berry bushes thrive, and where oak trees push their way through beside the dominant beeches, the bear gathers beechnuts, acorns and berries.

Daily and seasonal cycle of activities

The brown bear is diurnal and nocturnal, more nocturnal when there is an increased level of danger. Adjusting to the reduced availability of food during the winter months, they often hibernate from October through to March, but hibernation can be interrupted if it is particularly mild. Hibernation is triggered by food shortages and when temperatures fall to below 0°C.

Animals in captivity only hibernate if they are fed intensively during late summer and autumn, so they can build up their fat reserves.


Brown bears are typical omnivores but are in essence vegetarians. They eat berries, roots, fruit, buds, seeds and grass. They also feed on insects and their larvae, and love honey produced by wild bees. Occasionally they prey on other animals; rarely they attack unprotected livestock, such as sheep and cows, and would not turn down carcasses of animals that have died in the woods.

Reproduction, social behavior

Outside the mating season (May to June), brown bears are solitary and live in fixed areas, not necessarily for their exclusive use. After a gestation period of 7-8 months, bear mothers dig out a hollow and give birth to litters of 2-3 cubs, weighing about 300 grams each. The cubs are born blind and only open their eyes after about 4 weeks. They suckle their mothers for 4 months.

The mother guides her cubs until the end of their second year; during this period she strictly avoids any contact with males. The mother teaches her young many food-finding skills. After this period, the cubs ramble around until they reach reproductive age, at around 3 to 4. A female can bear up to 10 litters. In captivity, brown bears can live for up to 30 years."

"Björk (Swedish for birch) was born on 19.12.2000 in 'Djurpark Boras', Sweden. From there she moved to 'Skandinavisk Dyrepark’ Kolind in Denmark, and in May 2004 she came to Berne Animal Park.

She came to the Dählhölzli animal park with her sister, Barba, on 6 May 2004. Barba went to the Wildnispark Zürich-Lagenberg on 10.01.2008, and was replaced in Bern by Finn. Björk and Finn moved into the BearPark at the beginning of October, 2009."

"Finn was born in Helsinki Zoo in Finland on 15.01.2006.

He came to the Dählhölzli animal park on 17.03.2008 and struck up an immediate friendship with Björk. Finn likes to have a bath. He is the father of Ursina and Berna."

"Ursina is the twin sister of Berna. Both were born in the den of their mother Björk in December 2009. Their father is Finn. Ursina is very curious. She is always looking for something to explore. She likes to play with Finn; having a bath is one of her favourite activities.

Bears have been kept in Bern since 1513. Up until 1857, they were in the city itself, then in the bear pit and, from 2009, in the BearPark.

Münster of Bern

Built in the Gothic style, its construction started in 1421. Its tower, with a height of 100.6 m (330 ft), was only completed in 1893. It is the tallest cathedral in Switzerland.


"The Minster of Bern is located on the southern side of the Aare peninsula. The cathedral is oriented east and west like the rest of the Old City of Bern. To the north, Münstergasse runs along the side of the building. The west façade of the Münster dominates Münsterplatz. On the south side of the cathedral is the Münster platform.

It is a three nave basilica without a transept. The entire cathedral is 84.2 meters (276 ft) long and 33.68 m (110.5 ft) wide. The central nave is 39.37 m (129.2 ft) long by 11.10 m (36.4 ft) wide and is 20.70 m (67.9 ft) high. The two side naves are very similar in dimensions, the north nave is 52.50 m (172.2 ft) long, while the southern one is slightly longer at 52.72 m (173.0 ft). They are both 6.45 m (21.2 ft) wide and 10.40 m (34.1 ft) high. The altar house and choir together are 25.20 m (82.7 ft) long, 10.92 m (35.8 ft) wide and 19.40 m (63.6 ft) high. The cathedral has a single tower in the west, which is 100.60 m (330.1 ft) high. Below the tower, there is a 10.15 m (33.3 ft) long by 10.46 m (34.3 ft) wide, tower hall.

There are a total of ten bays in the building. The central nave has five of these bays. Each of the side naves has two bays, with side chapels built against the exterior walls. The last bay is within the choir.

I wrote prayer intentions and I lit candles.

The central nave walls are supported by fourteen flying buttresses. Each buttress starts at a decorated column which rises above the roof of the side naves and side chapels. The buttresses rise at an angle of 43° 30’. The lower side of the buttresses are decorated with egg-shaped cut outs, with vesica piscis and spandrel designs.

The majority of the building is built from local sandstone The vaults are built of brick. In the 18th Century, limestone sheathing was added to the pillars. Most of the sandstone came from a quarry at Ostermundingen. Additional material came from three other quarries, each with differing color and quality. The various stone types were used more or less randomly throughout the entire building. The pillar bases, capitals, windows and sculptures are all from the highest quality, blue sandstone from the Gurten quarry, south of Bern. During reconstruction projects in the 19th and 20th centuries, several other sandstone types were used."

"Over the main portal is one of the most complete Late Gothic sculpture collections in Europe. This collection represents the Christian belief in a Last Judgement where the wicked will be separated from the righteous. This sculpture shows the wicked naked on the right, while the righteous stand clothed in white on the left. In the center is Justice, with Saints and the wise and foolish virgins around her. In the center stands Michael the Archangel with a raised sword.

The sculptures of the Last Judgement were the only statues in the Minster to survive the iconoclasm of the Protestant Reformation. The 47 large free-standing statues are replicas (the originals are in Bern History Museum), and the 170 smaller figures are all original. The Last Judgement was the work of one sculptor, Erhard Küng from Stadtlohn, Westphalia, which gives the collection a unity of design. The Justice sculpture is the only one that was done by another artist. It is signed by Daniel Heintz, who was the master builder after 1571. The rest of the statues were carved some time between 1460 and 1501, most likely between 1460 and 1480.

The trumeau to each side and between the doors has thirteen life-size figures. The middle figure and the two figures on each side of the door are raised by about half their height above the other figures. The figures on the left of the door represent the five Foolish Virgins while the ones on the right are the Wise Virgins. Below the outer two Wise Virgins and the two Foolish Virgins, two faces peer out of the wall on each side. On the wise side, they represent the Queen of Sheeba and King Solomon. On the foolish side, they represent Zephaniah and, maybe, Isaiah. In the center, between the two doors, is Justice flanked by two angels. Below Justice and the angels is a scroll commemorating the laying of the cornerstone in 1421.