Berliner Bären by Darby Watford

As you walk down the streets of downtown Berlin, friendly statues of bears greet you in front of restaurants, businesses, and embassies. These painted bears with beautiful, unique designs are called the Berlin Buddy Bears, a staple of Berlin culture. The Buddy Bears came about in 2001 as an idea to bring art to the streets of metropolitan areas. The bear itself was chosen because bears are a symbol of Berlin, and its name as the “Buddy Bear” promotes good nature and happiness. Buddy Bears are designed by artists around Berlin, and add a diversity of artists’ voices to the streets. After starting in Berlin, 146 bears and 34 exhibits popped up in other places around the world. The bears are a popular attraction, having had over 40 million visitors worldwide. Not only do the Buddy Bears provide pops of fun in Berlin, they also raise funds to better children’s lives. Part of Buddy Bär Berlin’s profit from purchases in their online shop is donated to charities that support children in need.
The Buddy Bears are beautifully detailed with eye-catching colors and are often themed depending on their location. For example, in the subway station at Alexanderplatz, there is a bear with the map of the subway public transportation lines of Berlin. When I first got to Berlin, I found one in front of a Taiwanese restaurant that pictured elements of Taiwanese culture. The bears are often in the pose like the one shown in the pictures, standing tall with their arms up. Other bears are on all four legs, positioned like they are walking, or sitting down on a pedestal. Pictures with the bears are free to take, and are a great reminder of your exploration of Berlin!
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