Leaving the village of Rheinau, Switzerland heading towards the river,
we came across a picturesque covered bridge dating back centuries.
Walking across it we found ourselves in Germany.
DIRECTLY ACROSS from our hotel was the covered bridge shown above.
This bridge links the peaceful, historic village of Rheinau, Switzerland in the district of Andelfingen, canton of Zürich with Altenburg, Germany in the municipality of Jestetten, Baden-Wurttemberg state.
Called the Rheinaubrücke, it was built on the medieval route linking Klettgau and Thurgau and it’s been in use for 200 years. The earliest known record of a bridge here goes back to the year 1324. The bridge shown above was built between 1804 and 1806 by a man named Blasius Baldschwiler who hailed from Laufenburg. He left several notable structures that are still in use to this day.
This is a covered, timbered-truss bridge with three sections. It has two double pillars and stone abutments. The total length is about 80 meters with each section spanning about 21 metres. It has a height of 3.05 metres with a width of 4.3 metres and is entirely enclosed – barring tiny light slits. The roof is gabled with beaver’s tail tiles. The structure of this historic bridge is reinforced with steel elements.
A sandstone statue of St. John of Nepomuk, the patron saint of bridges, stood on the Swiss side until 1872, when it met an unfortunate turn of event: It was thrown into the river during a raucous festival. Luckily, the torso of the statue was retrieved in 1955 during the construction of the power station upriver. Since 1961, a bronze sculpture of St. Nepomuk by Emilio Stanzani has stood in its place.
The reason Baldschwiler built this one is that the original structure went up in flames in 1799, most likely as part of the War of the Second Coalition under the Helvetic Republic – a short-lived and early attempt to put a central authority over Switzerland.
The War of the Second Coalition was part of the French Revolutionary Wars – so how in the world was this connected to Swiss history? Well, it seems that there was a constitutional arrangement forcefully imposed by the French military. The Helvetic Republic existed as a state for only five years but failed to achieve widespread popular support among its citizens. (No wonder as to why.)
Even more interesting is that you can take a path from this bridge along the Rhine, on the Swiss side, and hike all the way to Dachsen and beyond to the world-famous Rhine Falls (Rheinfall in German) – the largest plain waterfall in Europe.
Looking forward to posting my photo from there…
– Lisa Lirones