Stories about life in Denmark, Travels in Denmark

The Bridges of Denmark

I don’t do a lot of stock market investing, but if I did, I’d want to go back in time and invest in companies that build bridges in Denmark. This country is on a tear when it comes to bridge building. Over the past decade, there have been 5 new major bridges in Copenhagen alone, and at least one new major one is planned.

And because this is Denmark, and people love design, each bridge has its own special look. You can’t just put up a few bridge supports and a deck on top for traffic. You need style, and you need a colorful name.

Consider, for example, the multicolored Kissing Bridge in Copenhagen. It’s not named that because you’re supposed to kiss on the bridge, although you can if you like. It’s named that because it breaks in half on a regular basis to let ships through, and then it’s supposed to come together again like a kiss.

The Kissing Bridge has needed to visit a relationship counselor, however, because there have been constant problems getting it to kiss. It wasn’t quite aligned the way it was supposed to be.

It seems to work now, although it’s rather steep and a difficult ride for bicyclists, which is rather a shame, because it is a bicycle and pedestrian bridge only. There are no cars on it.

Bicycle Snake and Brewing Bridge

The Bicycle Snake and the Brewing Bridge a little further down the harbor are also just for cyclists and walkers, and so is the Little Langebro bridge.

The Little Langebro bridge is currently the newest bridge in town, just a couple of years old. This is a neighborhood I don’t go to often, and I remember coming home from a late night engagement to suddenly find a new bridge in front of me, all lit up and ready to serve.

Whoa! Unexpected bridge. It was like a dream.

Beer on Queen Louise’s Bridge

But it’s not just new bridges that are a key part of Copenhagen culture. Queen Louise’s Bridge in the center of town, was completed in 1887 – you see it in paintings.

It is lined with benches, and if you’re in the age group that enjoys drinking beer on a bridge and checking out the dating possibilities, Queen Louise’s Bridge is the spot for you, particularly in the evenings when the weather is good.

Scandal on the Big Belt Bridge

All through Denmark there are delights for bridge lovers. There’s the magnificent Øresund Bridge that links the country with Sweden, and in the other direction the Big Belt Bridge stretching from Sjælland, the big island where Copenhagen lies, to Fyn, the small island where Odense is located.

The Big Belt Bridge was once the second-longest bridge in the world, but has since been bounced back to sixth. This bridge does take cars and trucks and trains, and because it’s so long, sometimes winds get so strong that they threaten to blow these vehicles into the water.

When this happens, the bridge is temporarily closed, resulting in long lines of cars and trucks waiting on each end for it to open again so they can cross.

One of the few public scandals in the life of Crown Prince Frederik, the future king of Denmark, was when he ordered the staff of the Big Belt Bridge to let him drive over while the bridge was closed to other traffic during a storm. He has since apologized.

Two Little Belt Bridges

In addition to the Big Belt Bridge, there is also a Little Belt Bridge – or, actually, two Little Belt bridges. Both of them go from the Island of Fyn, where Odense is located, to Jutland, the big part of Denmark that is attached to Germany.

One is currently in use as a bridge, the one that was completed in 1970, but the previous version, completed in 1935, is still in place. You can go bridgewalking on it, with an approved guide, although you have to be relatively strong and willing to wear a harness. You also need to have 0% alcohol in your blood to be allowed on the bridge. On a lucky day, you’ll see seals in the water below you.

If you have a Danish 100 kroner note in your pocket right now, take it out, and you’ll see a picture of the Little Belt bridge.

Potential bridge by the Little Mermaid

There is currently one major bridge in the planning stages, in Copenhagen, at Langelinie by the Little Mermaid. There’s a challenge there, because Langelinie is where the big cruise ships go.

They need to design a bridge that will let the big cruise ships through, which means that it has to be able to create a lot of space relatively quickly, but then close up again quickly before too much traffic builds up on each side.

People who don’t like bridges

Perhaps you think that everyone loves a beautiful bridge, but there is one group that does not: people who own sailboats.

The pretty bridges that have been put up recently in the harbor will slow you down if you own a boat, or at least a big, wind-powered boat that can’t sail beneath them. All the bridges are tall enough for the regularly-scheduled harbor bus to clear.

But the tall mast sailing ships, many of which are privately owned, have to wait for the bridges to open up. (Sailboat owners can order that in advance by telephone, for a fee of about 200 euros per bridge opened.)

Competition from Tunnels

What sailors like better than bridges are tunnels beneath the water. Tunnels are a growing business. Denmark is currently building a tunnel to Germany, and to do this they’ve created a tunnel factory, which you can see from the water in Copenhagen. In the factory they create bits of the tunnel and then tow them to where they are supposed to be and submerge them.

When they’re done with the German tunnel, the idea is to create a tunnel underneath the harbor in Copenhagen for cars. As much as Copenhagen likes to bill itself as a bicycle town, the number of cars keeps growing, and young people’s number of trips by bicycle is shrinking.

But a tunnel will never have the grace of a bridge, or the artistic appeal, or the memorable, poetic name.

Photo: Kay on the new Circle Bridge in Copenhagen, designed by artist Olafur Eliasson. In the background, L-R: the new Danish Architecture Center, Tivoli, The Danish War Museum, City Hall Tower, The Danish National Library (Black Diamond).
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