The Bridges of Erfurt Part V: The Interview

photo after the presentation
Dietrich Baumbach (l) and Hans Vockrodt (r) holding their respective books on Erfurt’s Bridges


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The fifth and final part of the series on Erfurt’s historic bridges deals with the interview with the authors of the book, Hans-Joerg Vockrodt and Dietrich Baumbach. The interview took place this past June, and after going through the dialogue and translating it from German to English, I managed to present the interview in a way where everyone can benefit from reading it. There were a lot of discussion not only about their books, but also bridge preservation and the development of transportation to date and how it has had an effect on the bridges in Germany and the US. This will set the stage for another article coming in the next day(s) dealing with the five-year anniversary of the Minneapolis Bridge disaster. So without further ado, here is the transcript of the interview that took place at one of the small cafés in Erfurt:

Background information:

Dietrich Baumbach received a Diploma degree in engineering and worked at the city administration office in Erfurt in the infrastructural section. He is now retired. Hans-Joerg Vockrodt received his degree in civil engineering at the Bauhaus University in Weimar (east of Erfurt). He works at a planning office in Erfurt, specializing in bridge building and restoration, the latter of which he has been doing for over 20 years.
Smith: How did you become interested in historic bridges?
Baumbach: After the German Reunification in 1990, there were a lot of bridges that desperately needed to be rehabilitated to keep it from deteriorating to a point where they were no longer safe and this is where our interest started, even though it was outside our working hours.
Vockrodt: In connection with the historic bridges in Erfurt, there were many bridges that needed to be rehabilitated and this started with the Kraemerbruecke in 1998/99 and continued with other bridges, such as the Radowitz and Kraempfertor Bridges. As the bridges were being restored, the interest in not only the restoration of the structures (restoring it to its original form) but also the history of the bridges grew over time.
Smith: How did the Preservation Laws influence the preservation of bridges before 1989? (Note: The preservation laws existed both in East as well as in West Germany between 1949 and 1990 when the countries and their policies were integrated into one)
Baumbach: Preservation Laws existed in East Germany but the problem we had was the lack of money and resources that were available for renovating and maintaining the bridges. The Kraemerbruecke was renovated because it was one of two main attractions for the city (the other being the cathedral Erfurter Dom) and therefore, it was important to make it attractive for the tourists. (Author’s note: The bridge was renovated twice during the Cold War with extensive work being done in 1986, where the stone arches were redone.) Yet after the German Reunification in 1990, the process of repairing and restoring historic bridges began in full force.
Vockrodt: Preservation laws during that time was focused mainly on the high-rise buildings that existed in the 1980s. So instead of tearing down historic buildings in place of these building blocks, the historic buildings were gutted out, meaning the inner part was replaced while keeping the façade of the outer part intact. This was done with a pilot project in the city center of Gotha (west of Erfurt) in the mid-1980s, and it later extended to the historic bridges and other buildings.



Smith: So the problem you had similar to what we have in the States today, where lack of funding and resources (expertise) resulted in many historic structures being demolished and replaced. Do you see that today with the historic bridges?
Baumbach: One cannot preserve all the bridges as we have to take in account the significance of each structure compared to the high vehicular demand and the tension exerted on the structure by crossing it. In some cases, these bridges need to be replaced with heavier and wider structures. One could make a historic bridge (in particular deck arch bridges) wider to accommodate traffic, but this comes at the cost of its historic significance- most of the time it is compromised.

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Schmiedtstedt Pedestrian Bridge east of Central Station

Vockrodt: There is also the phenomenon where a historic bridge can be duplicated so that it serves a dual function of being a historic bridge and one that carries large volumes of vehicles. An example of how a bridge can be duplicated is an arch bridge located in Saxonburg (located near the Thuringia/ Hesse border northwest of Meiningen). It is an arch bridge that was duplicated because of its historic significance and it was part of the project supported by the State Department of Historic Preservation. Despite the fact that it accommodated four lanes of traffic, its historic significance remained the same.  We’re seeing that with other bridges in Thuringia (and elsewhere) where the increase in the volume of traffic has warranted the need for bridges that are sturdier and wider. For other historic bridges,  like the Kraempfertor Bridge, the bridge needed to be wider to accommodate not only four lanes of vehicular traffic, but also two street car tracks. We were lucky that we were able to secure financial support for the project where the bridge was widened but the historic appearance remained the same.
Most of the bridges built/rebuilt nowadays are those that carry main highways and serve regional areas, including the Autobahn (German Motorways), where the majority of them are built in the 1950s (in the western half) and the 1930s (in the former East Germany). These bridges are being replaced because they deteriorated greatly as a result of increased traffic load. These bridges are usually not recognized as historically significant and are not protected by preservation laws, only those located in cities with a historic setting and whose population is interested in them are the ones that receive the attention.
It is the same with the USA, where it is unthinkable to tear down the Brooklyn Bridge in New York because of that interest. (Note: John Augustus Roebling, the bridge builder and inventor of the wire-cable suspension bridge was born in Muhlhausen in northwestern Thuringia)
Baumbach: Another bridge worth noting is the Lehmann Bridge in Erfurt (one of the oldest arch bridges in the city). In the 1970s, the bridge was in such a desolate state that it had to be demolished. That was the mentality of East Germans (at that time) because of the lack of resources needed to rebuild the bridge, let alone to repair the bridge. After the Reunification of 1990, it would never have been dreamt of because the Preservation Laws (today) have a higher meaning and more interest.
Vockrodt: This mentality (of tearing down old structures and building anew) was also found in the western part of Germany in the 1950s, and as a result we see “modern” cities like Frankfurt (Main) and Kassel (both in the state of Hesse). However this modernization has nothing to do with the lack of resources that we had here in the eastern part of the country.
Note: Most of the bridges in the western part of Germany were built in the 1950s and mostly consisted of bland beam bridges with little historic value. This can be seen clearly in cities, like Frankfurt (Main), Mannheim, Stuttgart, and cities in the Ruhr River region (in North Rhein-Westphalia).

Smith: Apart from the two books you wrote on Erfurt’s bridges, what other pieces of work did you write about the bridges?
Vockrodt: My first work was published in 1995. Since then, over 20 literary pieces on this subject were published, much of which were in connection with stone arch bridges, bridge preservation in Erfurt, etc.
Smith: Going to the two books you wrote on the subject of Erfurt’s historic bridges: What is the difference between the two?
Baumbach: The first book (published in 2000) focuses on 12 arch bridges and its technical details (including the history of its construction, the rehabilitation and the materials used for bridge  (re-)construction. The second book (published in December 2011) deals with the historical aspect, especially of the bridges that no longer exist (like the Lehmann Bridge and those along the Wild Gera before it was rechanneled).
Vockrodt: The book also features technical drawings and details of each of the 12 bridges that exist, whereas in the second book, it is integrated into the historical context.
Baumbach: Especially in the first book we dealt with the bridges based on our expertise from our own areas of interest (me as city administrator and Vockrodt as civil engineer) and our goal was how to bring these bridges to the interest of the people in Erfurt. This is also in connection with the plan to nominate the historic bridges in Erfurt into the Preservation List in 2000 (Note: In German it is called Denkmalschutzbuch, which is similar to listing the historic places on the National Register of Historic Places in the US).
Note: The reason for choosing stone and concrete arch bridges in the first book was two-fold: 1. These bridges were mostly used for construction- over 30 of them were found within the city limits of Erfurt and 2. These 12 inner-city bridges were the focus of restoration which took place on all but one of them. That bridge (the Karlsbruecke) will be next for rehabilitation as early as next year.  Also worth noting is by including every single bridge in the first book would result in the loss of interest and therefore, the ones not mentioned were put in the second book with one exception: the railroad bridges were mentioned in another book on the railroads of the Greater Erfurt Area (Germ.: Eisenbahndirektion Erfurt) published in 1994 but still in stock.
Smith: Did you have any difficulties finding any information on the bridges, for some of it may have disappeared because of World War II and the regime of the Socialist Party that followed in East Germany?
Baumbach: There were no problems finding the information as much of the information from the Cold War period were given to the Federal Republic at the time of the Reunification but remained in the archives.
Vockrodt: Apart from the archives, what also helped was designing the bridges as it was and providing the details of the structure. It was first done by my father (who was also an engineer) before I took over.


Smith: Did you use oral resources for the books? (Note: Oral resources means asking people about the bridges and finding out more information about their history from their point of view. This is useful when writing about the history about a topic, although in cases like historic bridges, many of these sources are dying off in mass numbers, and one has to make do with the people who have no connection with the construction of the bridge but have knowledge and collections of them).
Vockrodt: The only source that is closest is the city archives in Erfurt. There we did a lot of research into the bridges by finding old photographs, paintings and drawings but also finding other sources of information that was useful for the book. The person at the city archives was more than helpful in providing us with as much help as possible. Otherwise finding the information and the people willing to help is really difficult.
Baumbach: There are some people who had collections of postcards of bridges and were willing to let us use them. Other than that, who do you ask if the people who built them are long since gone and you have to make do with the ones who know about the bridges?

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One of the bridges profiled in both books: The Langebruecke (Long Bridge) in the city center of Erfurt. Photo taken in May 2012

Smith: Here is an engineering-related question for you: Since 1985 the number of historic bridges built before 1945 have been replaced with modern structures. Can you summarize the reason for this change?
Vockrodt: One of the reasons is the increase in traffic both in numbers and size, which makes these bridges obsolete. The other reason is in the last century, we have seen an increase in the weight of the vehicles beginning with the horse and buggy, followed by the car, the train, the semi truck and the heavy goods transporter. The deciding factor is the increase in traffic volume which has a negative effect on the bridges that were built in 1945 and earlier because they lack the material needed to accommodate these increasing loads. Other factors include the rust and corrosion of steel caused by salt and other chemicals combined with the lack of maintenance, meaning repairing the bridge every 10 years. Many bridges that have structural issues are inspected every four years with some being inspected annually, but some of the bridges that are in so poor shape are replaced as rehabilitating them would be impossible. This applies not only to pre-1945 bridges but also bridges built in the 1980s, where the increase in traffic loads have caused a strain in the structure itself to a point where even these bridges have to be replaced.
Smith: Now that you mentioned steel corrosion, let’s look at one of the steel bridges, the Riethstrasse Bridge, where weight and height restrictions are now in place. Why is that?
Baumbach: The reason for these restrictions is the fact that many trucks have travelled across the bridge without regard to the weight limit. I have witnessed this myself. Therefore it is necessary that these restrictions are in place so that only cars can travel across them.
Vockrodt: The restriction is basically the decrease in the vehicle’s geometric dimensions and with that, the decrease in the weight.
Smith: Will this bridge be replaced or restored soon?
Baumbach: It depends on the number of vehicles crossing it. If the number of vehicles crossing it is minimal (and the bridge is on a less travelled street), then the bridge will remain in service in its usual form. Yet if the street is extended to include a suburb and traffic increases as a result, then it will have to be replaced. The bridge would have to be saved as it is protected by Preservation Law and would have to be restored and reused for other purposes apart from a pedestrian bridge.

Note: The Riethstrasse Bridge carries minimal traffic through a residential area in the north of Erfurt. It’s neighboring bridge 0.4 kilometers to the north, the Mainzer Strasse Bridge (built in the 1980s), carries a throughway route to Rieth, the shopping area, and the Albert Schweizer Gymnasium (high school). Both will be replaced in 2019 but the former will be kept and reused as a historical monument.

Riethstrasse Bridge as of 2017 with weight and height limits. The bridge will be replaced in 2019.

Smith: Since you are on the same page with the Preservation Laws, how has that changed between the era before 1989 and after 1990?
Vockrodt: Nothing has really changed as the Preservation Laws are incorporated in the state laws, which states that any building or structure that has historical and cultural value, and whose interest is high in preserving it is protected by law. The owners are required to preserve it in its original form.
Baumbach: The only problem with this is the financial aspect. Money is needed to restore these structures and the resources are limited. In some cases, like with bridges, it costs more to restore and preserve than to replace it outright. Yet it is possible and an obligatory to keep to the laws that exist. Delisting a structure is possible if the structure is slated for demolition and there are no alternatives to rehabilitating them.
Vockrodt: Yet in some cases it is necessary to build a new bridge instead of keeping the old one if the traffic demand warrants it.
Note: This reminds me of a couple of bridges along the Baltic-North Sea Canal that were built in the 1880s- the Grünental and the Levansau Bridges. Both were protected by the preservation laws in Schleswig Holstein, but the former was delisted when it was demolished in the 1990s because of severe structural deterioration. The latter is being replaced as the canal is to be widened and the length of the bridge is an impediment to the ships passing underneath it. It will eventually be delisted once the demolition is completed by 2023.

Schmiedstedt Railroad Bridge
Smith: How big of an interest do the people have in bridges in general?
Baumbach: The interest in the bridges are there, especially when we saw the number of people that saw our presentation on the 27th of May. Many of them know about the book. Yet, when looking at it locally, the bridges are in the backburner, as the churches, towers and renaissance buildings far outweigh them in their importance. Many people know about the Kraemerbruecke but they don’t know the other bridges, let alone they don’t know that they are crossing a bridge in the city.
Vockrodt: That is the reason why we wanted to bring the bridges to their attention. While Hamburg and Nuremberg have many gorgeous historic bridges, we wanted to present Erfurt’s historic to the attention of the public. That was our motivation behind writing these books.

Over 50 people attended the presentation of Erfurt’s Bridges on 27 May 2012, including the author, who photographed this picture.

Smith: Is this phenomenon, the lack of interest in bridges, in connection with the I-35W Bridge Disaster in Minneapolis (USA) on 2 August 2007?
Vockrodt:  No, that is not the role. The bridges are inspected regularly for structural deficiencies. The agencies have done a great job in inspecting the structure and its surroundings and therefore have not seen any bridge disasters here in Germany, let alone the northern part of Europe. That’s why people take bridges for granted and concentrate more on other places of interests, like churches for example.

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Kraemerbruecke in Erfurt at Christmas time. Photo taken in December 2010

Smith: Which historic bridge is your favorite bridge (apart from the Kraemerbruecke)?
Vockrodt: Good question. I’ll stick to that bridge.
Baumbach: Mine is the Wilhelmsteg Pedestrian Bridge in the south of Erfurt because of its sleek design and its proximity to another favorite: the Pfoertchenbruecke.

Smith: Which bridge did you find the most interesting in terms of its history and bridge design?
Vockrodt: The Kraemerbruecke in terms of its history, for it goes back several hundreds of years and as far as design is concerned, the Wilhelmsteg because it is the thinnest arch bridge in Erfurt plus the ornamental design in the arches that exist. (Two bridges in Erfurt have similar designs in the arches: that and the Karlsbruecke)
Baumbach: I agree with him.
Smith: Which bridge did you find the most amount of information about (Apart from the Kraemerbruecke)?
Baumbach: All the bridges along the Flutgraben because of the articles and descriptions that were found in our research.
Smith: And the most difficult? Those over the Wild Gera before they were removed and the river was rerouted?
Baumbach: That is true. We had to rely on paintings and pictures as there was seldom articles about it and if so, it was written in old German, which is different from the Latin letters that we are used to.
Vockrodt: There were no plans for the bridges and we had to rely on images to help us.
Smith: Will you be continuing your research and book writing in the field of historic bridges?
Vockrodt: We would like to stick to the topic as Thuringia has lots of bridges which we would like to inquire about
Baumbach: We would like to go outside the city and have a look at the bridges that exist elsewhere.
Smith: Are there any plans to have them translated into other languages, like English or French?
Baumbach: It depends on the interest….
Vockrodt: …..both on the people but also the publisher. At the moment the interest is low and the publishers we use (which are in Erfurt) are not interested in having the books translated yet. But we’ll have to see if that changes. (Note: Both books are in German).
Smith: If there is someone who is interested in writing a book on historic bridges, what advice would you give to that person?
Vockrodt: Research on the historical aspect is important although difficult to research. If you eye a bridge, you need to look through the sources to see how much has been written about it so that you can use it and add your information to it. Also important is finding a publisher who will sponsor this project. When you have a partner, then you can proceed with the project. Our publishers were with the organization that deals with Erfurt’s historic bridges and they were most supportive of this project.
Smith: So more information and support?
Baumbach: Yes. Once you have a sponsor, you may have to think of making a deposit of EUR 5000 ($5600) so that it has some security should the sale of books be poor. It is really difficult publishing a book these days.
Vockrodt: The most important thing is you have to have the people on your side that are interested in this topic, and we found that the interest has increased since our second book has been published and even more so as we present our topic.
Smith: Ok, that’s about it. Thank you for your time and I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors with this project.


The Bridges of Erfurt, Germany Part III: The Kraemerbruecke


Kraemerbruecke at Christmas Time. Photo taken in December 2010

 There is a misconception about how a person should define a house bridge, for the appearance of such a structure in the eyes of both Americans and Europeans alike are different. In America, we think of a house bridge like a covered bridge- a small house-like structure with a gabled roof and entrances on both ends. These covered bridges are easy to find in America, for they are numerous and popular among tourists, and many state transportation departments take great care of them to ensure that they are attractive to see and safe to cross.

In Europe however, despite the fact that one can find covered bridges everywhere, including the Alps and local places mostly unknown to tourists, our definition of a house bridge is different. Unlike the covered bridges, a house bridge is defined as a bridge which holds buildings but the passage is open-aired, meaning you cannot cross these bridges just by walking through the buildings, but through these passage ways that have no roofs above them.

Many of these house bridges were built during and after the Medieval times, including the Rialto Bridge in Venice or the famous London Bridge before its relocation to Lake Havasu City, Arizona in 1967.  But in Germany, we have the Kraemerbruecke, located in the heart of the country in the city of Erfurt, and the third part of the series on Erfurt’s bridges focuses on this particular structure.


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Close-up of one of the arches. Photo taken in June 2012

The Kraemerbruecke was first mentioned in the record books in 1117 as a wooden bridge crossing the Breitstrom section of the Gera River connecting Fischmarkt on the west end and the Wenige Markt market square on the east end. While it was rebuilt at least six times due to fires, the municipality in 1293 acquired all rights from the monasteries that had owned the bridge and built a permanent structure featuring stone arches supporting timber stands and gated church towers on each end- St. Benedict on the west end and St. Aegidian on the east side, the latter of which still stands today.  After a fire in 1472 which destroyed half of the city and severely damaged the bridge, it was then decided to construct timber houses across the bridge, using trusses to support them and whose height rose to three stories. A total of 68 houses were built on each side of the bridge, allowing passage space of up to 5.5 meters for people and goods to cross. A story was once mentioned that there was one way passage across the bridge- going eastward only in the morning and westward in the afternoon, with those wanting to go against the scheduled flow of traffic being left with no choice but to ford the river located next to the bridge. While this rule no longer exists, crossing the bridge today, one can see the narrow passage, together with the huge masses of people going in and out of the shops that exist.

A shop and café at the St. Benedict entrance of the bridge. Photo taken in December 2011

Today’s bridge is no different than the one that existed during the Medieval Ages. There are fewer houses on the bridge, but mainly due to owners consolidating them to provide more space and housing. Work on the bridge was done in three phases: restoring the houses between 1967 and 1973, reconstructing the arches and vaults in 1986, and reinforcing the bridge and the housing in 2002. Despite this, the bridge is one of the darlings of the city of Erfurt. It is the only bridge of its kind north of the Alps on the European Mainland. There are a few house bridges remaining that exist, like the Bridgehouse in Ambleside and the Pulteney Bridge in Bath (both in the UK), and the aforementioned Rialto Bridge in Venice, however the Kraemerbruecke today represents an example of a bridge with multiple-story housing that still has businesses and residences. A festival honoring the structure takes place every year in June, where hundreds of thousands of people visit the bridge. It is an integral part of the city’s annual Christmas market, taking place between the end of November and right before Christmas Eve.

The main passage through the bridge. Photo taken in June 2012

And even on a regular business day, thousands cross this bridge to see the many stores that offer local specialties and unique items worth taking with to show family and friends. This includes the Thuringian shop near the Aegidean Tower, which sells wine, mustard, and other goods. Across the passage is the famous Erfurt Brueckentrueffel shop, which sells thimble-shaped bridge truffles made of dark chocolate and other ingredients that are made by hand and using local products. There is the left-hand-shop located near the middle of the bridge, which sells products made solely for left-handed people. Also on the bridge are a pair of souvenir shops, a café offering local wines, an art gallery and the Kraemerbruecke Stiftung, a foundation devoted strictly to the bridge and its importance to the city of Erfurt. And if one has an appetite, there is the Kraemerbruecke Cafe located on the site of the former St. Benedict tower (the tower was razed in 1810), which offers a wide array of local pastries.

The Kraemerbruecke at night. Photo taken in December 2011

If you happen to visit Thuringia someday, or happen to pass through its capital of Erfurt, and ask someone about the places that should be visited, do not be surprised if nine out of ten residents say that the Kraemerbruecke is a must-see apart from the Cathedral, the market squares and the churches. This Medieval bridge has survived many fires and bombings to become an even more attractive place to see than ever before. It has earned its place as an integral part of the city and its history, and in light of the most recent bridge festival, it stands out as part of Germany’s heritage, which will surely be considered a World Heritage site.  It is a bridge that every pontist and bridge photographer should see once in his/her life, and learn about. While each city has its own bridge representing a part of its history- New York City with the Brooklyn Bridge, San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge, London with Tower Bridge and Berlin with both the Oberbaum-Bridge and the Jungfern pedestrian bridge, Erfurt has its Kraemerbruecke, the greatest and most popular of the 258 bridges that serve the city of 400,000 inhabitants.


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According to Vockrodt in a publication on Pont Habités, part of the European Bridge Culture (published in 2011), approximately 30 house bridges were built between the 13th and 18th centuries, with the majority of them located in Paris. The Parisians built at least five of these bridges over the Seine, including the Pont Notre Dame, Quai de Gevres, Pont aux Meuniers, Pont au Change and Pont Marchand. All of these bridges were either destroyed by fire or lost their houses to demolition. The largest of the house bridges in Europe was the Pont Notre Dame, which featured two bridges crossing the Seine and the island where the Cathedral of Norte Dame was located, with houses of 3-4 stories high.

Now that the tour of Erfurt’s bridges is complete, the last two segments will feature a book review and the interview with Vockrodt and Baumbach about the bridges in the city.


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The Bridges of Erfurt, Germany Part I: The Outskirts of Erfurt

The city emblem on the Pfoertchenbruecke in Erfurt. Photo taken in May 2012

The first part of the tour looks at the bridges outside the inner part of the state capital of Thuringia. To specify on what is meant by the outskirts of Erfurt, one has to take a look at the map of Erfurt and the streams that flow through the city. The city got its name from its location on the ford of the Gera River, which is divided into three parts: the Bergstrom, the Walkstrom and the Wild Gera. As the city was prone to flooding, the city in 1890 passed a resolution, calling for the re-channeling of the Wild Gera to the south and east of the city center. The project took eight years and the Wild Gera was filled in to a point where today, the Yuri Gagarin Ring, the inner ring encircling the city center, occupies what was the river. The historic bridges featured in this column will focus on the southern end of the new channel, called Flutgraben just south of the main rail lines that enter Erfurt Main Station. Furthermore bridges to the south and west of Erfurt, including the ones at Luisenpark as well as four located north and east of Erfurt will be featured. A map with the specific locations of the bridge appears with the first bridge profile so you have an idea where they are located. You’ll find the pictures when clicking on the highlighted words, including those on Instagram.

  One has to keep in mind that the bridges in Erfurt that are featured in the next three columns are the ones that are at least 100 years old, most of them being arch bridges made of concrete, brick, and/or stone. A couple exceptions are mentioned.

Map of Erfurt with the Bridges for Part I:

Bridge 1: Schmidtstedt Bridges
Location: Flutgraben east of Erfurt Main Station at the intersection of the Outer Ring and Thaelmannstrasse.
Type: Three-span arch bridge (rail span) and three beam spans: one for vehicular traffic and two for pedestrians. One of the spans can be viewed here.
Built: 1972 for vehicular bridge replacing an arch bridge built in 1895; 1895 for rail bridge- partially replaced in 2010.

The original Schmiedstedt Bridges were one of the first structures built over the new channel of the Gera River. The railroad bridge consisted of three spans of a closed spandrel arch design made of quarry rock and served the rail line connecting Leipzig and points to the south and west. The roadway bridge served as a key link between the train station and what is today a technical university to the north. Yet during the 1970s, the increase in traffic volume warranted the reconstruction of the key intersection. Therefore, the roadway bridge was replaced with a beam bridge with two additional pedestrian bridges being erected to the south of the bridge- one to cross the river and the main highway and one for the river enroute to the railroad bridge. As part of the plan to expand the rail service, especially with regards to the new ICE-line connecting Berlin and Nuremberg via Erfurt, the southern half of the railroad bridge was replaced and expanded, while the northern half still maintains its aesthetic value to this day. This can be seen in its entirety from the pedestrian bridge crossing the bridge and the river.

Bridge 2: Riethstrasse-/ Bahnhofsbrücke
Location: Riethstrasse over the Gera River in the northern suburbs of Erfurt
Type: Parker-Bowstring pony truss bridge with riveted and bolted connections
Built: 1892 at the location of the Erfurt Main Station; moved to its present location in 1912

Located just to the south of the Main Station over the Flutgraben, the steel bowstring arch bridge was built to serve traffic going directly to the city center of Anger. The bridge lasted only 20 years at this location for a wider structure was needed to accommodate not only horse and buggy but also the street cars that went across the bridge going south and west. It was replaced by a concrete arch bridge in 1912, but the truss bridge was relocated to its present site in 1912, where it still serves traffic today but with certain weight and height restrictions. The Bridge is scheduled to be replaced in June 2019 with a steel structure with ornamental Features. Yet given ist historical value, the truss span will be kept and stored until a new spot can be found for it. It will be the first time in over a century that the bridge will be relocated and reused.  The concrete arch structure, where the truss bridge was first built, was replaced in 2004 as part of the project to renovate the train station and make the surrounding infrastructure more accessible for streetcars, buses and pedestrians alike.



Bridge 3:  Pförtchenbrücke
Location: Pförtchenstrasse over the Flutgraben
Type: Closed spandrel arch bridge made of sandstone, limestone and chalk with ornamental features
Built: 1897 replacing a wooden bridge built in 1875.

The origin of this bridge came from one of the towers that existed in the 13th century, where horse and buggy and people could enter and leave the walled city from Steigerwald Forest and Dreibrunnenfeld Field both located to the south and west of the city. The city itself was a walled fortress until the 1890s when the new channel was built replacing the Wild Gera and the gates and towers were proven to be obsolete. However, the bridge was not based on the tower, which no longer exists. It is based on the street it carries. The bridge also served street car traffic which started with horse and tram (Pferdebahn) in 1883 and was followed by the electric street car in 1894. The line, which connected the northern suburb of Illversgehofen and the southern natural area, was later made obsolete by the line passing through Erfurt Main Station.
Today’s bridge is one of the most unique of the bridges serving Erfurt as well as the state of Thuringia. Built in 1897, it is characterized by four towers with vintage lanterns supported by ornamental candelabras. Built using limestone, sandstone and chalk, the outer features are covered by ornamental shields found on each end of the span, while its balustrades resemble a typical arch or concrete beam bridge built in the 1900s in the USA. The year it was built can be found on the outer end of the bridge in the middle of the balustrade.  The bridge was renovated twice: in 1988 when the towers, obelisks, and candelabras were carefully renovated, and in 1997/8 when the bridge itself was reinforced to support more traffic with the shield and other ornamental features being redone. Today the bridge serves the two main highways passing through Erfurt: B7 which is a east-west route connecting Weimar, Jena and Eisenach and B4, a north-south route connecting Nordhausen and Suhl.  It still retains its beauty after a pair of cosmetic operations and is a must see while visiting the city, no matter what time of day it is.

Links:  Oblique view, View of the Lantern, Side View.


Bridge 4: Hollernzollernbrücke
Location: Alfred-Hess-Strasse over the Flutgraben
Type: Closed-spandrel arch bridge with a two-part Korbbogen feature. The arch bridge is a brick arch form. Sculptures on each end of the bridge
Built: 1912  Restored in 1992

In order to provide better access to the Dreierbrunnenpark (now the present-day Luisenpark), the city of Erfurt let the contract out to a firm in Leipzig called Alban Vetterlein and Company, whose branch office was located in Erfurt in May 1911. Construction took almost two years as the city wanted to make the bridge an attractive piece of artwork that was part of the city park. Henceforth, they hired Carl Mellville (1875-1957), a teacher of the school of art, to construct four different sculptures on each corner of the bridge, two per gender and each representing a different form of artwork.  The bridge still retains its structural and aesthetic integrity today, even though renovations had to be made to the structure in 1992 to make it more structurally sound and keep the sculptures from eroding due to weather extremities and air pollution caused by the industry during the Cold War period which was being shut down after German reunification.


Bridge 5: Wilhelmsteg and Friedrichsteg
Location: Over the Flutgraben at Richard-Breslau-Strasse (Friedrichsteg) and Gerhardt-Hauptmann-Strasse (Wilhelmsteg)
Type: Open-spandrel arch bridge with ornamental railings
Built: 1897 (Friedrichsteg) and 1898 (Wilhelmsteg)

There are two characteristics that make these bridges special. Both of them are the only arch bridges of its type serving the city. And both of them serve pedestrians and cyclists. Both were constructed using sandstone and lime thus resembling a tan-colored appearance. The difference between the two are that the roadway is curved in the Wilhelmsteg, whereas in the Friedrichsteg, the roadway is bent upwards in a slant, making a point at the center of the span. Furthermore, unlike the Wilhelmsteg, the Friedrichsteg is one of only a handful of arch bridges that has both an open and closed spandrel design. The Wilhelmsteg is an open spandrel arch. While the Wilhelmsteg was renovated in 2002, the Friedrichsteg still retains its original appearance although renovation will most likely happen in a few years. Both serve the Gera Bike Trail leading to Luisenpark and all points to the south and west.


Bridge 6: Schutzturmschleuse Brücke/Damm
Location: Over the Breitstrom Creek at Strasse des Friedens
Type: Four-span stone arch bridge that functions as a dam
Built: 1631

To provide protection for the city against floods from the Gera River, a series of dams and locks were built in the 1600s to control the flow of water going through the inner part of the city. This was one of them, a contraption featuring a stone arch bridge for people to use that also functions as a dam that was originally located outside the outermost walls of Erfurt. It only functioned partially as problems with water being dammed up causing flooding upstream in areas where the Luisenpark is now located prompted a more permanent solution in the 1890s, which was re-channeling the river. In 1899 an electric street car line was established on the bridge, only to be removed 60 years later. The bridge today still serves traffic while at the same time, functions as a dam even though the is not much river flow through the city thanks to the Flutgraben that now encircles the city center.


Bridge 7: The Luisenpark Bridges
As many as seven bridges cross the Gera River and the tributaries of the Bergstrom and Walkstrom Creeks. Yet two of them stand out as ones that are worth seeing. We have the covered bridge known as the Hospitalsteg, a pedestrian crossing that used to cross the Wild Gera before the river was rechanneled. It was built using a queenpost truss design but after the Wild Gera was filled in, the bridge was shortened in length and relocated to this site, where it still serves pedestrians today. Then there is a cable-stayed suspension bridge, located to the east of the covered bridge spanning the Flutgraben. The bridge was probably built after German Reunification and still retains its structural integrity today as it provides access for pedestrians and cyclists to the Brühl Garden located north of the park. Contrary to the majority of today’s cable-stayed bridges in the US, this one fits nicely into the landscape.


Bridge 8: The Geschwister Scholl Railway Overpass
Location: Geschwister-Scholl-Strasse over a rail line in the suburb of Ringelberg
Type: Three-span brick arch bridge
Built: 1888

The name Geschwister Scholl can be found throughout all of Germany, as every town has a street named in memory of the siblings Sophie and Hans Scholl, who were part of the White Rose movement against the regime of Adolf Hitler but were executed by order of the People’s Court on 18 February, 1943.  The railroad overpass carries this street but is structurally unique because it features one large center arch span and two smaller ones located along the slopes. The bridge is very difficult to find as many objects are in the way, creating an impression that it is just an ordinary bridge. However, another bridge, a deck Queenpost truss bridge is located next to the arch bridge- another rarity in the world of bridge architecture. The bridges cross a rail line connecting Erfurt Main Station with cities in the north, including Nordhausen, Sangerhausen and Magdeburg.


Bridge 9: The Leipziger Strasse Underpass
Location: The Erfurt-Magdeburg, Erfurt-Nordhausen and Erfurt-Kassel Rail Lines over Leipziger Strasse between the city limits and Ringelberg.
Type: Two bridges feature concrete beam designs with Art Greco columns while the center bridge is a closed spandrel arch bridge
Although not featured in the books by Baumbach and Vockrodt, the three bridges are a diamond in the rough in terms of its features and appearance. The bridges were built between 1919 and 1926, and given their appearance, the bridges aged much more rapidly than expected, thus prompting the Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) to replace both bridges in 2016-17. This was deemed a necessity as the railways plan to increase passenger train service to the north of Thuringia and beyond.

Bridge 10: Marienthal Bridge

Location: Appelstedt Creek at the confluence of the Gera River near Ingersleben

Type: Two-span stone arch bridge

Built: 1752, rebuilt in 1896 and 1995

This bridge is located in the southwestern most part of the greater Erfurt area near the suburb of Erfurt.Bischleben. Its aesthetics is very uncharacteristic of any arch bridge in Erfurt. Built in 1752 by Gustav Adolf von Goetter, the bridge was originally featured one stone arch span. However, to better improve the flow of the creek, an additional arch was added in 1896, albeit it is only two-thirds of the original arch span. The arch bridge is also curved, making it one of two bridges in Erfurt, whose structure does not cross a ravine in a straight line. Although the structure was made obsolete by a new beam structure in 1965, the German Democratic Republic declared the bridge a historic monument, although it was not renovated until 1995. The latest changes feature pavement replacing cobblestones in 2010. Other than that, the bridge and the tower that is next to it still maintains its structural integrity. It can be seen from the railway west of Erfurt.

Bridge 11: Rieth Railroad Bridge

Location: Gera River on an abandoned rail line south of Strasse des Friedens

Type: Riveted Pratt pony truss bridge

Built: ca. 1920, abandoned since 1990

This bridge is one of only a couple of its kind that still exists in Erfurt. It used to serve a passenger rail line that passed through Rieth before making its way northwest. Yet with the German Reunification in 1990 combined with the plan to use a line east of the bridge for passenger service (the Erfurt-Kassel Line), the line and the bridge was both abandoned. They still exist today and the bridge can be seen from the main highway. Interesting enough, another bridge similar to this one, serves the Erfurt-Kassel Line spanning the Gera near Kuehnhausen, one of the northernmost suburbs of the greater Erfurt area.


Bridge 12: Aue Cable-stayed Bridge

Location: Gera River at Auen Strasse and Nordpark

Type: Cable-stayed suspension bridge

Built: 2015

This bridge is the newest of the structures in Erfurt, yet it is the second bridge of its kind in Erfirt. The bridge was built to replace a deck girder bridge that had been built by a firm in Weiden (Bavaria) in the 1990s but was used for pedestrians. The western entrance featured wooden stairways going down to the structure. The new bridge eliminated that while at the same time, provides another possibility for cyclists and pedestrians going to Nordpark and the hospital complex from the eastern part of the city.


The next segment will feature the bridges in the innermost part of the city and with that, also the Karlsbrücke, located between the city center and the Riethstrasse-Brücke in the northern part of the city.

The Bridges of Erfurt, Germany: Preview

Kraemerbruecke EF
Kraemerbruecke in Erfurt at Christmas time. Photo taken in December 2010

When visiting a city, one has to keep the following rule in mind: always visit the historic bridges first, for they are normally the last historic structures to be visited and the first ones to fall to modernization. There are a lot of characteristics that make the city of Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia located 130 km southwest of Leipzig unique in itself. There are 38 churches, including the Erfurt Cathedral at Domplatz. There are three market squares, all within five minutes’ walk of each other. And lastly, there are 258 bridges within the city limits- over 30 of which are within the city center itself!
If you ask a local what bridge he would associate Erfurt with, then the answer will almost definitely be the Kraemerbruecke, a house bridge that has existed since the 1100s, and resembles the London Bridge before the arches were moved to Lake Havasu City, Arizona in 1967. Yet there are over 20 historic bridges in Erfurt that exist, built before 1920 with the majority of them existing before 1800.
Dietrich Baumbach and Hans-Joerg Vockrodt have worked with the subject of historic bridges in Erfurt for over 20 years, which includes releasing not only one, but two books on the subject. The first book, released in 2000, focuses on the 12 arch bridges that exist in Erfurt and provides technical details to each of the bridges profiled. The second book, released late last year, focuses on the historical aspect of Erfurt’s bridges, which includes the numerous bridges that used to cross the streams flowing through the city, making it look like the northern version of Venice, but no longer exist.
In order to focus on the importance of Erfurt’s historic bridges, this segment will be divided up into five parts. The first three will feature the existing bridges in Erfurt, beginning with the bridges outside the city center; all but two of which are located south of the main station. The next part will feature the bridges in Erfurt’s innermost part of the city. This does not include the Kraemerbruecke as that bridge will be a standalone feature in part three. I had an opportunity to interview the two authors over a cappuccino at one of over 100 cafés serving the city, and the dialogue will be featured in part four. The fifth and final part of the series will feature the two books written by Baumbach and Vockrodt but compared by the author, looking at the bridges both past and present.
Stay tuned. The next column deals with the bridges in the outer skirts of Erfurt.