It is no secret that Berliners, both born and chosen ones, are bear crazy. They simply have to be – because in Berlin, the bear is present everywhere in one shape or another.

It starts with the city flag, hoisted above the ‘Rote Rathaus’ city hall, displaying the heraldic animal in the same design since 1911 in black on a red and white background. Then, there is the omnipresent ‘buddy bear’, the aesthetics of which may be disputable to some. However, the manifold colourful duplicates displayed throughout the city have long won visitors’ hearts and they do stand for a good cause – diversity and harmonious co-existence. Last but not least, the Berlinale Film Festival of course famously hands out the traditional Golden and Silver Bear trophies to its chosen winners.

As of 2021, a surprise bear has made its appearance in front of Berlin’s 150-year-old Zionskirche church – a center for peaceful resistance throughout its history. The sculpture appears massive, but that is mainly because the bear is carrying a block-shaped rock the size of its own body. The “WHY I BEAR / GROSSER LASTENBÄR” sculpture by internationally renowned artist Stefan Rinck was erected during the pandemic, in the course of the much visited ‘’-exhibition, which displayed a first mini version.

Cornelia Brelowski: Bear of Resilience

‘WHY I BEAR / GROSSER LASTENBÄR’, by Stefan Rinck, with Zionskirche church. Photo © Matthias Kolb

The title hints at a manifestation of resilience, and the fact that it was erected during the pandemic years speaks of the load that everyone was bearing at the time. For many more interesting interpretations by Berliners and visitors of all ages, click on the website video at



My own first impression was that the sandstone sculpture depicts a polar bear with an ice block on its back and thus stands for climate change and its impact on nature. As a matter of fact, the sandstone bear has meanwhile become an endangered species itself: The much beloved XXL version in front of the church can only permanently stay if enough people put a word in, aka sign the web petition on the above mentioned website. You can also support the cause by purchasing a mini bronze version: The original senate permit has run out at this point, however for the moment the bear is still there, albeit surrounded by a construction fence.



The bearing bear carries a load which is a little too big for it, and stands for both resistance and resilience in the face of what we currently bear as a global community – from climate change to pandemics through to the struggle for sustainable peace. If you happen to visit in search for the bear, make sure to come by on a Sunday after 12:00, that way you can also enjoy the panoramic views from the church tower or purchase a pot of Zionskirche honey, produced by the church tower bees.

Who knows, maybe you will be pleasantly surprised to find the resilient sandstone bear still in place, greeting you at the door.

Berlin Notes: Town of coffee

Photo: Coline Mattée

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