The Bridges of Rochlitz, Germany

Zassnitz Suspension Bridge
Zassnitz Suspension Bridge. Photos taken in March and May 2017

While cities, like Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden have many well-known bridges that are either fancy in design or over 80 years old, there are many town and villages, with an exceptionally high number of these structures, but whose history and design make them appealing to tourists, historians and photographers alike. One could just say that when discovered, these bridges would make a great tour guide, let alone a great platform for research.

Little is written about the historic bridges in Rochlitz. Located seven kilometers east of Geithain and 30 kilometers southeast of Leipzig, the town of only 6,500 inhabitants is situated along the Zwickauer Mulde River, at the junction of highways 7 (from Geithain and Leipzig), 175 (from Glauchau and Zwickau) and 107 (from Grimma and Meissen). The town is famous for its castle, built in the 1400s and still houses administrative and judicial offices today. It also has a historic market square with its historic town hall and fountain, as well as its historic Postmeile and Hospital, both originating from the 1600s. And finally, Rochlitz has a long row of historic buildings lining up along the main street, which is divided with a wide center island that is lined with trees and statues.

The town used to be a hub for regional and freight train services, as a line between Glauchau and Wurzen once served passenger trains from 1890 until its decommission in 2004. Another line connecting Waldheim and Narsdorf with Penig and Geithain passed through Rochlitz but was abandoned after 1998. Unlike many American railroad companies, like the now defunct Chicago-Rock Island-Pacific Railways, which used to remove bridges, crossings and rails upon abandoning the line, these two rail lines are still visible when passing through Rochlitz. As a consequence, one can see many remnants that had once been associated with the Mulde rail routes before being shut down, including the railroad station, rails, and even bridges.

Three railroad bridges spanning the Zwickauer Mulde in Rochlitz are still standing, despite having been out of service for almost two decades, all of whom are still in great condition with some minor damages and rust. One of them, located near the Castle, is the second longest known railroad crossing along the river behind the Göhren Viaduct at Lunzernau, just 12 river kilometers upstream. And this goes together perfectly with a highway bridge built of brick and the river’s signature crossings- two pedestrian suspension bridges with truss features, which makes up for eleven of such crossings between Aue and Wurzen via Glauchau and Zwickau that are anchored by towers, five being suspension bridges.

Map of Rochlitz and the Bridges:

 

This tour guide will provide you with a tour of these six crossings, plus an addition two bridges at the Castle and two shorter crossings found by accident while biking along an abandoned section of the Waldheim-Narsdorf Line. All-in-all, ten bridges will be profiled- six of which are along the Mulde, but three are directly in Rochlitz. One located to the south at Fischheim and two to the north will be included. The city of Rochlitz had already profiled two of the crossings along the river for their website prior to my recent visit. However, when reading the tour guide in English (you can also switch to German or other languages via Google-Translator, if you wish), the city will probably think about expanding its information to include the other crossings left out. Furthermore, with five abandoned crossings profiled, it will provide a basis for possible discussion regarding either revitalizing the rail line between Glauchau and Wurzen or converting that stretch to a rails-to-trails route, based on the success stories of many in the United States.

 

So without further ado, let’s have a look at the first crossing…..

 

Schaukelsteg Fischheim:

Our first bridge on tour is the Schaukelsteg. Located over the Zwickauer Mulde, this 1958 bridge connects the villages of Szörnig and Fischheim, approximately three kilometers south of Rochlitz. The bridge itself is one of the rarest a person can find in Germany. It is a combination of a wire suspension bridge and cantilever  Warren truss with riveted connections- the former of which is the main span; the latter as approach spans. What is even more unique is the fact that the wire cables are anchored at the top chord of the cantilever truss spans, while the cables run through the looped suspenders, which supports the decking. The towers, albeit anchored on piers that are well above the river levels, are triangle-shaped with the pointed end down. Only one other bridge was built using such a design, which was located in Rochsburg. It was built at the same time as this bridge but was replaced in 2012.

The Schaukelsteg was first mentioned in 1871, when it was built as a wooden crossing. It was destroyed by flooding and subsequentially replaced by a wire suspension bridge in 1907. At that time, it was a typical suspension bridge supported by vertical towers. It lasted for 47 years until it was washed away by flooding in 1954, which destroyed one in six bridges along the Zwickauer Mulde. It took four years until this structure came about and has survived two more major floodings events ever since, including the 2002 floods, which happened right after the bridge was restored. Like in the 1871 bridge, this bridge serves pedestrian and bike traffic, although at one time, the 1907 suspension bridge was once a toll bridge, having collected 10 Pfennig per person for crossing the bridge in the daytime, 20 Pfennig at night or when crossing by bike and 30 Pfennig when crossing with a load. This was needed to maintain costs for operating the structure. Today, the bridge is considered a free bridge and is part of the Mulde Bike Train System.

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Zassnitz Railroad Viaduct:

Located at the Castle on the south end of Rochlitz, the Zassnitz Railroad Viaduct is the longest railroad viaduct along the Glauchau-Wurzen Railroad Line, with a length of 243 meters. It is the second longest along the Zwickauer Mulde behind the Göhren Viaduct, a bridge that is three times as long. The bridge was built in 1872 when the Penig-Rochlitz section of the Glauchau-Wurzen line was opened, yet the current structure appears to have been built right after World War II because of the newness of the steel used in the contraption. The bridge features, from south to north, three spans of deck plate girder approach spans, five Warren deck truss main spans across the Mulde- the trusses are subdivided and have riveted connections- and four concrete beam approach spans on the city end. Since 2002, the line has been out of use, and with it, the bridge, which flanks the Castle and can be seen in the foreground. Yet talks about revitalizing the line is still ongoing. Should it bear fruit, the bridge may need some rehabilitative work, as some trusses are rusted and the concrete approach spans are cracked. But it remains to be seen if the line will ever be in use again.

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Zassnitz Suspension Bridge:

Not more than 300 meters away, we have the Zassnitz Suspension Bridge. Built in 1956-7, the current structure serves pedestrian traffic, providing access to the old town from the Mulde Bike Trail. Its construction is similar to the suspension bridge at Fischheim, yet with one catch: It is a pure suspension bridge, whose cables are anchored at the towers, which are triangular shaped and whose pointed end is upwards. However, the pointed end is capped by a curved , which guides the cable directly over the tower before being anchored on its outer side. The towers themselves are A-shaped, but at a transversal view, the bracings are also A-frame.  Like the suspension bridge at Fischheim, the bridge was washed away by floods in 1954 and was therefore reconstructed afterwards, but east of its original site. First built as a wooden covered bridge in 1502, later replaced with a wire suspension bridge in 1889, which had survived 65 years before that tragic event, the Zassnitz Suspension Bridge is the oldest known crossing in Rochlitz. It is one of the key attractions in the town and is listed as a technical historical site by the German Preservation Laws.

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Rochlitz Highway Bridge:

Spanning the Zwickauer Mulde on the east end of Rochlitz, this city bridge is the lone crossing going in and out of Rochlitz, and apart from carrying two major highways going south and east towards Glauchau and Mittweida respectively, this 115 meter long bridge is famous because of two historic feats:

 

  1. It set a record for the shortest amount of time needed to construct an arch bridge. Using red granite from a quarry in Mittweida, workers needed only seven months to construct this arch bridge, which features five arches, the of the longest being over the Mulde. This also included the demolition of its predecessor as it was deemed functionally obsolete.

 

  1. It was also the site where American troops marched into Rochlitz on 15 April, 1945 without a single shot fired. Realizing that resisting the Allied troops was no longer an option despite desperate pleas by Hitler and other Nazi officials to fight to the very death, citizens agreed to terms of an unconditional surrender at the bridge. This was symbolic for Rochlitz was one of only a few historic towns that survived without being destroyed by bombs. The bridge itself was one of a few that survived Nazi attempts of blowing it up in a feeble attempt to halt the movements of the armies. A plaque at the east end of the bridge explains how the bridge and the town were both spared.

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Rochlitz-Narsdorf Railroad Bridge (a.k.a. East Bridge):

From the highway bridge, one needs to bike another two kilometers along the Zwickauer Mulde, rounding the historic town, before reaching the first of two railroad bridges. The East Bridge is one of the most unique of the railroad bridges along the river. The railroad bridge features three spans of a deck Howe truss bridge, built in a curved fashion. The trusses are welded together and has curved endpoints, which makes it one of the fanciest railroad bridges in eastern Germany. Workers needed a year and a half to build this 170-meter structure, from October 1891 until its opening on 28 March, 1893.

From then on, until the rail line was discontinued in 1998, the bridge served passenger and freight services, although reports indicated that traffic was limited because of little demand for train service to Narsdorf and Waldheim. The bridge has been out of use for almost 20 years, yet it still retains its original form, despite having survived the floods of 2002 and 2013.

 

While plans are in the making to convert the old line into a bike trail, chances are very likely that this bridge will have a new function, providing cyclists with a link between Waldheim and Rochlitz and with that, the two bike trails that bear the name Mulde, but with the two different branches (Zwickauer and Freiberger). Should this happen, it would eliminate the sharp curves and extremely narrow tunnel that is offered on the Zwickauer Mulde, where cyclists are required to dismount before passing through.

 

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Rochlitz-Colditz Railroad Bridge (a.k.a. North Bridge):

Only 200 meters from the East Bridge, we have the North Bridge. When leaving the train station Rochlitz enroute to Colditz and the final destination Wurzen, the line branches off into the eastern line (going across the East Bridge) and the northern line and this bridge. This 100 meter long structure features three spans of a deck plate girder design, carrying one track of traffic. As a bonus, it also has a bottom deck, which carries bike and pedestrian traffic along the Mulde bike trail, but hanging off the side and supported by still steel suspenders. In fact, between the narrow tunnel at East Bridge and the northern end of this bridge, the trail consists of a catwalk, which hugs the river bank between the two railroad bridges before crossing on the North Bridge. Afterwards, the path continues on the ground as a paved route going along the eastern side of the river. The railroad bridge itself appears to have been built after World War II and is structurally in good condition. Yet being out of service for over 15 years, there are concerns about what to do with the railroad bridge, let alone with the line itself. While it will still continue its use as a hanger for the bike trail crossing/ catwalk, the question remains whether it makes sense to continue this use or if the trail could be directly on the bridge itself.

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Geithain-Rochlitz Tunnels:

When biking along the Talweg from Königsfeld, located west of Rochlitz, and the garden house district in the western part of the town, one can find a couple unique arch bridges spanning driveways and the Frelsbach Creek. Both of them are made of stone and cement, and have spans of 10 meters. Both of them are part of the former Geithain-Rochlitz railroad route that used to pass through Rochlitz enroute to Narsdorf and Walheim before it was abandoned. The bridges are still standing and should the former railroad route was converted to a bike trail, one will be treated by the crossings which are over 120 years old and still in pristine condition.

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Rochlitz Castle Bridges

The last bridges in this tour guide are the ones surrounding the Rochlitz Castle. The castle was built on the site of an imperial castle that had been built in the 10th century. From 1143 until the 18th century, the castle had been part of the margraves of Wettin, who were responsible for expanding the castle during the next four centuries, with much of the work being done in the 14th Century to include romanesque wings, a secondary residence, hunting field and a church, just to name a few. Since 1852, the castle has housed governmental offices, which includes judicial offices that are responsible for the district of Mittelsachsen. 40 years later, a museum opened and has provided tourists with a chance to learn about the castle’s history and its relationship with the Wettin family.  The castle is surrounded by the Zwickauer Mulde on the south end, the Hellerbach Creek to the west, and moats to the east and north. It was obvious that bridges were needed to provide access to the castle.

Two of the bridges worth noting are multiple span arch bridges. A short span can be found at the east entrance to the castle at the church. That bridge features two spans made of stone and cement. The bridge is arranged in a slanted formation, providing tourists with a climb from the streets of the old town into the castle. The longest of the bridges known to exist is a four-span stone arch bridge, spanning the Hellerbach at the western entrance to the castle. It is about 100 meters long and at least 20 meters tall, visible from the Zassnitz Suspension Bridge. Both bridges appear to have been built in the 11th or 12th century and were probably renovated some centuries later. They still maintain their original integrity although we don’t know how many more bridges can be found at the castle. It is possible that when touring the castle one can find one or two more at the site.

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To learn more about the bridges and of Rochlitz, here are a list of links for you to click on:

City of Rochlitz:

http://www.rochlitz.de/home/

Rochlitz Castle:

http://www.schloss-rochlitz.de/de/startseite/

The Zwickauer Mulde Bike Trail:

http://www.mulderadweg.de/

The Bridges of Rochlitz:

http://www.rochlitz.de/wirtschaft-und-tourismus/tourismus/sehenswuerdigkeiten/bruecken/

 

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The Bridges of Aue (Saxony), Germany

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Sometimes experiments are needed in order to find out how to effectively reach your audience. It can be with the use of print media, such as newspaper articles, leaflets, broschures and the like. But it can also mean the use of various forms of technology, such as the internet and social networking. Aside from wordpress, which powers the Chronicles both as an original as well as the areavoices version, people have used facebook and pininterest to post their pics of their favorite bridges. Yet most of these have been individual bridges and not that of a tour guide, like the Chronicles has been posting since its launch in 2010.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles has just started using  Instagram recently, and I had a chance to experiment with putting a tour guide together, using the app , during my most recent visit to the city of Aue in western Saxony.

Located 25 kilometers southeast of Zwickau where the Zwickauer Mulde and Schwarzwasser (Black Water) Rivers meet, Aue is lined up along both rivers with houses that are between a century and two centuries old.  The town prides itself on mining and therefore, one can find many places where silver is produced and transported, both past and present. It also has a top premere soccer team in Erzgebirge Aue, which plays in the second tier of the German Bundesliga.  Eight kilometers to the west is the town of Schneeberg, where several Medieval buildings have been considered historically significant by the government and UNESCO, including its prized cathedral. However getting there is almost only possible by bus or car, for biking up there would be as biblically challenging as Moses climbing up Mt. Sinai to speak to God and get the Ten Commandments.

Speaking from experience, if you have to go to Schneeberg from Aue, please don’t do that and take the bus. 😉

Getting back to the story, I happened to take some downtime between the time of an appointment in Schneeberg and the time I had to return to Jena. The only problem was the camera that I usually use for my bridgehunting tour was left home by accident. Bummer as it was and seeing many sights considering surprising to the eye of the photographer and pontist, I decided to use Instagram on my Smartphone and started taking pictures.

And the rest was history. 🙂

Bahnhofsbrücke spanning the Schwarzwasser at the confluence with the Zwickauer Mulde

A post shared by bridgehunters_chronicles2010 (@bridgehunters_chronicles17) on

For the first time in its history, the Chronicles has a tour guide where Instagram is almost exclusively used. When you click on the picture below, you will be taken to the page where you can see all the bridges I visited and photographed. A map is provided below the picture, showing you where they are located. You can also access the Chronicles by clicking on the instagram symbol on the left side under Social.

As I’m looking for some information on the bridges profiled here, if you know of some facts about the bridges, please leave a comment here or contact me via e-mail, using the contact form provided. The facts about the bridges are found in the Google Map. All you need to do is have a look at the pictures on Instagram and feel free to comment.

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Numbers as Great as They Now are Few

This Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ guest column takes a look at wooden pony truss bridges, but not the truss bridges we know of- where the truss frames are exposed, as you see in normal truss bridges. From Will Truax’s vantage point, these wooden pony truss crossings are covered with paneling, making it look like pony girder spans made of wood. Albeit popular 50 years ago, these bridge types are becoming a thing of the past due to vandalism/arson and its obsoleteness to modern traffic thus requiring replacement. But there are a few that exist and how they work we’ll let Will take over from there…..

The podium is his…. 🙂

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A different shake of the box this go, no external wonder over maddening happenstance. This time a glimpse of history and not from my typical perspective, this go we will look at what was, simply because it is so little looked at, and with that somewhat under-realized.

We are about to look at wooden Pony Truss bridges and in the doing, we will explore what was with photographs in numbers greater than is typical of our explorations. Though unlike the allusion of our chosen title, which speaks to how common Wooden Ponies once were and how remarkably those numbers have dwindled, dwindled to a point just short of totality, from untold hundreds if not thousands, to a count which depending on how you categorize the type, which can arguably be seen as countable on one hand.

Old Russell Hill The Old Russell Bridge of Wilton New Hampshire is sometimes also known as The…

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 81: The Bridge to an Elevator

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During my tour of Chemnitz in western Saxony a few days ago, I happened to come across this rather unusual crossing. Spanning the Kappelbach Creek approximately 150 meters west of the River Chemnitz and the Pfortensteg in the city of Chemnitz, this crossing is located at a park where the bike path runs parallel to the river through the city with 240,000 inhabitants. By first glance, my impression was that it was a typical concrete beam bridge built in the East German era like many other bridges that had been destroyed in World War II. However, when crossing it, one can see an unusual building-like structure that seems to be walled into a high cliff. Looking at the cliff more closely, it extends approximately 500 meters from the Bierbrücke near the district of Kassberg to the north, towards the intersection where Highways 95 and 173 meet to the southwest. Of which, approximately 150 meters seemed to be walled with bricks and concrete, making it appear that Chemnitz once had an underground passage that started at the park and networked its way to the castle. It is known that there were underground passageways at the Kassberg and Bier Bridges- one of which served as a passage for prisoners, another for transporting beer to the walls of the city, where the multi-story houses are located today.

Yet when looking at the bridge and this structure, this definitely was the work of an East German engineer, who like many others wanted to paint Chemnitz with a communst face, which was the reason why the city was called Karl-Marz-Stadt from 1953 to 1990. The building presented some skeletal features that are geometric with rectangular shapes- each row with a different pattern. While this skeletal structure now houses pipelines providing warm water to the city center, one has to wonder what original purpose this skeletal structure had. Because the height of the cliff from the ground to the top is between 20 and 30 meters- about the length of the crossing itself- and its approximate location to some key judicial areas, such as the district and labor courts, it is possible that at one time it served as a large elevator providing people and bikes with a lift to see the judge. That would put the construction date to the 1960s when electric elevators were becoming useful for high-rise buildings and the government district of Karl-Marx-Stadt was functioning like a state, extending its reach of jurisidiction to as far west as Jena and Gera, as far south as the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) and Vogtland, as far east as Freiberg and as far north as Riesa. Most of the judicial district may have been located at the top of the hill at the site of today’s district courts, which had been a traditional location because of the nearby castle. After the Fall of the Wall in 1989 and the subsequential Reunification a year later, that elevator no longer served as that function and was therefore converted to its present form. But more evidence is needed to prove this.

As for other functions, the building or a prison complex are concerned, given the lack of space it had between the outlet and the walled cliffs it is anchored into, that would be impossible because of the need to add 3-4 stories with shafts with handles for people to climb up or down.

But could this building actually had housed this elevator at that time or was it really meant for a pipeline cover? We know that it is as old as the structure that is now a pedestrian bridge- 50+ years old and still functioning like other GDR buildings at that time. But was this building an elevator or a skeletal unit?

Looking forward to your thoughts on this……

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Check out Mystery Bridge Nr. 80 by clicking here.

 

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World’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge opens in Saxony-Anhalt

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The hanging bridge is in front of the dam. Photo taken by MDR Sachsen-Anhalt

The Rappbodetalsperre Brücke near Elbingerrode (Harz) is open to pedestrians wishing for a view of the dam and lake.

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ELBINGERRODE (HARZ)/ MAGDEBURG, GERMANY-  The Harz Mountains in Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony is famous for its antique, sometimes Medieval villages with Fachwerk houses (like Quedlinburg), hiking and skiing. It picturesque landscape makes it one of the most visited places in central Germany.

In Elbingerrode, south of Wenigerode, there is now another reason for visiting the Harz Mountains, but in the form of the world’s longest pedestrian bridge. The Rappbodetalsperre Suspension Bridge has been open since May 7th, breaking all records that had been set most recently. The bridge is located just 80 meters northeast of the dam, overlooking the Bode Reservoir to the southwest and the Schiefeberg Mountains to the east and north, in the direction of Quedlinburg and Wenigerode. With a height of 100 meters above the Bode River, one can take a breath-taking view of the region, while enjoying the swinging motion the bridge offers. The bridge overtakes the Sky Bridge in Sochi, Russia in terms of length and height, but is comparable to some of the longest and highest bridges in China and Malaysia.

Workers needed a total of five years to build the structure- three of which consisted of planning, which was followed by almost two  years of construction, where towers were constructed on both ends of the valley, then the wire cables were draped over the towers. Suspender cables were erected both between the roadway and the main cables, as well as some support cables that were anchored between the bridge and the cliffs. Workers tok advantage of the slate rock to solidify the foundations and towers, which made spinning the cables and constructing the roadway much less complicated. Some photos taken by German public radio station MDR shows you in detail the contraption of the structure (click here).

Apart from walking across the bridge, in the near future, people can also bungee jump 75 meters toward the river from the bridge deck. The only caveat is that the suspension bridge is a toll bridge, where people can pay six Euros to cross the unique structure.

This might scare away acrophobes even more, in addition to the height, yet it will definitely not dissuade bridge enthusiasts, naturalists and tourists from visiting the bridge. Even a fellow pontist in the US is looking forward to a post card of the bridge.

Put that on your memo sheet. 😉

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The Rappbodesperre Pedestrian Bridge has a total length of 483 meters, with the main span of 458 meters (1502 feet), with a height of over 100 meters above the dam and river. The cable construction has a pulling force of 947 tons with the cables themselves being anchored into the rocks. The bridge took five years to be built and it overtakes the Sky Bridge in Sochi, Russia in terms of main span length by 20 meters.

This article is co-produced with sister column, The Flensburg Files, which you can view the areavoices version here.

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The Bridges of Glauchau (Saxony), Germany

In connection with the article by the Freie Presse (Free Press) in Chemnitz, located just east of Glauchau: http://www.freiepresse.de/LOKALES/ZWICKAU/GLAUCHAU/Amerikaner-begibt-sich-in-Glauchau-auf-Bruecken-Jagd-artikel9897134.php

The Bridgehunter's Chronicles

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There is a philosophy pertaining to visiting a town that makes tourism unique and interesting: Always look for the most uncommon and unvisited places first before visiting the main attractions. They have the most valuable information and features that will make you leave town knowing a bit more than before.

Glauchau, located in western Saxony approximately 20 kilometers west of Chemnitz and 13 kilometers north of neighboring Zwickau is a typical farming community. Yet despite having 23,000 residents, the community, which has a historic city center and two castles, is known for its serenity, as there is not much activity directly in the city, but more in the areas full of green, thanks to its parks, the Glauchau Reservoir and the green areas along the Zwickauer Mulde River. Here’s a sample of what a person can see while spending time in this quiet community:

And while I was there for…

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Germany Quiz 8: Saxony Part II

Greetings to my bridgehunters and followers of the Chronicles,

For those travelling to Germany in the near future and in particular, Saxony, here’s a guide on what you need to know about the state which is comparable to California in terms of its inventions and innovations. More unique are the bridges that are located there. You will find them in the third sectio of the quiz. Without further ado, have a look at the Guessing Quiz on Saxony, courtesy of the sister column, The Flensburg Files. 🙂  Good luck! 😀

Source: Germany Quiz 8: Saxony Part II