There is no ‘bucket list’ - Lynne and I are both well, thank you – but we have arrived at a point in our lives where we have the time, the money and the good health to indulge in a passion for travel. We know how lucky and privileged we are to be able to do this, and we know it won’t last for ever, but while it does…..



Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Bridges

I like bridges, they bring people together.

They are also structures where engineering rubs shoulders with art. Roadways slung from mighty cables span the dizzying space above vast rivers, cantilevers stretch out their arms towards each other while cosy, domesticated hump-backs still exploit the strength and elegance of the arch, as they have since antiquity.

This post, then consists of pictures of bridges; a not entirely random collection from the archives, but all of them pre-date the blog and appear nowhere else among these pages.

They are presented, as much for my convenience as any other reason, in the order I or Lynne took them.

1) The Pont Saint-Bénézet, Avignon August 1982

Back in the days when I had a beard and our daughter was an infant....

The Pont Saint-Bénézet, better known as the  Pont d'Avignon, August 1982
Bridges bring people together, I wrote, but not the Pont d'Avignon, not any more anyway. Built across the Rhône between 1177 and 1185 it was destroyed forty years later during the Albigensian Crusade. It was rebuilt - many times. 'The strength and elegance of arches,' I wrote, but arches are tricky things. The Rhône floods most years, and those floods often brought down an arch or two. It was abandoned in the 17th century and today only 3 of the original 22 arches survive.

2) The Crooked River High Bridge, Oregon, USA, April 1984

The Crooked River High Bridge
Driving north from San Francisco to Seattle in a cool wet August we detoured away from the coast in search of warmer weather. East of the Cascades and on the fringes of the Oregon High Desert  we were crossing a featureless land of junipers and sagebrush when a sign warned us of the approaching  Peter Skene Ogden Scenic Wayside.

It was difficult to imagine there would be anything scenic in this flat land, but suddenly and without warning (except for the sign) the land dropped away and we were amazed to find ourselves crossing the undoubtedly scenic Crooked River. We Old World Europeans had been duped by the New World, which is new geologically as well politically.

The wayside, now a 'State Scenic Viewpoint', is named for Peter Skene Ogden who arrived here in 1825 leading a Hudson Bay Company trapping party. The High Bridge was opened in 1926 and carried US97 when we 'discovered' it in 1983 and returned in 1984. A new bridge was built in 2001 and the High Bridge is now pedestrian only.

3) Bridge over the River Saar, Saarburg, Germany July 1991

The River Saar at Saarburg
This is hardly the most elegant of bridges, but it somehow makes the scene and is just high enough for the barge heading downstream towards the much larger Mosel. On the lower slopes of the hills the vineyards of the Saar are some of the most northerly and finest in Germany.

4) Bridge over the Debed, Alaverdi, Armenia July 2003

The magnificent Haghpat Monastery in the hills above Alaverdi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but that cannot stop Alaverdi being one of the most depressed and depressing towns we have ever visited. Once it was a copper smelting town in the industrial heartland of northern Armenia but when the Soviet Union collapsed so did the market for its copper. The 26,000 population halved between 1989 and 2011 and although industry can look grim, industrial dereliction always looks worse.
Industrial dereliction, Alaverdi
 But turn around on this exact spot and face the other way....


Debed Bridge, Alaverdi
...and there is Alaverdi's delightful 12th century bridge across the River Debed.

5) Pont de Zaglia, Spelunca Gorge, Corsica July 2006

There is no road along the Spelunca Gorge, but the river can be accessed from the coastal road between Ajaccio and Calvi. A kilometre or three along the pleasantly shady streamside track brings you to the Pont de Zaglia.



Pont de Zaglia, Spelunca Gorge
Corsica has been part of France since 1794 but in medieval times it had several, often competing rulers including Pisa, Aragon and most importantly Genoa. Dominant for 300 years from the late 13th century, the Genoese built coastal towers to warn of attacks from pirates and Barbary slavers, and roads and bridges to open up the rugged interior. A simple elegant arch never built to carry anything larger than a pack animal the Pont de Zaglia is a lesson to the builders of Avignon. Even a slim, delicate arch, when you get it right, can withstand half a millennium of storms and floods.

oOoOo
 

There are plenty of bridges in other posts, many of them memorable. There is the tragic yet extraordinarily beautiful bridge at Mostar, there is the cutesy 'Japanese bridge' at Hoi An in Vietnam, the elegant modern bridge across the Guadiana between Spain and Portugal, and the bridges over the Rivers Irtysh and Yenisey on the Trans-Siberian railway, rivers so huge that in the heart of the world's largest continent their banks have cranes and quays like a seaport. And there is also the misnamed Bridge on the River Kwai which we visited in November 2015 and that has a story to tell.

2 comments:

  1. Hi David. I agree with your sentiment re bridges - linking communities, bringing people together, and have seen a few instances where a missing bridge has caused all sorts of difficulties for the people who normally used them. We possibly know three of your bridges. Can you guess which?Mike

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  2. Thanks Mike. Tadcaster being a case in point during the recent flooding, but at least there is now a temporary footbridge. A shame Sam Smith's brewery, whose products I much admire, did not cover itself in glory over this. And then there is Mostar's 16th century bridge, one of the world's finest, destroyed in 1993 by Croatian artillery not out of military necessity, but because they could. A symbolic killing of the co-existence and co-operation of the past. Once the war was over they rebuilt it just the way it was, an equally symbolic, though rather more hopeful, gesture.

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