Tag Archives: bridge

Krakow's new bridge

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.

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A new bridge for Kraków

Construction of a new bridge across the Vistula River in Kraków has begun. The new bridge will be for pedestrians and cyclists only and will connect ul. Mostowa in Kazimierz with ul. Budzińskiego in Podgórze. The single span suspension bridge will cross the river at the same point where several earlier bridges have stood, the last of which was dismantled in 1925. This welcome addition to Krakow’s bicycle routes will re-establish a link between Wolnica Square and the historical heart of Podgórze, the Podgórski Market Square, which has been missing for more than 80 years.

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Design concept for the new Podgórski Bridge.

The former Podgórski Bridge (officially the Emperor Francis Joseph I Bridge) was built between 1844 and 1850 and stood for 75 years. It was a wooden structure resting on brick pillars and was at the cutting edge of bridge technology when it was built. The Podgórski Bridge was torn down in 1925 when construction began on the Piłsudski Bridge slightly further upstream. The old Podgórski Bridge was in poor repair, was unsuitable for the heavier traffic of the time and its multiple supports impeded navigation of the river. The steel-construction Piłsudski Bridge was designed to carry tram lines, though these were not installed until after World War II, and was located further upstream to create a more direct route along Stradomska and Krakowska and over the river into Podgórze.

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Four views of the old Podgórski Bridge dismantled in 1925.

The old Podgórski Bridge was itself a replacement for the earlier Charles Bridge (Karlsbrücke) which was destroyed in the great flood of August, 1813 – the greatest flood in Krakow’s history. Before the Charles Bridge there are records of a floating bridge, a bridge destroyed by the Swedes in 1655, a wooden bridge constructed in the 14th century, and before all of these a ford. The new Podgórski Bridge will be only the most recent in a long line of ill-fated river crossings on this site.

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The early 19th century bridgeheads of the Charles Bridge being prepared for new construction.

The massive masonry bridgeheads originally built for the Charles Bridge in 1801 and later used for the Podgórski Bridge remained intact after the latter was dismantled, though few of the thousands of Cracovians who promenade along the banks of the river each weekend could have pointed them out blending as they do into the seamless embankments. Now work has begun they are suddenly blindingly obvious.

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Renovation work on ul. Mostowa, gateway to the northern end of the new bridge.

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The final stretch of ul. Mostowa leading to the embankment with a rather understated roadworks sign.

The streets leading up to each end of the new bridge are also receiving attention from developers. Both ul. Mostowa (which means ‘Bridge Street’) and ul. Budzińskiego were among the most rundown and neglected roads in the area. Suddenly they are about to become the gateways to a new thoroughfare which should revitalize both banks of the river.

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Location of the new Podgórski Bridge showing the restored link between Wolnica Square and Podgórski Market Square.

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