Bridges are overrated. Or not.

At first glance this is likely to look like the picture of a bridge going over some marsh land or a small, shallow valley. It is not so. The “white pavement” the gentleman in the photo is walking over, is actually the mighty river Volga. Frozen, of course, but still…

The scene takes place in the city of Tver, where I have been living for one year. Here the Volga is about 200 meters (650 feet) wide and you really know where and when it is safe to cross on foot, as warm water from the sewers weakens the ice in various places. Some days, when it hasn’t snowed in a while (a pretty rare occurrence, in fact), you can see clear “tracks” on the river where the locals walk from bank to bank so they don’t have to go all the way to the bridge (2 minutes away). Should the ice crack and break under your weight, you run the risk of going underwater and being pulled by the current, with very little chance of making it. You might be mislead by the many ice fishermen who are there most days, but in reality it is so dangerous, if you are not familiar with the river ice, that all foreign students at the local universities have to sign a paper where they agree that should they ever try to cross the river on foot over the ice, they would be expelled at once. This deterrent seems to work (as well as good old common sense) as in my year here I have never seen any foreigners attempt the crossing on foot.

An historical note, if you are interested. During Operation Barbarossa the Nazis occupied and razed Tver (at the time called Kalinin, in honour of the bolshevik Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin, who had been born in the area). Before the war Tver/Kalinin had about 150.000 inhabitants, after the occupation only 150 remained. Gone were, of course, the bridges on the Volga. The one in the foreground was (re)build over the course of the few years in the early 50s, while the one in the background was originally in Saint Petersburg and was later “transferred” to Tver. The latter is called Staryy Most (Old Bridge) and it has an almost identical sister bridge in Budapest, the Liberty Bridge (which is actually a bit longer that the one in Tver).

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