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Brown bears have been associated with Bern since the Middle Ages and had been kept in a bear pit since the sixteenth century. However there were strong feelings that this was not good for the bears, and following a very sad accident the people of Bern voted funds to create a "Bear Park" adjacent to the site of the old bear pits. This was opened in October 2009. The bears now have a very luxurious home on the banks of the river Aar. They even have a "swimming pool", fed by water from this fast-flowing river. Tourists can view the bears from the bottom of the hill and there is a lift to take them down there. Just before the bears were moved to the new bear park the President of Russia, on a state visit to Switzerland, presented the city of Bern with two little brown bear cubs. Watching the cubs playing has made the Bear Park even more popular!
To reach the Bear Park walk through the old town of Bern, down the streets that flow into one another and are called Spitalgasse, Marktgasse, Kramgasse and Gerechtikeitsgasse. Cross over the Nydeggbrücke at the bottom of the hill. The Bear Park can be seen from the bridge and is on the left. There is a restaurant near the park which has a nice terrace and there are also souvenir stands there.