The Bridges of Flensburg, Germany

The Bridge of Friendship at the German-Danish border at Wassersleben. Photo taken in 2011

Flensburg, Germany: the city with lots of character. There are many factors that make the city, located at the German-Danish border unique. Given its proximity to the border, the city of 90,000 has the highest number of Danish minority living there with one in four having Danish blood. One will find many Danish stores in the city center and places to the north towards the border. The city prides itself on its local brewery, the Flensburger Beer with its 12 different flavors, which celebrated its 125th birthday this year. The city is the birthplace of rum, as the likes of Pott, Johannsen, Jensen and the like made their mark here, many of which can be seen by touring the Rum-Sugar Mile. One can tour see and learn about the ships that were built in Flensburg, let alone travel the Alexandra, the lone coal-powered ship still in operation. And if one is interested in sports, there’s the handball team, SG Flensburg-Handewitt, one of the premiere powerhouses in the Bundesliga.

And lastly, if one looks even closer, one will find some historic bridges, whose history has long since been hidden from view. In the three times I’ve travelled up there for vacation, one cannot get enough of the city’s history, especially with regards to that aspect. The bridges are scattered throughout the city, spanning all kinds of ravines, and ranging from girders, arches and even a wooden truss. This tour guide takes you to seven bridges that make Flensburg unique in itself. A couple of the bridges have been mentioned in previous articles as there is potential to find substantial information on them. And for some, it required some great effort as the photographer had to battle through a bed of thorns and Rotweiler dogs to get to the bridges. So without further ado, here is the guide to the bridges in the Hölle Nord:

Schleswiger Strasse Brücke- When getting off the train at the station, this is the first bridge you will see. Spanning the railroad line connecting Flensburg with the key points to the north and south, the two-span arch bridge is the second crossing at this site, for the first bridge was built in 1854 when the rail line was first constructed. This bridge was built in 1926 and still retains its original form. One should not be mistaken by the fact that the bridge is brand new. It has shown some wear and tear especially on the inner part of the arches. But overall, the bridge is in excellent shape and is in the running for being declared a historic landmark by the city.

Peelwatt Viaduct- Spanning the railroad line connecting Flensburg and Kiel, this viaduct was built in the early 1900s and is the tallest and longest bridge in Flensburg. The bridge is about 70 meters long and 30 meters deep, carrying Kaiserstrasse. This bridge was difficult to photograph given the number of thorns that had to be dealt with, in addition with being chased by a large Rotweiler owned by a couple having an “open air concert” during my visit in 2011. Unless you’re Nathan Holth and want to deal with scratches and bruises, this stunt should not be attempted. While the bridge had seen its better days because of cracks and falling debris, the structure was recently rehabilitated in a way that a new roadway and railings were built, making it safer for cyclists to cross. Since finishing the work this year, the bridge has been serving as an important link between the campus of the University of Flensburg and the City Center.

Angelburger Brücke- Located at the junction of Angelburger Strasse and the main highway Sudenhofendamm, this bridge has a history in itself that required a lot of researching. When I visited the bridge in 2010, the first impressions that came to mind was that it was just a girder bridge with some ornamental railings resembling an X-shape. Underneath the bridge it features V-laced truss framing that is welded together with gusset plates.  But beyond the engineering facts, if one looks more closely at the abutments, one can see the remnants of a bike shop encased into the bridge’s north abutment because of the old German lettering and a wheel resembling an old-fashioned bike from the 1930s. As the nearest bike shop was up the hill at Hafenmarkt, I sent an inquiry about this bridge after writing a mystery bridge article about it. The response was an interesting one. The shop inside the bridge was indeed a bike shop owned by the Kraft family, which housed not only bikes, but also a repair shop. That remained in business through the 1960s before being replaced with a store that sold used books and comic booklets. It was owned by Emma Voss. Shortly before its abandonment in ca. 2000, a used furniture store took its place. After sustaining damage through broken windows and other forms of vandalism, the windows were bricked shut and a bilboard took their place. However, according to the Petersen Bike Shop, who provided the information, the city is looking at revitalizing the Bahndamm which would include remodelling and reusing this unique store space. Whether and when this will be realized remains to be seen. The bridge was built in 1919 as part of the Bahndamm line connecting the harbor and the train station. It is used next to never these days. But with the revitalization plan on the table, that might change as well.

Bahndamm Bridges:  Located at the junction of the Hofenden and Hafendamm, the 1919 bridges feature not only one, but two bridges built next to each other. Each one carries a rail line just west of the split with each one caressing the harbor. Once used to transport goods from ships to the main land, both lines appear to have been abandoned for a couple decades or have seen little use. The bridges themselves are plate girder with V-laced bracings at the bottom. Its future however seems uncertain as they pose a hazard to vehicular traffic. A traffic light is right after the bridge and the lanes have become a problem, even though the city council has tried to fix it most recently.

Bridge of Friendship:  This bridge is the northernmost structure, as it is located at the German-Danish border at Wassersleben, carrying a bike trail which leads to Kursa. It is also one of the most unique structures in Schleswig-Holstein for it is not only made of lumber, but the truss design is unusual- a Queenpost deck truss but designed in a manner similar to a Queenpost pony truss- the diagonal beams connect the piers with the decking without meeting at the center. Built in 1920 but reconstructed in 2003, the BoF has symbolized the connection and friendship between Germany and Denmark, which has been that way since the 1950s. Yet up until World War II, the relations between the two countries were not always the best, as they fought each other over the lands extending from Schleswig up towards Kolding- the region known as Angeln. Yet the Battle of Dybol (near Sonderburg) in 1864 decided the border in favor of German empire, with Flensburg becoming a border town. With the exception of World War II, when Hitler invaded and conquered Denmark, the border has remained the same. Between 1945 and 1995 Danish and German guards stood at the bridge, ensuring that people can cross without incident, especially as each country had its own set of laws. Yet after the Shengen Agreement, the border bridge became a free crossing and has remained so ever since. One can see the empty border patrol station still in place today when crossing into Denmark.

 

Bahnhofstrasse Brücke:  Located just north of Carlisle Park on the road heading to the train station, this 1919 railroad bridge features similar lattice bracing as the Angelburger Bridge but in the form of a snowflake. The bridge was part of the rail line connecting the train station with the harbor but has been unused for the most part for a couple decades.

 

Tarup Railroad Bridge:  While this bridge may look like a typical deck plate girder, this 1903 bridge is located in the rural village located 8 km east of Flensburg. Interesting to note that there is a restaurant located 300 meters away from the bridge with the date saying that the railroad was in service from 1903 to 2000. Yet the information seems to be mistaken, for the bridge carries a rail line between Flensburg and Kiel, with trains running on the hour. It is possible that the train station in Tarup was discontinued in 2000 forcing many to board at either Flensburg or Husby, but more research is needed to prove that.

 

Lautrupsbachtal Viaduct:  The last bridge on this tour is this one. Built in 2009, the bridge spans the Lautrup Creek and several other smaller streets and a bike trail in the village of Lautrup in the eastern part of Flensburg. Despite a debate about the construction of the bridge, the it has served as a blessing, carrying traffic around the eastern end of the city, reducing the congestion, which is still a recurring problem in the city center. The bridge is the longest, measuring 500 meters, and presenting a curve. The railings also serve as a noise barrier- 10 meters tall, resembling the Ecu Viaduct in Geneva, Switzerland. A video of the crossing is presented here.

There are some more bridges that are worth visiting but could not be put on this page. Yet another bridge photographer, Fritz Wissemborski also took a tour through Flensburg in 2003 and has a set of pictures you can view here. It pretty much sums up how important the bridges were to the city of Flensburg, for it contributed to the development of its infrastructure over the years. And because talks are underway to convert the former rail line to a bike trail connecting the harbor with the train station, one will have an opportunity to see these bridges reused again, as more and more people will take to the bikes and leave their cars in the garage. This way people will know more about these structures and come to appreciate them even more than they did in the past, providing another reason to visit Flensburg apart from the rum, beer, boating and handball.

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