From logs balanced across rivers to rope bridges swinging precariously over vast gorges, bridges have come a long way over the years, and so much more than just a means of crossing water. They have become statements, calls for artistic expression, shows of wealth; pushing architectural design and new materials to their limits.
The world would be a very different place without them. Wars could have been lost without them. Bridges transport goods and people; they give adrenalin junkies something to bungee jump off, climb up and abseil down as well as giving us insights into the architectural styles of the period in which they were built.
For classical to modern, steel to stone, here are our top 5 most beautiful bridges in the world…
The Khaju Bridge – Isfahan, Iran
Built in the 17th century by Shah Abbas II, this stunning structure also serves as a dam, with sluice gates under the archways. When the gates are closed, the water behind the bridge is used to irrigate gardens alongside the Zayandeh River. The Khoju Bridge has two stories of colonnades, with beautiful intersecting arches decorated with rich coloured tiles. At the centre of the bridge there are two large pavilions, called the Prince Parlours that were originally used by the Shah himself for relaxation and to admire the views across water and gardens.
Pont du Gard – Southern France
Spanning the Gard River in southern France, this masterpiece of Roman engineering wasn’t constructed primarily for people, although there is a footbridge over the top, but was in fact part of a complex aqueduct system that carried water over 30 miles to the ancient Roman city of Nemausus, now known as Nîmes. The Pont du Gard was built with stones that were cut so precisely they did not require any mortar to hold them in place. This incredible structure was built by the son-in law of Caesar Augustus; Marcus Vipsanius, in the first century AD.
The Ponte Vecchio – Florence, Italy
This captivating and colourful, medieval bridge over the Arno River is also a street, a marketplace and a world famous landmark of Florence, Italy. The Ponte Vecchio that we know today was built in 1345 by Taddeo Gaddi after floods destroyed an earlier version. Spaces along it were rented to hawkers so they could sell their wares. In 1565 though, an architect named Giorgio Vasari constructed a roofed passageway over the marketplaces, after which the hawkers were driven out and the upper class jewellers, goldsmiths and merchants of the city moved in. Centuries more of haphazard additions have given the bridge the distinctive, quirky yet elegant look it has today. Remarkably, though German bombers blowing up bridges in Florence during WWII, it was a direct order from Hitler that Ponte Vecchio was thankfully spared this fate.
The West Montrose Covered Bridge – Ontario, Canada
Recognized as a historic site by Ontario’s Archaeological & Historic Sites Board, this is Ontario’s last remaining covered bridge. Visitors from all over the world book flights to Canada to see and photograph this beautiful, rickety bridge. The roof protects the large timbers and trusses from the elements, which is why this bridge still stands after more than 100 years. It was also to ensure horses weren’t spooked by the sight of the bridge and sound of water below. The bridge is often referred to as “The Kissing Bridge” because it is enclosed and the soft light provides a feeling of intimacy for the romantic. A similar bridge was used in the famous weepie, Bridges of Madison County with Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.
Stari Most – Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Stari Most is not just a breathtakingly beautiful bridge but it also has a moving and poignant history. Built in Mostar in the 16th century during the Ottoman Empire, the Stari Most stood for 427 years until it was completely destroyed in the Bosnian war. This was a heart-breaking event for the Bosnian people who felt as though the heart of Mostar had been torn out. So, UNESCO, the World Bank, the Aga Khan Trust, Turkey, Italy and the Netherlands got together and supplied the funds to reconstruct the Stari Most. Builders used stone quarried in the vicinity to make it look as close to the original as they possibly could. Hungarian divers even went into the river to find as much of the original stone as they could. This was a hugely symbolic gesture when Europe came together to a structure that came to symbolise so much more than just a bridge.
James is a travel blogger and writer for PRnewshub a UK travel industry site.