Wartime Bridge: Loschwitz Bridge (Blue Miracle/ Blaue Wunder) in Dresden

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Wartime Bridge Series

Many cities have places where miracles happen and people remember them. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Minneapolis Miracle of 2018 in professional football, visiting the Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, or even the parting of the Red Sea- the last two points dealing with Christianity. Then there’s the liberation of Europe in 1945 and the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent German Reunification of 1989-90 from the historical standpoint.

In the sense of infrastructure- in particular, bridges, if there’s a place where miracles did happen, one needs to travel to Dresden and to this bridge. There are several nicknames to describe the Loschwitz Cantilever Truss Bridge, which spans the River Elbe and connects the two suburbs of Blasewitz and Loschwitz. The most common is the Blue Miracle (Blaue Wunder in German). It has nothing to do with the bridge’s color nor does it have to do with its perfect photo with a blue backdrop. It has to do with the fact that the bridge, built by Claus Köpcke in 1893 has survived death three times- two of which came towards the end of World War II.

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Bridge of Blue Miracle (Dt. Blaue Wunder Brücke) in Dresden, Germany. Photo taken in December 2011

While Dresden was bombed a total of six times from 1944 to 1945, the city was hit the hardest during the infamous raid on February 13-16, 1945. British and American air troopers dropped thousands of tons of bombs onto the city, effectively destroying the entire city center and its prized architectural jewels, such as the Semper Opera House, the Castle of Dresden, and the Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche), all of them dated back to the Baroque Period of the 17th Century. 80% of the entire city was in flames with as many as 30-40,000 people perishing. Temperatures from flames rose to 10,000° Celsius- hot enough to melt metal and vaporize people nearby. The Dresden Bombings are comparable with the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because of the intensity and the impact on the structural landscape of the city.

The bridge itself sustained damage to the trusses and decking during the air raids but they were minor enough that repairs were made to the structure and the crossing was back in service again. While the other crossings were damaged to a point where they were impassable, the Loschwitz Bridge survived its first miracle.

Shortly before the end of the War, the bridge had its second miracle. And there were five people to thank for this- two of whom were honored for their work. Before Hitler committed suicide in Berlin on May 1, he had ordered every bridge to be imploded to impede the march of Allied Troops that were encroaching Berlin on all sides. Already destroyed were all the crossings along the Rivers Oder and Neisse in present-day Brandenburg, Saxony and Mecklenburg-Pommerania, it was hoped that the crossings along the Elbe would follow suit and be met with dynamite. And this despite thousands of refugees evacuating areas already bombed out because of the raids.

Places like Dresden, where tens of thousands were homeless and looking for ways to escape the war, even if it meant surrendering to the approaching enemy unconditionally.  With crossings, like the Carola and Augustus Bridges severely damaged or destroyed, it was hoped that the Blue Miracle would go down with them. However, on 7 May, two men- Paul Zickler and Erich Stöckel- made sure it didn’t happen. The two men defused the bombs by splicing the cables disabling the bombs and later removing the dynamite that would have brought the bridge down. However, three other men- Max Mühle, Carl Bouché and bridge commander Wirth also contributed to the cause. The bridge was saved and had its second miracle. Ironically, Germany capitulated to the Allies in Berlin that same day, thus bringing the European theater to a close.  A monument commemorating this courageous event and honoring the two men can be found at the bridge along the pedestrian path on the Blasewitz side of the structure. Why the plan to blow up the bridge was foiled remains unknown to this day. However variables such as protests by the locals as well as the acceptance that the war was no longer winnable must not be left out.

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The third close call was the plan to tear down the bridge and replace it on a new alignment, presented by the Socialist Party (SED) in 1967, but it was met with opposition and after almost two decades, the project was scrapped by 1985.

Fast forwarding to the present, the Blue Miracle is still standing, tall and strong. It has earned its nickname after 125 years of literal wear and tear. It has survived all the extremities that most historic bridges built of steel would have succumbed to. It survived a blazing inferno through war, while the rest of Dresden burned to the ground. It survived the worst of winters, such as that of 1978/79 that crippled both East and West Germany. It survived several windstorms, including Kyrill in 2007, which leveled forests and buildings and caused widespread power outages. It survived severe flooding- most notably those in 2002 and 2013 which put much of Dresden under water. And lastly, it survived the gravitational pull caused by the weight of vehicles and street cars traveling across it.  All of this has not affected the bridge’s beauty as it is one of the most beloved and photographed not only in Dresden but also along the River Elbe. While some pushed for its demise, others made sure their plans never bore fruit, hence allowing for the bridge to stand for generations to come.

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The Blue Miracle at present. The bridge has become an attraction both during the daytime, but also at night, thanks to the addition of LED lighting in 2011. The bridge is still used by commuters entering Dresden from the south, even though another bridge- the Waldschlösschenbrücke, built down stream- has taken the stress off the bridge since its opening in 2013. The bridge will be getting a much-needed facelift beginning in 2025 but when it is done, the crossing will continue to carry traffic and its historic flare as one of Dresden’s greatest places of interest will remain for locals and tourists to see. Already a book has been written about the bridge but from a photographer’s perspective. There will be more written and talked about with this bridge- the Blue Miracle: the structure that not only connects the south of Dresden, but one that has been in use through the best and worst of times. And that is thanks to five people who made it happen before the end of a war that was long lost and that people yearned for a new start.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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The German term “Blaue Wunder erleben” originated from the name of the bridge in Dresden and implies that the person got an unexpected and sometimes unwanted surprise because of something done that was considered illegal.

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Newsflyer: 6 March 2020

Fehmarn Bridge side view

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To listen to the podcast, click here.

 

Headlines:

 

Fehmarn Bridge to receive a tunnel.

News Story:   https://www.fehmarn24.de/fehmarn/bruecke-tunnel-sinds-13572352.html

News Story on the Rehabilitation Project:  https://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/schleswig-holstein/Fehmarnsundbruecke-Roboter-saniert-rostige-Seile,fehmarnsundbruecke156.html

 

Railway Station Bridge in Lübeck to be Replaced

https://www.luebeck-places.de/news/aktuelles/2061-bahnhofsbruecke-wird-ab-fruehjahr-2021-zur-baustelle.html

 

German Bridge Awards Postponed due to Corona Virus

https://www.baulinks.de/webplugin/2020/0319.php4

 

Truss Bridge in New Jersey to be Replaced.

News Story:  https://eu.dailyrecord.com/story/news/2020/02/21/waterloo-road-bridge-connecting-morris-and-sussex-counties-close/4821614002/

Bridge Info: http://bridgehunter.com/nj/morris/1401038/

 

Two Historic Bridges in Pennsylvania to be Rehabilitated

Old Ford Road Bridge: http://bridgehunter.com/pa/york/667208096832570/

Chandler Road Bridge: http://bridgehunter.com/pa/chester/chandler-mill/

 

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 84

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BHC Mystery Bridge

This week’s pic of the week is also the 127th mystery bridge, both of which keeps us in Dresden. I happened to pass through this skyway while taking a group of students to the Church of our Lady (Frauenkirche) and to a popular Italian restaurant nearby. It was one I founded by chance and like in last week’s pic, this one also is a relict from the Baroque period, which survived the second World War. The question is where exactly is this bridge located? It’s near the newly rebuilt church, which means there’s a choice between Schlossstrasse and Brühlergasse, both of which are near the Dresden Castle and Semper Opera, where the skyways had been built to connect them and the cathedral. However, I’m not quite sure if this is the place.

Can somebody help, who’s from Dresden? Also nice to know of its history, if there is some available.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 83

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BHC Mystery Bridge

This week’s Pic takes us back to Dresden, Germany and to the Old Town. The Old Town features many buildings that date back to the Baroque Period, characterized by their ornamental designs, sculptures, shields and other forms of artwork. Many of them have been restored to their former glory after having sustained significant damage during the bombings of Dresden in February 1945, which signified the beginning of the end of World War II. This includes the Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche), which was built in 1743, was totally destroyed on 15 February, 1945 but was restored in-kind to its pre-war origin in 2005.

Dresden had many skyways connecting these historic buildings in addition to their historic bridges. Two of them that still exist today are those that survived the war in tact. This is one of them. The bridge is located over Chaviergasse between the Cathedral Hofkirche  and the Castle of Dresden,  just east of Theaterplatz and Sophienstrasse.  The construction of the bridge dates back to the 1700s at the time when the church became the Catholic Church, while the Frauenkirche, which was once owned by the Catholic Church, became a Protestant Church.  The purpose was to connect the church with the castle to allow for passage between the Catholic Elector and the royal families, which consisted mainly of the Albertine House of Wettin and the Kings of Poland. The church was designed by architect Gaetano Chiaveri. The castle dates back to the 14th century. We don’t know if Chiaveri included the bridge as part of the project to build the cathedral between 1738 and 1751. We do know that the skyway was rebuilt after 1989 to its original form after years of damage and neglect. This leads to the question of its history- who originally built the structure? Did it survive World War II or was it completely obliterated? And had it stood, why didn’t the East German government make any attempts to restore it, despite their feeble attempts to restore the castle and the cathedral? A mystery that’s definitely worth solving in this aspect- hence our 126th mystery bridge. 🙂

This pic was taken in January while touring Dresden with a group of students. This was a black and white photo where the Chaviergasse goes underneath the structure enroute to the Frauenkirche. While the narrow alley is a perfect place for photos, including close-ups, the shot from the Sophienstrasse is the best view because of the backdrop from the castle and other historic buildings in the background. It is one bridge that is worth stopping enroute to many attractions one will see while in Dresden. This includes eateries as the capital of Saxony has hundreds of them with specialties originating from at least 80 countries. And we found one that was around the corner from another bridge of its caliber, which you will see in the next pic. 🙂

Enjoy! 🙂

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 81

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During my recent field trip with some students to visit the Saxony Parliament in Dresden, one of my students found a good vantage point worth getting a photo. It was the view of the River Elbe and the Augustus Bridge, with the historic Old Town, featuring the Church of Our Lady, the Semper Opera and the Zwinger in the background and all towards the right. As a bonus, this was taken in the morning. As we were walking along the river towards the Parliament, I took a few shots of other bridges along the way before she pointed this one out. Needless to say it was a vantage point not to be missed….. 🙂

……in addition to a day trip through the Old Town, a good meal and some entertainment with some others…… 😉

 

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 44

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Albeit modern in itself, the next Pic of the Week takes us only a couple kilometers downstream along the Preissnitz before emptying into the Elbe at this crossing. The Waldschlösschen Bridge is one of the fanciest bridges spanning the Elbe in Dresden. The multiple-span viaduct with V-shaped piers and a steel pony arch main span was also known as one of the most controversial bridges ever built in Germany, comparing it to the major projects that were ongoing at that time, like the Stuttgart 21 Project (which is set to open by 2023) and Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport (BER- still ongoing after 13 years). From the decision to build the bridge in 2005 until its final completion in 2013, it took several court cases, the recognition and rescinding of the World Heritage site by UNESCO, over a dozen bridge design drafts and a tunnel on the eastern side before the bridge was finally put together- a span of eight years.

Yet when biking along the River Elbe through Dresden, when looking at the bridge, one may see it as a modern eyesore that should not have been built but was a necessity to relieve traffic at the nearest bridges which are both over a century old. Yet when adding the landscape and all the buildings that went along with that, it does conform to the scenery quite well. In the day time, the bridge is surrounded by a lot of green. Yet at night, as you can see in the picture, it presents several shades of dark blue, with white  lighting from the bridge’s  deck reflecting off the River Elbe. The lighting is all LED but they move randomly, based on the cars that cross it in one direction.  The shot was taken right after the sun set with he clouds covering the area.

There is a book that was written on the bridge and its construction. That will be profiled later on in the Dresden series. In the meantime, enjoy the evening pic. 🙂

 

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 43

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The 43rd pic of the week takes us back to Dresden, but this time in the Dresdner Heide, a region covered with hilly forests where several small streams, including one that has the smallest waterfall in all of Germany, merge to form the River Priessnitz. That river snakes its way approximately 10 kilometers into the River Elbe near the Waldschlößchenbrücke, dodging past many houses and appartment complexes, flanked by trees and beautiful landscapes.

One can be amazed by the number of historic bridges, one will stumble upon while walking along the small river. This includes the largest of them all, the Carolabrücke. Built in 1876, this three-span, closed spandrel arch bridge, built using sandstone, can be found at Stauffenberg-Allee. The bridge is 82 meters long and spans the Priessnitzer Grund that is as deep as 23 meters. The structure was thoroughly rehabilitated in 2003, where new decking covered the arches and is 2.7 meters wider than its original width of 17.3 meters.

In this picture, one can see the 23 meter tall viaduct that has stood the test of time, covered in many shades of colors through graffiti. Yet despite having countless amounts of traffic crossing it daily, the bridge has a sense of serenity surrounded by the sound of water, as the Priessnitz makes its way to the Elbe. Along the stretch of what is called Priessnitzer Grund, there are a series of concrete statues of approximately 1.5 meters tall, all lined up along the river opposite the trail. Each design depicts a historical or fairy tale form, although it is unknown who made the sculptures, except to say that they appear to be at least a century old. Anyone that knows any information on them are free to comment at the end of the article. This photo was taken at spring time right before the trees started budding, which could not have come at a better time. As the bridge is surrounded by trees and other vegetation, making the photo opportunity practically impossible, the best time to photograph this bridge would have to be when all the leaves are off the trees- hence winter time upto the time the trees start blossoming.

One hint to the photographer when getting to this bridge: The Carolabrücke at Priessnitzer Grund is located in Dresden-Neustadt, between the districts of Albertstadt and Äussere Neustadt. In the Dresden-Neustadt, parking is the most notorious for the streets are very narrow- too narrow for even trucks to pass through and very slim for even the average car in Germany. Parking is most difficult to find for all residents have to park them on the street. When driving through there, please do so at a snail’s pace for safety reasons and to avoid damage to your car as well as to the others’. If you do find one nearby, park it and hoof it to the bridge, for the only way to the bridge is via hiking path along the Priessnitz. It may be a walk and a half but it’s worth the exercise. 🙂

 

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Newsflyer: 25 February, 2019

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Alberthafen Brücke in Dresden: Currently under the knife for rehabilitation. Photo taken in February 2019

The podcast of the Newsflyer can be listened to by clicking on this link: https://soundcloud.com/jason-smith-966247957/bhc-newsflyer-25-february-2019

 

Headlines:

Alberthafen Brücke in Dresden to be rehabilitated. Project completion in 2020.

Rabenstein Viaduct in Chemnitz has enough funding for its own rehabilitation. Question: when?

Mühlheim Suspension Bridge in Cologne to get a facelift

Group to save the historic Jenkins Bridge in Missouri formed

Future of the Green Bridge facebook website after bridge was restored and reopened

Historic bridge at train station a subject of satire and debate over its future.

 

Click on the headlines to read more. Three of the articles are in German but an English-speaking article will come in the Chronicles.

 

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 37

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Sticking to the theme Dresden, I would like to give you a tip when it comes to photographing a bridge at night: Traffic is much worse at night than in the daytime. So please, never do this unless you are absolutely sure you can get away with it.

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Even when you try and get a tunnel view with a car crossing from a distance, chances are very likely you will either get honked and/or cussed at, or worse, get clipped from behind by a racing car! Neither of these happened while I tried getting these shots of the Loschwitz Bridge, known to all Dresdners as the “Blue Miracle” (D: Blaue Wunder), but I had cars racing across this bridge a hundreth of a second after this shot was taken- a cue for me to leave the roadway and make for one of two of the cantilever truss bridge’s outer sidewalks.

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While getting the portal view of a bridge is a dangerous job, especially when you encounter drivers who go all out in speeding and showing others “courtesy,” even if it means causing an accident, the best pics at night are either oblique shots or even sidewiews. Especially when the bridge is lit as well as this bridge is, one can get a great night photo from wherever you want to take that shot. In this last one, this was taken from a nearby restaurant, one has the bridge and a park bench in the foreground on the right. With a couple people gthere, it would have been a great vantage point with a sense of reminisce as people share memories while watching the bridge.  🙂

More photos and facts about this bridge will be presented in the tour guide on Dresden’s bridges in the part on the structures in the city itself. Stay tuned! 🙂

The Bridges of Dresden Part 1- Introduction

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Bridge of Blue Miracle (Dt. Blaue Wunder Brücke) in Dresden, Germany. Photo taken in December 2011

The next tour guide is a three-part series on one city with several regions where historic and architecturally noteworthy bridges are worth a day’s visit or two. The city is one of Germany’s most prized crown jewels in terms of architecture and culture. It is the second largest city based on population but at the same time, it’s the state’s capital. It literally rose from the ashes of World War II as ariel bombings in 1945 almost completely wiped out the city and nearly its population. It took over a half a century to rebuild the city to its original glory, which includes the Church of our Lady, the Semper Opera and the Residential Palace, just to name a few. It can pride itself on the Christmas markets as it has one of the oldest in the world in the Striezelmarkt. As far as bridges are concerned, almost every type of bridge from every period exist in Dresden and the surrounding area. This includes bridges built in the Baroque period, the Industrial Age, between and after the two World Wars and after the Great Flood of 2002, where half the city plus the suburbs along key tributaries were underwater, the bridges either destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

The city is Dresden. Located in the eastern part of the German state of Saxony, the city with 551,000 inhabitants (with the suburbs including Radebeul, Freital, and Heidenau, it’s close to 750,000), is located on the River Elbe. Some smaller rivers flow into the Elbe in Dresden, one of the most important is the Weisseritz, which starts in the Döhlen Becken, a valley where several streams starting in the eastern Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) merge in Freital to become a main passage to the river. The city has a well-structured infrastructure, where one can bike, drive or ride the train, tram or bus through Dresden without having to worry about accidents and traffic jams. Bike trails run along the Elbe and Weisseritz but connects to several important places including the schools and universities. Train service features regional and long distance trains connecting the city with Prague, Berlin, Leipzig and Nuremberg. Two motorways (4, 17) bypass much of the city with major highways providing much of the service.

And the infrastructure is not complete with the bridges that cross the rivers and other ravines, something Dresden can pride itself on. With as many bridges as the city has, it is just as appropriate to divide this tour guide into three series minus the introduction. The first one will start in the mountains along the Red Weisseritz in Rabenau, much of which is along the Tourist Railline between Freital and Kipsdorf. This area has been rebuilt after the Great Flood in 2002, much of which mimicking its original form. Part 2 will look at the Freital area along the united Weisseritz, which will take us down to the city. One of the bridges has already been written and can be seen here. And part 3 will feature the bridges in Dresden City, much of which is located along the River Elbe, but we have some notable outliers. This includes some in the harbor area, a pair of bridges in Pirna, one in Radebeul and one in Meissen. A map of the bridges in Dresden can be found in each part to allow readers to find and visit them.

To give you an idea of the beauty of Dresden’s bridges, here’s a sample gallery to give you a starter:

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And now, onto Part 1.

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