Posted on July 9, 2013
Every once in a while, a bridge collapses. One just collapsed a couple of months ago in Washington state—luckily, only three people suffered minor injuries, and nobody died. The bridge was called “very, very old” in a newspaper report. I had to dig around a lot to find out how old you have to be to be called “very, very old”—and I finally discovered that the bridge was built in 1955.
Which means that I am older than the bridge!
Today's “birthday bridge” is a fair bit older than that bridge in Washington. As a matter of fact, the construction of it began on this date in 1357!
Which means that the bridge is even older than me!
Actually, it means that the bridge is more than 650 years old!
Now that's an old bridge!
The Charles Bridge crosses the Vltava River in Prague, in the Czech Republic. It is 621 meters long and nearly 10 meters wide (more than 2,000 feet long, and almost 33 feet wide). The bridge rests on 16 arches and is protected by three bridge towers.
There are 30 statues decorating the bridge at spaced intervals.
I don't want you to think that the bridge has lasted all these centuries without any need for repairs! Quite a lot of the problems the bridge has encountered damaged or toppled the statues—this happened, for example, when Swedes battled the locals on the bridge, during the Thirty Years' War. Other problems occurred during huge floods, when trees and rafts were swept from upstream into the bridge's pillars. The bridge withstood many floods, but part of it collapsed in 1432 and again in 1890 during particularly disastrous floods. Most of the bridge has been reworked and stabilized, and missing statues have been replaced with replicas.
This primer on Prague lists Charles Bridge as one of the top ten things to do and see in the city.
By the way...
Today isn't just the anniversary of the day that construction on the bridge started—it's the anniversary of King Charles IV himself laying the first stone of the bridge at exactly 5:31 a.m. Why at that very early hour, you might ask? Well, Charles IV was superstitious and believed that numerology could help keep “his” bridge safe. He said that the date and time 1357 9, 7 5:31 built a bridge of numbers to support the actual bridge. Obviously, Charles IV's “number bridge” starts with the year, the the day, month, and time. This creates a sort of palindrome of odd numbers. (A palindrome is something that reads the same backwards and forwards, such as “A Toyota's a Toyota,” “A man, a plan, a canal, Panama!” and “Step on no pets.” In this case, it is an arrangement of numbers that reads the same either direction, like 3941493.)
Also on this date:
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