Saturday, 15 December 2007

Bears in the Moat

In the moat of the castle at Cesky Krumlov there live four bears. Bears have been kept at the castle since 1707 and they are as popular as ever with the visitors.

Every Christmas Eve the bears get a special treat. Several Christmas trees are placed in the moat (you can see one behind the bear in the photo) covered with gingerbread, cakes, sweets and fruit. But the goodies do not end there. As the bears are kept in their den, children and their families start to arrive bringing food presents for the bears. With the bears safely out of the way the families are allowed to place the presents under the trees themselves, the only time in the year they are allowed into the moat. Then the families retire and the bears are let out to feast on the festive goodies, with the children watching safely from the bridge.

The bears in the moat are a legacy of a time when wild bears could be found in the Sumava Mountains to the south of Cesky Krumlov. The last was shot in 1856 at the Bear's Stone (Medvedi Kamen) on the slopes of Mount Pernik. The bears are still wild animals and should be treated with respect. Apparently a few years ago ignoring all the signs to the contrary two American revellers decided to climb into the bear moat and make the bears' acquaintance more closely. The bears did not welcome their visitors, one was killed and the other badly mauled.

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