Mystery Bridge Nr. 84: An Ancient Bridge over a Small Waterfall

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ERFURT, GERMANY- This Mystery Bridge article takes us back to my old battleground for bridges and teaching English: the city of Erfurt in the German state of Thuringia. As mentioned in the tour guide series five years ago, the capital has a population of 240,000 inhabitants and has over 240 bridges spanning the River Gera, the Diversion Canal Flutgraben, as well as several creeks and highways. This includes over two dozen arch bridges in the city center as well as along the Flutgraben.

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Pförtchenbrücke spanning the Flutgraben at Pförtchenstrasse southwest of Erfurt Central Station Photo taken in July 2017

And while the authors have done research on the bridges in Erfurt for two books, the latest was released in 2012, they probably have seen this bridge many times, but have crossed this bridge without noticing it just as many times as well……

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Beautiful waterfall on the southeast end of Pförtchen Bridge as the creek empties into the Flutgraben. However, when climbing up the rocks and going underneath the bridge that serves a bike path, I found another bridge, or something looking like a bridge…….

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Judging by the features of the arch strutcure, this may be the oldest infrastructure that existed in the city of Erfurt, as the bridge is made of stone, but the keystone features resemble a monster spewing out water as it flows into the mouth of the canal:

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Judging by the length of the bridge, it is no longer than 10 meters and is no more than 1.5 meters above the water.  No plaLittle is know about this bridge except for the fact that the area used to be part of the Steigerwald Forest before it was occupied with houses in the 1860s. In fact, the Pförtchen Bridge itself was once a wooden bridge built in 1875 and having served horse and buggy as a gateway to the walled city. The bridge was then replaced by the current structure in 1897 when the canal was built and the older structure was removed. It is possible that this bridge was a key crossing going to the forest, but when the first bridge was constructed, it was filled in, converting it to a pipeline which still serves the waterway. This is most likely the case as there is no known data that can prove that the pipeline was made with stone arches, unless there was a canal serving residents in the southern part of Erfurt. But even then, it would have to have been made with brick or concrete, or even lead.

But never say never, when it comes to civil engineering. When engineers have a creative idea and/or will, they will carry it out, for the purpose of experiment, aesthetics and especially, functionality. 🙂

And so, it’s your turn. What do you think and/or know about this bridge? Is this an original crossing or a pipeline? How old do you think this bridge is?  Your help with comments and information would be of great help. You can provide your thoughts and comments here or via e-mail.

 

While you are at it, check out the updated version of Erfurt’s Bridge Tour Part 1, which features bridges in the outskirts. This includes maps and additional information as well as additional information via Instagram. Click here to view. Part 2 of the city center’s bridges will follow in the fall.

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Wolkenburg Suspension Bridge: A Unique Cable-Stay Along the Mulde

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Wolkenburg (Saxony)/ Limbach-Oberfrohna/ Glauchau- The last of the three bridges profiled here that is debuting along the Zwickauer Mulde is the Wolkenburg Suspension Bridge. Before going further with this bridge, we need to clarify what this bridge looks like as well as its aesthetic value. The current structure, open since May Day this year is actually a cable-stayed suspension bridge, a bridge type where suspenders actually support the roadway from the tower. When looking at them from an American’s point of view, cable-stayed bridges are bland in appearance, ranking them up there with concrete slab/girder bridges that represent a sour taste to the land-/ or even cityscape. This can be best exemplified with two bridges that come to mind: The Fort Steuben and the Russell-Ironton Bridges. Both of them spanned the Ohio River; both of them have the characteristic A-frame tower, whose cables support the roadway; both of them replaced historic bridges that had a lot of characteristic and aesthetic appeal but were neglected by the department of transportation in a successful bid to have them replaced. Both of them have been demolished, leaving nothing but documentation on websites owned by James Baughn and Nathan Holth, respectively. Both bridges are prone to having problems in the short-term involving the cables and the roadway because, like other modern bridge types, there is too much (heavy) traffic using it. We’re even seeing it with a pair of bridges in Germany, which will be mentioned later on.

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But while these cable-stayed bridges are being looked down upon like the other concrete spans in America, pursued by Donald Trump and Elaine Chao with some statues of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and a new quasi-national flag of the US (sorry, I have to be sarcastic with this analogy), cable-stayed bridges in Europe, from an outsider’s point of view, can be viewed as a treat, especially for pedestrians and cyclists using them while on the bike trail. One in three cities in Germany has at least one of this type. And while there are some standard examples that exist, most of the cable-stayed bridges we find here are designed in such an unusual way, that they are screaming for people to stop by to pay homage; whether it is because of tilted towers, curved or even rounded roadways, ….

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or in the case of this bridge, a single tower that is leaning outwards towards the river bank, whose primary cables- all draped over a pointed tower- are supporting the deck. The deck itself has a pony girder approach span with a Warren pony truss main span that crosses the Zwickauer Mulde.

 

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The bridge replaced a century-old structure that consisted of a wire suspension bridge, going by the textbook guidelines that were created by another German engineer, John Roebling. Roebling’s concept was strands of thick wire that were spun together to create the main cables that were anchored between the towers and the ground anchors on shore. The best examples of his design were the Cincinnati-Covington Bridge (1869) and the Brooklyn Bridge (1883, though he died during its construction). The original Wolkenburg Bridge featured heavy cables  combined with vertical suspenders that supported the narrow walkway. The walkway itself was fenced with heavy wire but not trussed like one will see in many suspension bridges today, such as the Golden Gate Bridge or the suspension bridges in New York designed by Othmar H. Ammann.

 

Flooding in 2013 caused extensive damage to the bridge’s roadway and cables to a point where officials in Limbach-Oberfrohna, where Wolkenburg is part of the conglomerate, as well as local officials decided to demolish the bridge, including the tower, which was arched and made of concrete. It took more than three years, combined with lots of money and politicking before the conglomerate let the contract to the firm of Iroplan, based in Chemnitz, and its architect, Klaus Lenz, to build a new bridge at the site of the old one.

 

Construction started in 2016 with the leaning tower and foundations. The roadway was assembled offsite, featuring sliding and welding connections, judging by the author’s observations during his visit. The roadway was lifted into place by crane in November that year, and after attaching the cables between the tower and the roadway, the bridge was completed. What was not completed at the time of the visit in March were the roadway leading to the bridge, the dike to keep the water in the river, and painting the bridge. The bridge was still grey and silver.  The cost for constructing the 80 meter long and two meter wide cable-stayed bridge was 1.2 million Euros.

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After many delays and headaches, people have their bridge back. At the May Day opening, where many people participated, mayor Jesko Vogel led the opening with a bang, as cannons were fired and a historic theater group from Glauchau were on hand for some entertainment. Refreshments were provided by the fire department. While the suspension bridge will forever be in the memories of many who live in Wolkenburg, this bridge reopens a connection between Eichenwald Forest and the mill area, both are northeast of the historic city center. The bridge will be a new icon  for Wolkenburg, providing a picturesque view from the historic city center and its churches and castle on the hill. And contrary to common belief regarding cable-stayed bridges, the Wolkenburg Suspension Bridge serves as an example of a bridge of this kind that, if designed with a good aesthetic taste, can be used for any form of traffic,

 

even if this bridge is open for pedestrians and fishermen only.  😉

 

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Wernsdorfer Welle Brücke Open To Bike Traffic

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Photo taken at the opening by Glauchau City

Vital link between Wernsdorf and Glauchau Restored with one of the most unique crossings along the Zwickauer Mulde

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GLAUCHAU (SAXONY)- The closing of the link between Glauchau and Mosel via Wernsdorf because of a bridge that was no longer usable due to flood damage was a hindrance for bikers using the Mulde Bike Trail. Construction of the bridge, which included the bridge’s removal took longer than expected due to unfavorable weather conditions and the reconstruction of the bike trail approaching the bridge. Despite all the complaints and confusion, even at the grand opening, the wait was worth it.

Dozens of people gathered on June 20 at the grand opening of the Wernsdorf Wave Bridge. The bridge spans the Zwickauer Mulde, approximately a half a kilometer west of the village of Wernsdorf, and three kilometers south of Glauchau. This is the third crossing in its history at the site, but one whose aesthetical value will cause bikers and bridge-lovers to stop for a break or even a photo opportunity. The bridge features a three-span suspension bridge, but one that is unlike any suspension bridge built to standards. The roadway is draped over the pylons, creating a wave-like setting when crossing the structure. Only a handful of these bridges exist in Germany, the nearest example being the Dragon Tail Bridge near Ronneburg, 30 kilometers west of Glauchau in eastern Thuringia.

From the top of the pylon to the bottommost part of the dip has a height difference of up to 2 meters. The entire length of the bridge is 110 meters with the width of the roadway being 5 meters. Because of the dimensions, no cars or other motorized vehicles are allowed to cross, which has caused some dismay for those wishing to access the neighboring towns of Dennheritz and Schlunzig, among them, seniors ages 65 and over, which represents the majority of the population of Wernsdorf and Dennheritz as well as nearly half of Glauchau’s population.

Yet despite this, having the Wernsdorf Wave Bridge will mean that cyclists will no longer have to share the road with automobile drivers between Schlunzig and Glauchau, especially in areas in and around the Reservior, where a lot of recreational activities are taking place during the summer, including swimming, hiking and many forms of sports activities including soccer. Furthermore, with the construction of the new Mulde crossing at Schlunzig, car drivers will have better access between Dennheritz and Wernsdorf, and places in the southern end of Glauchau. This is probably the reason behind the decision of Glauchau’s mayor Peter Dresler to designate the Wave Bridge for bikes, walkers and even equestrians!

But while that plan for autos is in the making, people driving past Wernsdorf will have a chance to see an attraction which is hoped will become one of the key signatures of not only Glauchau and Wernsdorf, but also along the Mulde. With the Wave Bridge being the third crossing open this year behind one at Lunzernau (near Penig) and Wolkenburg, the Mulde Bike Trail will have three new bridges in use, each one presenting a unique design that will not only cause many to stop and awe, but will change the landscape of the ccommunities they serve. The Wernsdorf Wave Bridge is one that brings three communities together, even if it is for recreational use. 😉

Click on the highlighted links in the text to look at photos of the ribbon cutting ceremony as well as some comments, courtesy of the Chemnitz Free Press and the tourist group Glauchau City. The map with the location of the bridge is below.

 

As for the other two bridges…….. 🙂

 

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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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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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Pop Quiz: How many bridges does Penig have?

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A few days ago, I took advantage of nice weather here in Germany and embarked on a what I’ve touted as an Ironman bike tour through western Saxony. Starting at Hohenstein-Ernstthal, the tour lasted seven hours, going to Glauchau, then along the Mulde to Rochlitz, encountering steep hills with grades of up to 20% and heights of up to 400 meters. Then it was to Geithain before boarding the train for Glauchau before having biked the last seven kilometers to neighboring Meerane. All in all, 85 kilometers by bike and every bridge visited was worth every drop of sweat.

While I will mention more about the tour in a later article, I have a found a net of bridges worth posting. This is located in Penig, about 23 kilometers northeast of Glauchau along the Mulde. We have two major highways crossing over each other while crossing the Mulde, yet there are more crossings in this area than those two. Before giving the way the answer, here’s my guessing quiz question for you:

Look carefully in the picture. How many bridges at this site can you identify and can you find out how old they are? This includes the tunnel.

For the number, here are the options:

a. 2           b. 3            c. 4          d. 5           e. 6           f. 7

A map with the location of the bridges is enclosed here:

The answers will be provided when the article about bridge touring along rivers will be posted in a few weeks. This will include the tour of the Mulde plus a couple river examples. Stay tuned! 🙂

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