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Where in the World are You?...Magdeburg Water Bridge; Magdeburg, Germany
Where in the World are You?
Only in a country that still transports much of its commercial freight over canals and interior waterways could one expect to find a bridge over a river connecting two of their most important canals. One of these canals being the primary east-west inland water route, the other links two major cities on two different rivers, which links the country’s industrial heartland to its primary inland harbor. Do people really still use canals that much?
Evidently they do. This connection between the two waterways opened in 2003 to connect those two canals that met at this point on this river, but on different sides of the river. The only connection that makes sense, of course, would be a sort of aqueduct over which maritime vessels could pass. This crossing replaced a terribly inefficient boat lift that was formerly the only means of making the crossing prior to 2003.
The crossing had been in the works for over 80 years, planning began in the early twentieth century only to be put on hold due to a major international conflict and the ensuing battle of ideologies that raged until the end of the twentieth century. After the barrier of this ideological battle had come down, planning again began in earnest to finally complete this engineering marvel. Construction took six years and cost over $650 million USD and required 26,000 tons of steel and six million cubic feet of concrete to complete. A bridge…of water…that crosses over a river; what?
The city closest to the landmark pictured above was one of the most important medieval cities on the continent, home to the first emperor of a certain holy empire. Founded in the ninth century AD by a much more famous Frankish king, the city is now an important traffic junction, as well as an important industrial and trading center. In 2005, this city celebrated its 1,200th anniversary; so…Where in the World are You?
The Magdeburg Water Bridge; Magdeburg, Germany
The Magdeburg Water Bridge is a navigable aqueduct that opened at Magdeburg, Germany in October of 2003 and connects the Elbe-Havel Canal and the Mittellandkanal by crossing the Elbe River. The two canals had previously met at the site and were clearly on opposite sides of the river, which was at a lower elevation than the canals. To traverse the river ships previously had to use the Rothensee boat lift to complete the journey.
The idea for the water bridge had been floated around since the 1930’s but World War Two and the division of Germany in the aftermath led to the project being shelved. When the Berlin Wall came down, the previously mentioned barrier of the ideological battle referred to as “the Cold War”, in 1990 the division of Germany was no longer an obstacle. Obviously the reunification process presented a series of colossal challenges for Germany, so they can be excused for not resuming construction on the bridge until 1997.
When construction did resume on the bridge, construction took over six years at a cost of over $650 million USD. The Mittellandkanal is the primary east-west inland waterway connection within Germany but it also connects France, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Poland, the Czech Republic, and the Baltic Sea. By connecting the Mittellandkanal to the Elbe-Havel Canal, all these places now have an open over-water trade route to the German capital of Berlin.
The German city of Magdeburg was one of the most important medieval cities in Europe. Founded by the Charlemagne King of the Franks in 805, the name translates to “mighty fortress”. After the city’s founding, the first Holy Roman Emperor Otto I lived there for most of his reign and was subsequently buried in the city. The father of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, attended school in Magdeburg as a boy and in 1524 he convinced the city to defect from Catholicism.
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