Sunday, June 21, 2009

C'mon Dresden...

The whole world cultural heritage site thing is getting old. For those not in the know, Dresden's Elbe Valley, a nearly 20 kilometer long part of the Elbe River Valley (it's the red outlined part on the map of Dresden above), was declared a UNESCO world cultural heritage site a few years ago. Now the title is in danger because the citizens of Dresden voted to build a bridge at one point within this area. Indeed, the planned (and currently under construction) bridge is not a pretty one (see below), and its planning has some flaws, but how can this bridge lead to the removal of the title of world cultural heritage site?

By definition, a world cultural heritage site is a cultural landscape in a large city that has been used and formed by humans. I know, I know, the UNESCO has 6 criteria all written out in pretty language describing how this cultural landscape is to be, but basically, what I wrote above is what it boils down to. The criteria are written in such a way that one could understand them to mean that the new bridge in Dresden, just as an example, is acceptable or unacceptable (the architecture in the area unifies one or more significant cultural epochs) . It all depends on how you want to understand and view the whole thing.

How can one ugly bridge ruin 20 kilometers of an incredibly beautiful landscape full of architectural and natural treasures? There are other existing ugly bridges in the 20 km stretch of cultural heritage. Everyone claims how these incredible meadows that are so nice for picnicking, etc. are being destroyed. But do you know what? I rarely saw people picnicking or playing sports where this bridge is being built. You know where the people are picnicking? By the other bridges! People put cows out on these meadows to chow on the grass, and bale it up when the time is right, but that is still doable when a bridge is there. You can still go for a walk down there by the Waldschlößschen where they are building the bridge, it will just be a bit louder, but guess what everyone, you're in the city, and it's loud in the city. Should they close the Königsbrücker Straße in the Neustadt because it's loud and it stinks? NO! I live on a quiet road in the country right now, and I am losing my mind. Bring on the noise!

My main beef with the Waldschlößchen bridge is that I hear it has no opportunity for pedestrians or cyclists to cross. Also no trams. Please correct me if I'm wrong on this point, but I find this unacceptable and silly. Of course, that is just in my own personal interest, as a pedestrian and cyclist. In my current life I am forced to drive a car, but at heart, I am a pure pedestrian and cyclist, and would love to bike across this bridge to work or wherever I might need to go on that other side of the river. It would be much more convenient than biking over one of the other bridges and then rattling my brains out on some of those cobblestone streets they've got over there. Why not build big with space for pedestrians, cyclists and a tram that could be added later should the need arise (though the need is probably already there)?

Maybe the whole thing is just a set up, maybe someone in Dresden paid off the UNESCO to give them the title then threaten to take it away (even though they knew upon awarding the title that this bridge was planned) for publicity. I've got to say, if nothing else, this whole debacle is spectacular publicity for Dresden. No one would have even known that the Elbe River Valley in Dresden was a world cultural heritage site if it weren't for the title being endangered by the bridge. A lot of people never would have even heard of Dresden or thought about Dresden had this not happened. The only problem is that a lot of people are probably shaking their heads and saying "Those silly Dresdner!" about the bridge trouble.

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