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Berliners’ Love Of Bears Takes On A New Dimension

BERLIN (dpa) – Berliners’s love of the city’s popular bear symbol has taken on a new dimension, as life-size plastic versions litter the bustling Kurfuerstendamm, Unter den Linden and Friedrichstrasse.

The bears – there are more than 150 of them – stand on their heads, crouch on all fours, or are simply upright, paws pointing skywards.

Berliners and tourists alike stop to admire them and snap pictures, while youngsters ride on their backs.

Berlin has Klaus Herlitz, a local entrepreneur, and his wife Eva, to thank for the city’s bear invasion. Both love the city’s famous bear symbol, and decided to have more than 150 life-size plastic bears manufactured recently in Berlin.

Since then local artists and school-classes have been painting and decorating the white-coloured bears which will remain in place in Berlin for a year, and then be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to local charities.

Near the Adlon hotel on the Pariser Platz, one of the bears is tagged “Checkpoint Charlie” after the old west-east Wall crossing point for foreigners in Kreuzberg. It’s pasted with newspaper clippings depicting the former city divide.

Tourists cluster round it, taking pictures. “Nothing remains of the Wall, so where’s Checkpoint Charlie today, inquires an elderly American visitor?

The famous “original” American military police hut, he is told, is now to be found in the city’s Allied Museum in west Berlin, but a recently-made replica is now on show near the famous “Wall” Museum in the Kochstrasse.

In front of Berlin’s celebrated Schaubuehne theatre on the Kurfuerstendamm three of the life-size bears are displayed. One of them is orange-coloured and stands on its head. “Not bad,” quips a Berliner. “Reminds me of Berlin’s cultural policies!”

At a kerbside cafe on the Unten den Linden, excitement is caused when a model poses nude by one of the bears, on which a man is portrayed in evening dress, puffing at a cigar. “I couldn’t believe it,” explains a waiter. “All she had on at the end were her high- heeled shoes!”

“I like the bears on all fours the best,” says a ten-year-old Berlin youngster. “You can climb on them. Only one bear named “Curly,” posted outside a trendy hairdresser’s premises in the city’s “Mitte” district, is still just white.

A note on it asks people to paste it with their passport pictures – a request Berliners to date have shown no sign of heeding.

Besides schoolchildren, prominent artists in Germany, among them Salome and Jim Avignon, have spent time illustrating the bears.

The Berliner organisers say they were first inspired by similar- style exhibits in New York, Chicago and Zurich last year, featuring other life-size painted animals.

Footnote: Berlin’s first known recorded city documents with bear illustrations date back to 1280. In 1339, the bear was pictured in a crawling position with giant paws, but in more recent times, it has usually been depicted with fiery red claws and red tongue. haven’t banned it.”

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