Some of us travellers are fascinated by rivers, some by mountains, buildings, battlefields, ancient architecture, and so on. We may start out fixating on just a few of these, but as we experience the things that attracted us, we seem to add to our list of fascinations rather than delete from it.
Thus, where we had not really thought much about bridges some years ago, even wondering why there are tours that take sightseers to the many bridges of Madison County (although we know they are quaint and owe their fame to the film and musical of the same name), now suddenly, we find that bridges around the world figure prominently on our list of places to visit.
Perhaps this started when we walked along the Bridge on the River Kwai, our hearts aflutter, anticipating that we would hear the whistle of a train at any moment and we would have no time to race to the other end and would have to jump into the chasm below.
The iconic Golden Gate Bridge, its smaller and slightly younger cousin the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver; the bridges across the mighty Mississippi, the Nile, the Ganges, the Volga … All of them become significant if one pauses to think when actually crossing over!
As we walked, we could see in our mind’s eye the entire cast of the eponymous film struggling to get the bridge made. How we had suffered with them! Now, with that infamous history long behind us, how harmless the bridge seemed: so different from what we had imagined when we read the book and watched the film — but nonetheless, a major thrill for us!
Our next unforgettable experience had us going across the Brooklyn Bridge. We recalled the excitement of seeing Godzilla trapped amid its cables in the decades-old film we had watched when our son was young and all of us hid our faces behind pillows and played up the fear factor to get more mileage out of each scene!
To see the busy bridge in broad daylight or aglitter at night with the lights of the traffic moving across it — and no monsters anywhere near — was something to remember!
Perhaps it was this bridge that started us on our “bridge-collecting” quest. Without any cinematic influence, suddenly, every bridge we went across assumed significance for us: the chain bridge across the River Danube in Budapest; the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul that connects not just the two banks of the river but two continents as well; the Sydney Harbour Bridge; our magnificent Howrah Bridge that has such wide pedestrian walkways that I wonder why other bridges in our country do not provide the same benefits for a large population that still uses legs and not wheels to move; the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, its smaller and slightly younger cousin the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver; the bridges across the mighty Mississippi, the Nile, the Ganges, the Volga … All of them become significant if one pauses to think when actually crossing over!
And then there are bridges designed solely for thrills — apart from those we get from history and geography and the cinema! These may be just a metre or two wide but they move as we move on them, they sway and swing and rock as we traverse the canyon below them and they have us shrieking with fear — or shaking with laughter as others shriek with fear — but we are ever ready to come back for more!
Have we had our fill of bridges yet? Probably not. Because every now and then we hear about bridges somewhere in the world that attract our interest — and they do not seem too far away or as unreachable as they did at one time.
Maybe we’ll get to some of them before we cross the bridge to eternity that also no longer seems too far.
— Cheryl Rao is a journalist based in India.