10 Bridges of Berlin
From Anhalter Steg to Wilhelm-Spendler-Brücke, Berlin prides itself in having a large number of beautiful bridges, some old some new. And considering the abundant amount of rivers, lakes and waterways spread out throughout this huge city, this really should not be all that surprising. In fact, Berliners like to claim that they have more bridges than Venice, some 969 in all.
In the years immediately following the fall of the Berlin Wall, some 190 new bridges have been completed and many of the bridges that had been neglected have now been repaired. This was in part being necessary because many links between the Cold War east and west border area had either been destroyed or were dilapidated. Special design was emphasized by city planners in the process of building many of these new post-Wall bridges while maintaining and renovating the remaining bridges was given a top priority.
Whether over the Spree, the Landwehrkanal, the Havel or the highway, these bridges are not only important landmarks in the building history of the German capital, they are brilliant Ingenieurkunst (engineering art) beautiful to behold. I can’t claim to have seen them all, of course, but here are my personal top ten Berlin bridge favorites.
« Berliners like to claim that they have more bridges than Venice »
Completed in 2001, this footbridge crosses the Landwehrkanal and the bordering streets of Hallesches Ufer and Tempelhofer Ufer in Berlin-Kreuzberg. Linking to Berlin‘s Museum of Technology, Anhalter Steg actually offers pedestrians two bridges in one. The trains on the framework superstructure of the U2 line bridge pass by diagonally and loudly overhead. Four traffic routes at three different levels come together at this busy crossing, built upon the bombed-out foundations of the railway bridge that had once led south from nearby Anhalter Bahnhof, itself in ruins as well.
Connecting Berlin’s Wedding and Prenzlauer Berg districts, the Bösebrücke was famous as one of the border bridges connecting East and West during the Cold War Berlin era and easily recognizable for Cold War spy film fans. Built in 1916 and nearly 140 meters in length, it is Berlin’s first nickel steel bridge and has been placed on the preservation list for sites of great historic interest. In 1989 the Bösebrücke was the first DDR (Communist East Germany) border opening to open up to the thousands of East German citizens who were demanding their way to West Berlin.
The Gustav-Heinemann-Brücke is a footbridge that crosses the Spree at the Spreebogen (bend of the Spree river) in Berlin-Mitte and was completed in 2005. In the heart of new Berlin, it connects the government district and Spreebogenpark with the forecourt of Hauptbahnhof (Berlin’s Central Station) and is for many visitors arriving in Berlin the first bridge they will cross when entering the city. It is covered with an oak-board path which hides it’s heavy load-bearing steel structure underneath, this material having been chosen to represent and correspond to the transition from the open landscape space of Spreebogenpark to the bustling urban feel and steel of the Hauptbahnhof.
Spanning the Havel River on the south-western edge of Berlin, the Glienicke Bridge connects Berlin with Potsdam and is probably best known as being the location where Cold War spies were exchanged between the Soviet Union and the United States. Lying isolated between the American Sector of West Berlin and Soviet-occupied Potsdam, this was one of the few places where the two countries’ could make deals directly without having to consult their allies. The current bridge was constructed in 1907, although major reconstruction work was necessary after the Second World War.
Completed by Dutch workmen in 1798, the Jungfernbrücke is Berlin’s oldest wooden bridge still in its original form and was even in use as a drawbridge up until 1919. Spanning the smaller side arm of the Spree on the south side of the Spreeinsel (Spree Island) in Berlin-Mitte, it is something of a museum piece, having miraculously stood the test of time and the bombings of World War II. Some claim that the bridge’s name (Maiden or Virgin Bridge) stems from an old tradition said to have been practiced here. A future bride was expected to walk across the bridge before her marriage. If the planks would creak then her virginity might be placed in doubt.
Crossing the Spree in Treptow-Köpenick between Bahnhof Schöneweide and an older industrial area once established by AEG, the Kaisersteg is a popular pedestrian and bicycle bridge that now once again connects the Ober- and Niederschöneweide neighborhoods of Berlin. The original bridge was destroyed by the SS during the final days of World War II and no replacement was built until after German unification, over 60 years later. The Kaisersteg’s impressive A form pylon towers a full 32 meters tall over the 140 meter long construction, the 5 meter wide bike path now making life and mobility for the residents on both side of the river a whole lot easier.
The reconstruction of the Kronprinzenbrücke was the first East-West link after the fall of the Berlin Wall and it has come to represent how the city has grown together after the end of the Cold War. Crossing the Spree between the government district and Spreebogenpark in Tiergarten and Berlin-Mitte when thinking of how the city was divided before, the Kronprinzenbrücke’s « bridge-building » effect is undeniable. Beautifully well-lit (despite some recent vandalism issues), the four high and ten low lighting pylons, together with 40 ground lamps, provide lighting for the many lanes and walkways along the Spree. Completed in 1996, it was named like the the original before it after the German Crown Prince and later Kaiser Friedrich III.
This distinctive red sandstone bridge, completed in 1891, is the counterpart to the Kronprinzenbrücke, crossing the Spree between the government district near the Chancellery and Berlin-Mitte, only this time on the west side of the Spreebogen. Named after the Prussian Chief of Staff from 1857 to1888, Helmuth von Molkte, this beautiful, low-lying bridge has also been placed on the preservation list for sites of great historic interest. Adorned with sculpture by some of the most noted artists of the Wilhelminen era, the Moltkebrücke offers an interesting contrast to its modern cousins just upriver.
Located on the northern tip of Berlin’s famous Museum Island in Berlin-Mitte, the Monbijoubrücke spans both arms of the Spree river. After years of reconstruction and stopgap measures, the northern section of this double bridge was completed in 2006. The original double bridge was constructed in 1902 and 1904 and received its name from the nearby Montbijou Schloss, still standing at that time. And the French name is certainly appropriate in this case as the look and feel at the island’s northern tip definitely has a certain Parisian touch. This beautiful sandstone structure is also protected as an historic monument and serves as a popular throughway for one of the cities most lively neighborhoods (Hackescher Markt and vicinity).
Originally a wooden bridge constructed in 1724, the Oberbaum Bridge is now a double-deck bridge considered to be one of Berlin’s top landmarks. Its two towers, seven vaults and North German brick Gothic design give it a very distinctive appearance and have contributed to making it one of the city’s most well-loved bridges. Connecting the lively Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg neighborhoods of what is now administratively the Friedrishein-Kreuzberg district of Berlin, These two neighborhoods were once divided by the Berlin Wall during the Cold War, this oddly turning the bridge (or what was left of it after the war) into a symbol of division. But the Oberbaum Bridge came back to life along with German unification and has since become an important symbol of the city’s unity. The roadway and the lower side walkway were reopened in 1994, the elevated train section on the upper level opened when the connection to the Warschauer Straße subway station was completed in 1995.
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