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Landmark & Historical Place

Bärengraben

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Grosser Muristalden 6 Steffisburg, Switzerland

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The Bärengraben, or Bear Pit, is a tourist attraction in the Swiss capital city of Bern. It is a bear pit, or enclosure housing bears, situated at the eastern edge of the old city of Bern, next to the Nydeggbrücke and the River Aar. Although still in use, the Bärengraben has been supplemented since 2009 by the adjacent BärenPark, a larger and more natural enclosure alongside the River Aar.The Bärengraben and BärenPark are administered as a geographically discrete part of the city's Dählhölzli Zoo. The Bärengraben is a Swiss heritage site of national significance, and is of particular significance in Bern because the bear is a symbol of both the city and surrounding canton, and is featured in their coat of arms.HistoryThe bear has long served as symbol of Bern. Legend has it that, in 1191, Duke Berthold V of Zähringen vowed to choose as namesake the first animal his hunt met in the wood that was to be chopped down for his new city. As Konrad Justingers chronicle puts it: Then they caught a bear first, which is why the city was called Bern; and so the citizens had their coat and shield, which was a black bear in a white shield, going upright. The first records of bears being kept in the city come from 1513, when the chronicler Valerius Anshelm described how the Bernese returned home victorious from the Battle of Novara, carrying both the captured standards and a living bear as spoils of war.

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