This mystery bridge article takes us back to western Saxony and a village northeast of Glauchau called Waldenburg. With a population of close to 5,000 inhabitants, the town is located on the western bank of the Zwickauer Mulde, has a beautiful castle and historic city center, as well as an international European School. A link to the city’s homepage will show you what the town looks like and some of the things you can do there.
Aside from a 1940s style bridge that is the primary crossing in Waldenburg, the mystery lies behind a canal located between Waldenburg and a neighboring village Remse. There, two bridges- an arch bridge and a steel pony through girder bridge span this canal, which appears to be at least 60 years old, if not, older. The canal was built along the right-hand side of the Mulde, and it is unknown what its use was. One can make one of two conclusions:
The canal was built as a diversion canal, similar to the one built in Glauchau that encircled the western part of the city to alleviate the flooding. There, Heinrich Carl Hedrich had already established himself as the inventor of the city drainage system and may have been involved in the designing and construction of the Flutgraben. He had been the city engineer prior to the flooding of 1858 which caused considerable damage to Glauchau and all places to the northeast, including Waldenburg. It is possible that the canal at Waldenburg dates back to the timespan between 1860 and 1900, the time when Glauchau’s diversion canal was being built. As low as the two crossings were, it would be the most logical conclusion as it passage underneath was (and is still is) next to impossible. Yet having a concrete tiling at the bottom of the canal, plus the proximity of the canal to Waldenburg and the palace could lead to conclusion number…..
The canal provided passage for boats between Remse and Waldenburg. The Mulde is notorious for being shallow but also very muddy, thus making transportation almost impossible. Even water was transported over the river via pipes, thanks to the Röhrensteg in Zwickau, located south of Glauchau and Waldenburg. Therefore diversion canals were the easiest way to go for transporting boats between Glauchau and Waldenburg, having been built in places where the river made boat passage impossible. If this theory is true, then the bridges that exist today were built many years later, between the 1930s and 1950s, when boat traffic ceased because of the coming of the automobile, combined with World War II and its after-effects. However……
The canal may have been used for transporting drinking water between Glauchau and Waldenburg. The evidence behind this lies with the aquifers that exist at the dam where the canal starts in Remse combined with the water treatment station located west of Waldenburg, where highways 180 and 175 meet. As dirty as the river was (and still is to a degree today), the filtering complex was built in 1899 by the city of Meerane (west of Glauchau but owns Remse) where the dirt and other debris were filtered out and the water was cleaned of all harmful bacteria.
To sum up, the canal with the two bridges may have been used as a diversion canal, like the one in Glauchau, for boat passage between Glauchau and Waldenburg or for allowing the flow of drinking water to Waldenburg. The question is which one was used for what. When that is answered, then the question is who was behind both the canal and the two bridges and why?
You have the answers? You know what to do. For reference purposes, check out the Bridges of Glauchau and Zwickau (links highlighted) where you can read more about the Mulde and how it was tamed by crossings that transported water and diversion canals that protected at least Glauchau from further flooding.
Note: This is both a mystery bridge as well as a mystery infrastructure, hence its post in sister column, The Flensburg Files.
Author’s Note: This Mystery Bridge is part of the bridgehunting tour through the small town of Zeitz, located along the River White Elster in the eastern part of the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. A tour guide of the town that has “Rather stood still in time” will follow here in the Chronicles.
Our next mystery bridge takes us back to Germany and specifically, to Saxony-Anhalt. Despite being the most sparsely populated state in the Bundesrepublik based on population versus land size ratio, the state is an attraction as far as nature, historic buildings (many of them sitting abandoned since 1990) and historic bridges are concerned (especially if we look at the bridges in Halle (Saale), Magdeburg and Quedlinburg).
Zeitz is no exception to the rule. Located along the River White Elster between the cities of Gera and Leipzig, and east of Weissenfels and Naumburg, the town of 29,000 was once an industrial community dominated by the rail, steel and agricultural industries. Today, the town is a poster boy of a typical East German community that has stood still in time. Many historic buildings dating back to the late 1800s to 1930s are sitting empty, but have retained its original charm. The city has been used as a platform for films focusing on the GDR. And as far as historic bridges are concerned, it competes with Halle and Quedlinburg in terms of numbers and appearance.
This includes this pavilion-style bridge located east of the community at Moritzburg Castle. Spanning a canal, just 40 meters from its mouth at the White Elster, the bridge appears to date back to the Baroque Period because of the features that are typical for this era. The bridge span itself is a closed spandrel brick arch with a span of 15 meters at the most, long enough to span the canal. The total length appears to be close to 30 meters in length, counting the approach spans. As for the architecture that is on the bridge, it features the following going from center outwards:
The center of the span features a concrete dome covered with black ceramic paneling. The dome is not completely round for it is four-sided, bordered by a grey ceramic lining. The top of the dome is covered by another, much smaller cupola, resembling a small round barn. The reason for the bridge being considered a pavilion is for it is supported by concrete columns, the rounded ones encircle the dome, while six squared-shaped columns make up the front façade facing the river. Each side is ornamental, representing a different form of inscribed artwork, topped by a finial with sculptures. The middle four feature two inner ones that are taller than the outer two and that line the canal bank. Like the rounded columns, they support the dome and the gabled roof flanking the front end and containing carved artwork. Between the two inner columns are three round columns, supporting the flat head board made of concrete. The outer two of the middle four columns as well as the outermost squared columns also feature three rounded inner columns on each side supporting the head board, resembling the extremely widened version of Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Photos of the bridge show in detail what the structure looks like in terms of its functionality and aesthetic appearance.
It is unknown when the pavilion bridge was built, let alone who built it. However it is known that the Moritzburg Castle was built in a Baroque style in 1667, replacing an earlier castle destroyed by the Swedish army in 1644 during the 30-Years War. The reconstruction effort took 10 years. Yet the castle dates back to the time of the establishment of the diocese of Zeitz by King Otto I in 968. Both the castle and its neighboring Zeitzer Dom Cathedral were restored in the 1990s and still serves as the key attraction for people visiting the community. The pavilion itself, given its similar appearance to the rebuilt castle, dates back to the 1700s, yet it is unknown when exactly it was built, who was responsible for this unusual construction, and more importantly, why it was built over the canal that was only 100 meters away from its junction with the White Elster.
Any clues as to when it was built? We would love to hear them from you. Submit your information to the Chronicles via e-mail or through its social network pages and any information on the bridge will be added to the tour guide of Zeitz, which will be published in the Chronicles.
Zeitz is one area that has not been explored by any pontists- neither from its own country nor from elsewhere. Yet this bridge represents a vast number of bridges in this area that have a very high aesthetic value and potential for history for other people to know about, especially when it comes to their role in the development of the community and how it survived a wide array of adversities, including surviving two World Wars and 40 years of communist rule that ended in 1989. Like the other bridges in the region where the former East Germany existed, the bridges of Zeitz are definitely worth having a look at, especially if we look at this bridge in particular.
The next three segments of the bridgehunting tour in Schleswig-Holstein, which was taken in April of this year, deal with the historic bridges along the Baltic-North Sea Canal. The Grand Canal geographically slices the northernmost German state into two, ironically Schleswig in the northern half and Holstein in the southern half. The east terminus is located in the northern edge of the state capital of Kiel, where ships can enter the Baltic Sea. The western (or North Sea) terminus is located near the city of Heide. While the current canal was constructed between 1885 and 1890 under the direction of Reeder Dalhström and Friedrich Voss (for the bridges), the origin of the canal dates back to 1784 when it was completed. While both canals run parallel to each other, the newer (and current) canal runs a straighter course, cutting the distance down to 95km instead of 160km as the older (and now defunct canal) had. Nevertheless, both canals have a chest full of stories of their past, which includes the history of the bridges that span them. The first segment will deal with the first segment of the old canal (known today as the Alte Eider Canal), which ran in an S-shaped fashion from Kiel to Rendsburg. The second segment will handle the western half of the old canal, which is today considered the River Eider and empties into the North Sea near Husum. And finally, the last segment will focus on the bridges along the present canal, most of whom were built by Friedrich Voss and it includes the Rendsburg High Bridge, which will be featured as a separate segment in itself because of its unique design. While the author was only able to photograph the bridges between Kiel and Rendsburg, there are other contributors who were nice enough to assist in the addition of their photos in areas that need it the most. These names will be mentioned accordingly and the author is thankful for their assistance. PART I: THE ALTE EIDER CANAL BETWEEN KIEL AND RENDSBURG
After an hour of lunch, combined with a trek combing up along the west end of the Kieler Fjorde, passing the university and the state parliamentary building along the way, I ended up in the northernmost suburb of Holtenau, the starting point of the Grand Canal. Measuring about 95 km long and approximately 60 meters wide in many areas, it resembled the Panama Canal, which slices through the isthmus connecting North and South America. The only difference between the two is the landscape, which the Grand Canal goes through mostly flat land. Before the trip to Kiel to start on the journey, I bought a magazine bearing the name “Nord-Ostsee-Kanal” 2011 version from a book store in Flensburg and while staying at the hotel on the city’s east end of Mürwik, I learned about the canal’s history, let alone the origins, and decided to make a parallel bike tour where I could find and photograph the bridges along both canals, although I would risk not getting from Kiel to Heide before sundown. While my prediction did come true, there was no regret doing what I did, for I would not have had the chance to share my experiences travelling along the Alte Eider and the Grand Canals at the same time.
The Alte Eider Canal had a width of about 30 meters and was 4 meters deep in many areas. While its starting point was in Kiel Holtenau, its path represented a long snake slithering quietly through the flat lands, as the canal made a lot of really sharp turns. Since many ships passing through the canal at the time of its completion had no engines (they would come in 1830s), most of them were pulled by horse and manpower to avoid any collisions with the banks. The canal swerved through many small present-day villages with many locks along the way. They include the villages of Knoop, Pojensdorf, Rathmannsdorf and Schinkel northeast of the present-day canal and Kluvensiek, Bovenau, and Klein Königsförde located to the south and west of the Grand Canal close to Rendsburg. And with each village, there were series of locks- more than that of the canal today in its entire length- many of whom are all but relicts today, where people can come and see what they looked like when the Alte Eider had its heyday.
Each canal lock consisted of a bridge, built using a bascule design which permitted traffic to horse and buggy and ships when necessary. There are many different types of bascule (or draw) bridges that were created and developed. The Scherzer rolling lift style was used on the Lindaunis Bridge over the Schlei (please refer to my earlier column on this bridge). In Schleswig-Holstein, double leaf bascules were used most often to span narrow canals like the ones that existed along the Alte Eider. Originating from neighboring Holland (today known as The Netherlands), double leaf bascules consist of two half-bridge spans, each of them supported by cables or chains that are anchored by towers located on each end of the canal. For a textbook style, the cables or chains are connected to counterweight, located above each tower, which if lowered by manpower (or in today’s case machine), lifts the half-span to its vertical position to allow the ships to pass through. To lower the half-span, the weight is lifted up and back to its position above the tower, and the roadway is anchored down in a horizontal position, allowing horse and buggy to pass. An example of this bridge can be found in one of the pictures below. These types are still being used today in Schleswig-Holstein for small crossings including those along the Eider River in the western part of the state. More on that in the second segment. At least eight different locks had bridges of this type in service before the Alte Eider was made obsolete by the Grand Canal, one located in each village. This included the ones in Rendsburg, Kluvensiek and Klein Königsförde, which is profiled at the end of the column.
When the Grand Canal opened to traffic in 1895, the Alte Eider Canal lost its significance and was subsequentially put out of service. Much of the canal was filled up with silt, while other sections were dismantled and buried with dirt by farmers in an attempt to convert it into farmland. Some of the locks were dismantled with the bridges removed, while others were left as a landmark signaling the canal’s heyday. One can see some of these landmarks today when trekking along the remains of the Alte Eider Canal. This includes a Toll house in Pojensdorf, which has since been converted to a museum dedicated to the history of this architectural landmark. There is a restaurant in Rathmannsdorf, located in front of the lock, which serves local delicacies. In Schinkel, a mansion-style hotel built in the early 1800s still exists today, despite being privately owned. Mills can be found in places like Kluvensiek and Bovenau. Parts of the Alte Eider were converted to harbor for yachts in Rendsburg. And one can find bridge relicts in Klein Königsförde and Kluvensiek, the former being a replica of the one that existed before the Grand Canal opened, the other partially filled in but has a history of its own, when looking at the tower’s portal bracings.
Of the eight bridges that existed, four have been profiled here, although one of them no longer exists. They are arranged in the order of direction of the canal, from Kiel to Rendsburg, starting with the first bridge at Pojensdorf.
Pojensdorf Bridge: Spanning the Alte Eider Canal
Spanning the Alte Eider between Knoop and Pojensdorf, this steel stringer bridge may have replaced a lock and bridge that existed when the canal was in service. The bridge serves as the entrance to the village of Pojensdorf. While the bridge represents a typical short-span stringer bridge used on many roads in Germany, if one goes beyond the bridge and enters Pojensdorf, one will appreciate the landscape that was created by the old canal, let alone the Packhaus in Pojensdorf which was converted into a museum devoted explicitely to the history of this unique canal.
This (now former) drawbridge is probably the most ornamental of the bridges that spanned the Alte Eider Canal. The bridge was built in 1849/50 with the portal towers being designed by Carlshütte Iron Works in Rendsburg. Founded by Markus Hartwig Holler in 1827, the iron works company contributed a great deal with the construction of bridges and other forms of infrastructure along both the Alte Eider and the present Baltic-North Sea Canals up until the Grand Canal’s completion in 1895. However, the company’s heyday did not come until the Ahlmann family took over the business in 1909 and Kate Ahlmann took over the business when her husband Julius died in 1931. She had as many as 3000 workers at the iron works company by the 1950s and contributed a great deal to the economic growth in Rendsburg. Shortly before her death in 1963, a museum dedicated to the history of Carlshütte opened with numerous displays of artwork made of iron, which can be seen today. Sadly though, Carlshütte went into decline after her death and despite surviving one bankruptcy in 1974, the second one in 1997 led to the company’s liquidation. Carlshütte was named after Carl von Hessen, who governed Schleswig-Holstein at the time of the company’s founding.
When the canal was made obsolete by the Grand Canal, the lock was filled in with the exception of a small culvert to allow water to pass underneath. This included the bridge itself even though the two towers still remain standing and can be seen from the road heading to Kluvensiek from Bovenau and the Alte Eider bike trail.
Drawbridge at Klein Königsförde:
Coming up on Klein Königsförde, one will see a replica of a piece of history spanning the Alte Eider Canal on the old locks. Originally there was a bridge that was constructed in the mid-1800s using the double-leaf bascule design, and consisting of towers with an arch design. Yet before the Grand Canal was completed in 1895, the bridge was taken down and not replaced for over 100 years. In the early 1980s a replica of this bridge was constructed using mostly wood for the structure and steel chains for tower support as well as lifting the roadway, even though the crossing is in a fixed position. The purpose is to show the tourist what the bridge looked like during the days of the Alte Eider Canal. The bridge received the Europa Nostra award for its artwork in 1989 and is still in use for pedestrians and cyclists only. A park is located next to the structure on the west end to provide an opportunity to rest and view the village, located on the eastern side of the canal.
Subtracting the city of Lübeck, located on the border to Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Pommerania, if there is a city that can be considered the one with the most number of bridges worth seeing and learning about in Schleswig-Holstein, Rendsburg would be the place to look at. The city can pride itself for its High Bridge (which will be mentioned in the later columns), but it can also pride itself on the history of bridges that spanned both the Alte Eider and Grand Canals. The Rendsburg Drawbridge is one of the bridges that made the city popular. While there were numerous bridges of this type that were built in and around Rendsburg, this one stands out as it served a main road connecting Hamburg and Flensburg. Furthermore it was one of a few built using iron and may be one of the structures built using the iron from its production facility Carlshütte. Sadly, when the new canal was completed in 1895, the bridge lost its importance and was subsequentially removed. The canal eventually was converted into a harbor, which is still in use today for smaller boats entering and exiting the Grand Canal. Interesting enough was the fact that before the canal was made obsolete, an arch bridge took its place for a while but it is unknown when it was built and when it was removed. Also worth noting is the fact that the drawbridge was overshadowed by bigger and longer bridges spanning the longer canal- one for the trains (High Bridge) and one for the road.
After a tour of the bridges along the Alte Eider Canal, the next segment will focus on the Eider River from Rendsburg to the mouth of the North Sea near Husum. While I could not make it along this route some historical facts and photos from others who visited them will be included here.
Australian Traveller that loves to "Roam" our globe, creator of ENDLESSROAMING.COM sharing the experience through word and photography. Currently residing in my home of Newtown Sydney but hope to be back on the road late 2020. Feedback / questions are more than welcome, happy travels