The Bridges of Erfurt, Germany: Preview

Kraemerbruecke at Christmas time. Photo taken in December 2010

When visiting a city, one has to keep the following rule in mind: always visit the historic bridges first, for they are normally the last historic structures to be visited and the first ones to fall to modernization. There are a lot of characteristics that make the city of Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia located 130 km southwest of Leipzig unique in itself. There are 38 churches, including the Erfurt Cathedral at Domplatz. There are three market squares, all within five minutes’ walk of each other. And lastly, there are 258 bridges within the city limits- over 30 of which are within the city center itself!
If you ask a local what bridge he would associate Erfurt with, then the answer will almost definitely be the Kraemerbruecke, a house bridge that has existed since the 1100s, and resembles the London Bridge before the arches were moved to Lake Havasu City, Arizona in 1967. Yet there are over 20 historic bridges in Erfurt that exist, built before 1920 with the majority of them existing before 1800.
Dietrich Baumbach and Hans-Joerg Vockrodt have worked with the subject of historic bridges in Erfurt for over 20 years, which includes releasing not only one, but two books on the subject. The first book, released in 2000, focuses on the 12 arch bridges that exist in Erfurt and provides technical details to each of the bridges profiled. The second book, released late last year, focuses on the historical aspect of Erfurt’s bridges, which includes the numerous bridges that used to cross the streams flowing through the city, making it look like the northern version of Venice, but no longer exist.
In order to focus on the importance of Erfurt’s historic bridges, this segment will be divided up into five parts. The first three will feature the existing bridges in Erfurt, beginning with the bridges outside the city center; all but two of which are located south of the main station. The next part will feature the bridges in Erfurt’s innermost part of the city. This does not include the Kraemerbruecke as that bridge will be a standalone feature in part three. I had an opportunity to interview the two authors over a cappuccino at one of over 100 cafés serving the city, and the dialogue will be featured in part four. The fifth and final part of the series will feature the two books written by Baumbach and Vockrodt but compared by the author, looking at the bridges both past and present.
Stay tuned. The next column deals with the bridges in the outer skirts of Erfurt.

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