I’ve been following the planning and building of Krakow’s new pedestrian bridge for what seems like most of my life but has in fact only been two years. Today was the culmination: in glorious Autumn sunshine I made my first crossing, the bridge itself having inconveniently been opened in the middle of last week.
My wife, who wasn’t even my wife when this started, has suffered through innumerable expeditions to the riverbank to watch me photograph bits of concrete and scaffolding without a murmur of protest—quite a lot of tutting, but no murmurs of protest. My wife is only really interested in things that happen on stages. If they had built the thing on Mam Talent with ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’ playing in the background intercut it with slow motion black-and-white footage of workmen waving their hands in the air, she would have watched it 7,000 times on YouTube and cried. I’m as sorry to see it finished as she is glad. If they don’t start building something else dramatic in this town soon I’m going to have trouble filling my days.
It’s been quite a ride: thrills, spills, floods and long, long periods of absolutely nothing happening at all. The bridge plan first came to my attention back in April, 2009 when I wrote A new bridge for Kraków and it was finally opened on 30th September 2010.
The bridgeheads of the Emperor Francis Joseph I Bridge, which stood here from 1850 to 1925, were to be incorporated into the new bridge. Here is the bridgehead on the south bank in the very early stages of the project.
The bridgehead on the north bank receiving the attentions of a giant corkscrew machine (I’m not tremendously knowledgeable when it comes to bridge-building terminology). Whatever the giant corkscrew machine was trying to do, it didn’t seem to work because nothing else happened on the site for months.
Great excitement as the heavily renovated bridgeheads are fitted with big pipe-socket thingies (again, this may not be the technical term) to take the main span of the bridge.
The main span takes shape on the north bank. Already I’m wondering how they are going to get this vast piece of metal into position.
Rapid progress as the pedestrian and cycle platforms begin to take shape.
Doh! Imminent disaster as the river rises up and engulfs the structure in May of this year.
Soggy people struggle to prevent the half-finished bridge being washed away down the river.
Mystery solved: one end of the bridge is floated across the river on barges.
A tense couple of hours as the bridge is inched across the river. The architects were presumably locked away in a room with a bottle of whiskey at the time.
The Laetus Bernatek Bridge, finally, in place. This view rapidly becomes a favourite. It’s a good thing they thought about the design of the underside. The bridge was finished weeks before anybody could access it because the roads and paths leading to each end were not ready.
The completed bridge from the north bank—more or less the same point of view as the first photo above.
The cycle-side (west platform) of the bridge, the other side being for pedestrians. Contrary to some reports, cyclists and pedestrians can use the bridge in both directions, but use different sides. There is, by the way, no physical barrier that would prevent a car driving across the bridge. Somebody is bound to try this at some point. If that person is you, let me know so I can be there to take pictures of the ensuing disaster.