Saturday, September 15, 2007

A (Grey) Bear in Madrid

There are bears in Madrid and not just in the zoo!

Imagine how thrilled I was to find that I'm not the only bear here - although I may be the only grey-coloured bear and I'm certainly the only former international fashion model and current freelance Good Will Ambassador bear.

You can see me (left) next to the city's iconic statue, "El Oso y El Madroño". This is Madrid's most popular meeting place for people, possibly because of its location at the junction of Puerta del Sol and Calle Carmen - kilometer zero, the very heart of the city - but more likely because people just want to see the bear. Who wouldn't? There are always crowds of people having their picture taken with El Oso and sometimes they can be a bit of a pain because they block your access to the sidewalk but I know how it is. The day that I had my picture taken with 'el oso' it was pandemonium. Sometimes I forget how famous I am in Europe. Just like David Hasselhoff.

But the bear, you ask. Why a bear? And why is it leaning against a tree? Well it's not just any tree, it's a strawberry tree - or a Madroño tree - although the strawberries aren't real strawberries but they are red like strawberries. The bear is real though. The bear and tree are actually on Madrid's coat of arms so almost everywhere you look in the city, there's a bear! You can see Madrid's bear decorating the entrances to restaurants and pubs - even on manhole covers, although I guess those would be bearhole covers. I wanted to have my picture taken with one of those but my bipedal attendants were concerned that I'd get dirty. There are sacrifices I have to make to maintain my image.

Madrid's bear is actually a she-bear, which would make her an osa not an oso. If you look closely at her, you can see that she's a girl- or at least not a boy-bear. This symbol of the city goes back to the 13th century when there were lots of bears in the area. The strawberry tree represented an agreement made between the Church and State over disputed land claims: the Church got the p
asture lands and the State (or Madrid) got the trees. In the actual coat of arms, the bear also has 7 stars which represent the stars of the constellation ursa minor (little bear).

Interestingly, the painting The Garden of Earthly Delights by Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch which is here in Madrid was catalogued as "the picture with the strawberry-tree fruits" in the inv
entories of the Spanish Crown. Later it was renamed. I like the first name much better. Although I have to admit that the painting is a little bizarre - not the sort of thing that bears normally like, what with the scenes of animals torturing people - but as a former international fashion model and now freelance Good Will Ambassador, I've been exposed to a lot of cultural things. I understand various allegorical themes.

Is it any wonder that I feel so at home here in
Madrid or that busloads o
f Japanese tourists often chase me down the street with their cameras? I thought it was because they recognized me as a former international fashion model and now freelance Good Will Ambassador but maybe it’s because they think I’m Madrid’s El Oso. Although anyone can see that I’m grey and not brown.

8 comments:

knarf said...

Do you drive a black Firebird named Kit?

Does your car talk to you with a voice that sounds a lot like the head surgeon in that old TV show St. Elsewhere?

knarf said...

Do you ever hear bongos playing when you run in slow motion down the street?

Wait, wrong Iconic Seventies TV Series...

Grey Bear said...

Unfortunately, they don't issue driving licenses to bears, otherwise I would have a talking car!

knarf said...

What about bongos when your run (or perhaps more accurately, when your human handlers run)?

"We have the technology..."

Grey Bear said...

My handlers promised me a little set of bongos just like yours but they've (the bongos) never materialized. Maybe on their next trip ...

knarf said...

I have a matching beret and coffee mug. Perhaps you'll get the same, too!

Grey Bear said...

You must look so hip ...

knarf said...

I like to think so...