Bridging the gap and building bridges are symbolic of progress, friendship & tolerance between differing cultures and in putting past differences aside.
To a traveller bridges are more than just a means to cross a river. They link old & new, Bohemian & ordered, east & west, north & south, faithful & faithless.
When looking through my photos, I realised that I have crossed or viewed many of Europe’s iconic bridges, so I thought it would be a good idea to compile some posts highlighting some of the most well-known.
The bridge that crosses the Miljacka (Миљацка) River in the Bosnian capital is perhaps the first you learn about as a child.
It was whilst crossing the Latin Bridge by horse-drawn carriage in June 1914 that the heir to the empirical Austro-Hungarian throne Franz Ferdinand, together with his wife Sofia, were murdered at the hands of Gavrilo Princip.
This bloodshed set off the chain of events that led to the start of World War I of course and millions more fatalities.
Travel Buddy Hamish Traverses Sarajevo Latin Bridge, September 2012
Talking of Bosnia & Herzegovina, the iconic stone bridge at Mostar is synonymous with the 1990’s Yugoslavia conflict.
The Ottoman Stari Most (old bridge) spanning the River Neretva linked the two sides, one predominantly Christian and the other Muslim, but was destroyed more for the sake of hurting Islamic morale than anything militarily strategic in November 1993 by Croat forces during the Croat–Bosniak War.
After the conflict finished, the bridge that had stood for 427 years was faithfully restored stone by stone using as much of the original material as could be salvaged. The 16th Century structure reopened in July 2004.
It is also famed for the young men who dive/jump the 21 metres into the cold waters below (as pictured). This used to be a feat of daring to prove boys had become brave adults, whereas nowadays it is mainly a way to earn some tourist dollars.
You can watch the action by clicking DIVE.
The Czech capital is home to one of Europe’s best known (and crowded) bridges, Karlův Most or Charles Bridge, which crosses the Vltava River and links Nové Město (New Town) with Staré Město (Old Town).
The construction of the 621 metre long & 10 metre wide bridge started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV and finished in the beginning of the 15th century.
It is protected by three bridge towers and is embellished by a continuous alley of 30 baroque style statues, originally erected around the year 1700, but now all replaced by replicas.
Crossing Charles Bridge is not a speedy affair at the best of times as visitors crowd on to ‘enjoy’ the walk & views, have their picture taken hugging a statue, watch street entertainment or purchase art & craft from the numerous merchants that line its path.
There was a time in the not too distant past when the wonderful Stone Bridge (Камен Мост) in the Macedonian capital was the only exclusively pedestrian central bridge across the Vardar River.
The current Stone Bridge was built on Roman foundations under the patronage of Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror, between 1451 and 1469, becoming the symbol of Skopje and being the main element of the city’s coat of arms.
The Stone Bridge connects the central Macedonia Square to the Islamic coffee shops & bath houses of the Old Bazaar.
The Stone Bridge in 2006
Following the ‘love it or hate it’ make-over of Skopje in recent years, it has now been joined by many other bridges, most festooned with statues & ornate lamp posts and surrounded by ‘in your face’ fountains & grandiose buildings.
The historic Chain Bridge crosses the mighty Danube and links the main flat conurbation of Pest with leafier & hillier Buda on the great river’s west bank.
Designed by the English engineer William Tierney Clark and built by the Scottish engineer Adam Clark, remarkably it was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary when it was opened in 1849.
I visited in October 2006, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of the crushed Hungarian Uprising. With the Chain Bridge being a focal point of Budapest, much of the commemorations centred on it. This included it being draped in flags and covered in dead leaves to depict the fallen citizens from half a century earlier.
The bridge has of course now been joined by many other crossings, including Liberty Bridge, the shortest at 334 meters long.
Those are my personal favourites from the East of Europe, but there are a few other notable examples……
Ljubljana Triple Bridge & Dragon Bridge over the Ljubljanica
Vanšu Bridge & Railway Bridge crossing the Daugava River in Riga
Istanbul (in the East of Europe at least) – bridges across the Bosphorus, most notable for their fishermen
Prizren – Old Stone Bridge over River Bistrica
Ada Bridge over the River Sava in Belgrade
The Peace Bridge in Tbilisi over the Kura River
Any others in the region that I should check out?