November 09, 2004

Four travel favorites: Bridges

Bridges complete a place. They link, connect, bring people, places and ideas together. They make you wonder what’s on the other side and invite you to cross and find out. A beautiful bridge is a work of art, something to contemplate, experience, absorb. Here, four of my favorites:

  • Brooklyn Bridge, New York City – I was born in Brooklyn and have a genetic attachment to New York City, the capital of the world. On every trip back, I take the subway to City Hall and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. After Central Park, there is no finer place to let the waves of this magnificent, pulsing city wash over you. Peek between the spaces in the pedestrian boardwalk to the traffic lanes below you, cars, trucks and cabs rushing between Manhattan and Brooklyn. The East River winds its way north toward the Bronx and south toward New York harbor and the Statue of Liberty, just visible. You’ll share the boardwalk with runners, cyclists, tourists, students, businesspeople. Revel in the superlative view of Manhattan’s skyline, pausing at the hole in the sky where the World Trade Center used to be.
  • Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy – It arcs like a stone confection over the Grand Canal. Unless you arrive on one of the great cruise ships that arrive in Venice on the Lido side of the city or travel up the wide Guidecca Canal, you’ll likely leave your car or tour bus in industrial Mestre, or you’ll take the train to Venice. You’ll board a vaparetto that quickly delivers you into a sun-dappled, watery wonderland that is unique in the world. The Rialto Bridge greets you early in your journey down the Grand Canal. You take a deep breath and smile. You know this bridge, recognize it. You’re in Venice. The dream is real.
  • Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic – This 600-year-old Gothic bridge spans the Vltava River (aka the MoldauSmetana’s The Moldau takes you on a sublime symphonic journey down the great river) and links Prague’s Old Town with Lesser Town, or Mala Strana. (Lesser Town is old, too.) Gothic towers with tops that look like pointy black hats sit at each end of the 16-arch stone bridge. Thirty baroque statues and reproductions line the bridge’s sides, some statues rubbed to gleaming by people seeking good luck. You won’t be alone on the Charles Bridge, Karlov most in Czech. The bridge, commissioned in 1357 by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, was built wide enough to carry four horse carriages abreast. The carriages are gone, but the wide expanse is filled with pedestrians, tourists, street vendors, musicians and performers. Karlov most is more than a bridge; it's a boulevard.
  • Forth Railway Bridge, Edinburgh, Scotland – From our hotel room in South Queensferry, Adam, Dana and I could stand at our window and see the two great bridges that span the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh. To our left, the road bridge carried car and truck traffic over the Forth. We’d cross the road bridge many times on sightseeing missions from Edinburgh to other Scottish parts. But it was the Forth Railway Bridge that captivated. Opened in 1890, the bridge’s three red-painted double cantilevers sail like butterflies above the Forth. Spectacular at sunset, the crimson marvel is engineering perfection and poetry in steel.
Click here to read excerpts from Ribbons of Highway: A Mother-Child Journey Across America