Moses Bridge: The Netherlands' Bridge Under Troubled Water
There's one commonly held belief about bridges: They tend to cross water. Simon and Garfunkel even sang a song about it. But that's not true of the one-of-a-kind Loopgrafbrug, or "Trench Bridge," built at Fort de Roovere in the Netherlands in 2011. It's an architectural miracleâ"of the Old Testament variety.
The Prince of Holland booby-trapped his entire country.
The modern-day Netherlands was carved out of the North Sea one drained acre at a time. By the 16th century, the Dutch realized that their vast network of dikes gave them an extraordinary tactical advantage over invaders. By strategically flooding low-lying fields, they could create a watery barrier stretching all the way from Amsterdam south to the Rhine delta, effectively turning their whole nation into an island.
The Dutch defenses have only one weakness: chilly weather.
In 1629, con struction began on the mammoth project and the fortifications that would line it. Work was completed just in the nick of time, and the "Hollandic Water Line" kept a French army from invading in 1672. The water in the flooded plains, sluiced in from dikes, was too deep for infantry soldiers to cross, but too shallow for boats. Ditches and even pits with spikes were hidden just below the waterline. The French did make it across anyway over a century later in the winter of 1794, when the new sea froze solid.
Patriotic Dutch architects refuse to desecrate a historic moat.
In 2010, the Dutch renovated Fort de Roovere, part of the earthworks erected to protect the Water Line when besieged. But restoring the old moats meant figuring out a way for visitors to cross them. The architects contracted to do the redesign decided that a conventional bridge would be an insult to the ingenuity of the Hollandic Water Line. Building a bridge across a supposedly impregnable moat would be "of course, highly improper," they insisted.
The Loopgrafbrug is a bridge under troubled water.
Instead, they proposed a crossing that would be practically invisible: a sunken bridge that descends beneath the surface of the water. The corridor is lined up to the Water Line with a state-of-the-art treated wood guaranteed not to rot for at least fifty years, and appears to divide the moat neatly in half. Tourists crossing the moat are hardly visible from the fortâ"except for the tops of their heads, which seem to poke just above the surface of the water. Because the design is so reminiscent of the biblical parting of the Red Sea, everyone now calls the strange new crossing at Fort de Roovere the "Moses Bridge."
Explore the world's oddities every week with Ken Jennings, and check out his book Maphead for more geography trivia.Related Stories, hiddenRelated Stories
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