I went to see the bears in Beroun today. Their story is kind of interesting, because they were once child actors, used for a Czech TV children’s serial called, “Medvědi” or “The Bears.” The series was shown on the “Večerníček” program, as much of a Czech national institution as “Sesame Street” is to Americans. The show was pretty cute, and the bears’ actions are naturalistic, as opposed to the anthropomorphized portrayals you frequently get with animals on film.

Once the bears outgrew their “aww-cute” phase, the filmmaker offered the bears to the city of Beroun (about 25km outside Prague, on the highway to Plzeň), who not only built a “Medvědárium” but a playground next door. As far as bears in captivity go, I’d say they have pretty good living quarters.

Someone once told me that the ancient Slavic word for bear was considered too terrifying, too powerful to actually say out loud. Saying it would call the bear to you. So instead, the euphemistic “medvěd,” or “knower of honey” was used.

The day almost turned tragic when, on the way back, I saw a sign for “Berounský medvěd, rodinný pivovar.” Hm. Bear beer. While trying to find the place, I almost got into a crash. Didn’t find it on this go-round, but when I do, I’ll be sure to report back here.

UPDATE: Monday, Aug. 11, 2003 12:04 – Alert reader Jan Vaněk jr. points out one of my numerous flaws in Czech: The inability to distinguish between long and short vowels. I apologize for that, and the changes suggested by him in the comments have been made, even the one where a poorly-constructed sentence may have led some to believe Sesame Street is a Czech national institution. Thanks! Go check out his blog (in Czech), by the way.

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