The Wonderfully Weird is an occasional series written by Maggie whenever she can get off her lazy butt to document the truly strange and fantastic places she has visited.
I really thought the guide was pulling my leg when we approached the Český Krumlov State Castle.
“Keep an eye out below the bridge,” he said. “The bears might be out.”
That sounds like something you say totally seriously, then when people actually go looking, you yell, “Hahaha fooled you all! It’s just a regular ol’ moat. No bears, nothing special.”
Instead, the guide gave a quick look, shrugged and said, “Guess they’re not out today.”
I was so confused.
The history of bears at Český Krumlov go back centuries. You’ll notice them in the Bohemian royal family, the Rosenbergs, coat-of-arms. The Rosenbergs were, according to legend, related to the noble Italian family of Orsini. Orsini comes from “orsa” which means “she-bear” in Italian. Thus, the theme of bears for the Rosenbergs began. In addition to the coat-of-arms, you’ll also find this fresco at the base of the castle ground stairs.
The bear moat was constructed in the early 1700’s, although Wilhelm von Rosenberg was alleged to have kept bears somewhere in the castle during the 16th century. Where inside a castle would you keep such large and wild animals? We’re not sure. Risky move there, Wilhelm.
Records have shown that four bears occupied the moat in 1707. It hasn’t been a continuous occupation, there are stretches of decades where there was not a bear to be found.
Today, however, three bears reside in the moat; Vok and Kateřina, and their cub, Hubert. There’s even an official bearkeeper (what a title) Jan Černý, who takes care of them.
Upon first glance, you may assume that this moat is no place for a family of wild bears. And you’d be correct. Český Krumlov is currently attempting a renovation to give the bears a better quality of life. TBD on it’s completion, but rest assured, bear care is a top priority.
Meanwhile, every January 6th is the Bear Festival, which celebrates Hubert’s birthday. The bears are given a cake and are celebrated by their fans.
But if one festival a year isn’t enough, there’s an additional celebration on Christmas Eve. It’s so cute. Festival goers will bring sweet treats for the bears, while Jan and other workers make sure the treats are safe for the bears to eat. They even get little Christmas decorations. Because, why not?
If you ever find yourself in Český Krumlov, give this area a visit. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the bears will be out and about so you can say hello.
If you were a noble family, would you build a moat for wild animals, bears included? Why or why not? Let’s discuss further in the comments!