Top Five: Bridges

From fourteenth century gothic arches to modern masterpieces of stone and steel, bridges can be icons of cities, countries, architectural wonders or incredible feats of engineering. Here are qmunicate’s top five bridges from around the world.

Glenfinnan Viaduct, Highlands, Scotland.

Scenes of the Harry Potter films were shot on location here, and the journey across the Viaduct – steam train rattling along the tracks and billowing smoke with views across the Glen down to Loch Sheil – feels like a trip on the Hogwarts Express. The viaduct itself is a masterpiece of Victorian engineering, curving across the Glen as part of the West Highland railway, extending it from Fort William to Mallaig in 1897. (For any pedants out there, a viaduct “is a bridge composed of several small spans for crossing a valley or a gorge”. Conversation about this got quite heated at publications committee.)

Forth Rail Bridge, Firth of Forth, Scotland.

Despite appearing fairly modern in design, construction lasted from 1882 to 1890 – the bridge turns 125 years old this year. Crossing the Firth of Forth for over 2.5 kilometres, it is colloquially assumed that painting it is a never ending task (this is untrue, they now use a special paint that lasts a minimum of 20 years).  It is an icon of Scottish industry, appearing on the Bank of Scotland £20 note and recently providing the backdrop for the 56 new SNP MPs after their victory in the 2015 general election.

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney, Australia.

Sydney is a city built around its harbour, and both the harbour and the city itself are dominated by its bridge; throughout the city, you catch views of its towering arch between skyscrapers, across parks and above historic buildings. Built partially to create jobs for ex-soldiers after the First World War, construction lasted from 1923 to 1930, with the arch being begun on either side of the harbour until the two halves met in the middle. Tourists can now climb the bridge to enjoy views across the harbour and city and, along with Sydney Opera House, it provides the backdrop to Sydney’s legendary firework displays.

Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic.

The beautiful, gothic Charles Bridge crosses the Vltava River in Prague and links Prague Castle with the Old Town. Over 600 years old (construction was completed in 1402) and decorated with Baroque statues of saints venerated in the 17th century church. Crossing the bridge in the morning finds it shrouded in mist, flanked by arched gothic towers and surrounded by the domes, towers and red terracotta roofs of old Prague – during the day it is bustling with market stalls selling art, postcards and tourist trinkets, and at night it is lit by old-fashioned street lamps and observed by the tall statues of saints.

Cau Rong Bridge (Dragon Bridge), Da Nang, Vietnam.

This bridge is shaped like a dragon. It is a bridge, and it is shaped like a dragon. It is a dragon shaped bridge. It took nearly four years to build and was completed in 2013, it’s 666 metres long (how metal), it lights up at night, and it breathes fire at 9pm on the weekend. Dragon bridge wins, all other bridges can go home.

[Clare Patterson – @clurrpatterson]

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