Nusle Bridge and Vysehrad Metro: Communist Grandeur
Nusle Bridge is an engineering feat and showpiece of the Communist regime. With a length of 458 metres, it is the longest bridge in the Czech Republic. You might want to add this bridge to your what-to-see-list in Prague for its panoramic views. Walk on the left side in the direction of the centre for the best views. This bridge does not span a river but the Nusle valley, because Prague is built on hills. Traffic races across in both directions, pedestrians walk safely on the sidewalks. The bridge links the motorway in the direction of Brno. Below the bridge’s six-lane motorway is Vysehrad metro station.
Nusle Bridge dominates the Jaromirova, a street under the bridge. Blocks of houses in this street were demolished to create a site for the bridge pillars which rise 42 metres. The bridge is made of reinforced concrete. Although an eyesore to many, the bridge serves a purpose. Travelling south would bring more traffic in the narrow streets and triple the journey time. A relaxed way to see the bridge is on tram 7 that travels the length of Jarmirova street.
Nusle Bridge Details
The original name was Klement Gottwald Bridge named after the leader of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. In 1990 the bridge was renamed Nusle Bridge, Nuselsky most in Czech. Construction began in 1967 and the bridge opened in 1973. It is supported by four pillars and its average height is 42,5 metres. The original railing was only one metre high. A net was hung underneath the railing which did not prevent suicides. The railing was raised to over 3 metres in 2007 and stopped suicides. ‘Of One’s Own Volition’, a monument that commemorates the deceased, is in the park below. Metro trains line C ride through a tube suspended under the bridge.
Many years after its construction, Nusle Bridge had a dubious reputation. A mysterious gang was said to throw lone passers-by into the valley below. Nobody understood why the government did not intervene and put an end to these murders. An explanation was soon found: the police tolerated the murders because they were committed by the sons of prominent Communist Party members.
After the fall of communism, this story turned out to be pure legend. The truth was that an unusually high number of suicides was committed by jumping down from Nusle Bridge. As the bridge was a prestige object of the communist regime, its reputation should not be damaged. That’s why the newspapers never reported these suicides.
Vysehrad Metro Station
Immediately after construction of the metro station, a ‘minor’ problem was detected. A tube would be suspended under the bridge and the metro station rested on the bridge’s support system. Everything was worked out to the finest details. The bridge could easily carry the weight of the station and the metro train. The original plan was to have Swedish made train but the Soviet-Union decided differently. The Russian trains proved to be twice as heavy as the Swedish ones and had a lower chassis.
The bridge was subjected to static and dynamic load-bearing tests. During the statistical test, sixty Russian tanks, each weighing 35 tonnes, drove up the bridge. They were parked in neat rows along the side. Then trucks brought 3,000 tonnes of sand and gravel. That was not all. The next test was driving the tanks back and forth up to six hundred times! The impact was measured with sensors. The bridge’s maximum sag under all that weight was only 16.5 millimeters. That was one seventh of what was allowed. Missiles were fired in the dynamic test. The bridge passed all test with flying colours! The underlying thoughts may have been different from what was suspected. It was quite possible that Soviet tanks would indeed cross the bridge in case an uprising against the Communist regime had to be suppressed.
Gottwaldova now Vysehrad Station
Vysehrad station was named after Klement Gottwald, the leader of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia. After his death in 1953, the Communist Party decided to embalm his body and showcase it in the mausoleum of the National Monument on Vitkov Hill in Prague. The embalmed body became quite an attraction; more than 200,000 visitors came to pay their respects every year. After the Velvet revolution, Gottwald was still cremated. His ashes are buried in the cemetery of Olsany in Prague.
In memory of the ‘jumpers’ who put an end to their lives by jumping off the bridge, the Czech artist, Kristof Kintera, created a monument entitled: ‘Of One’s Own Volition’. It is located in the Folimanka Park under the bridge. The monument represents a modified street lamp which sends its light upwards towards Nusle Bridge.
Photos Marianne Crone and Wiki Commons