Dresden's Blue Wonder gets its original blue back

For 125 years Loschwitz Bridge, nicknamed the “Blue Wonder,” has been a landmark in the city on the Elbe. The venerable bridge is more than just a stop on a sightseeing trip, and is heavily traveled.

The light blue steel on this bridge in eastern Dresden is visible from afar. The now narrow Elbe flows between the two sandstone pylons on the river banks. If you cross the river, whether on foot, by bicycle or in a motor vehicle, you'll enjoy fascinating views, but you'll also notice that the bridge is the worse for wear. Its surface is peeling. There are brown flecks on the Blue Wonder, which, on Sunday, July 15th, celebrates the anniversary of its opening 125 years ago – though it won't be repainted in its original color until after the celebrations.

The Blue Wonder has spanned the Elbe since 1893

The bridge, which is historically listed, is one of the symbols of Dresden and an indispensable link between the districts of Blasewitz and Loschwitz. Tourists sail under it on cruise boats or row in kayaks; people rest, party and kiss in its shadow; teenagers occasionally climb up the pylons to look at Dresden by night, says Reinhard Koettnitz, head of the city's road works and civil engineering department. 

When it was first finished, this cantilever truss bridge was celebrated as a masterpiece and “technological miracle.” The miracle of a bridge without supporting piers in the river and its blue paint gave Loschwitz Bridge its nickname,  the “Blue Wonder.” The structure, with its riveted steel girders, has a total length of 280 meters, spans a good 140 meters between its pylons and weighs 3500 tons. When the Nazis wanted to blow it up in 1945, two courageous citizens, independently of each other, cut the detonator wires to the explosives and saved the bridge from destruction.

A paddle steamer of the Saxon steamship on the Elbe river

The Blue Wonder adorns countless postcards and is, next to the Frauenkirche and the Zwinger palace, one of the most popular photographic subjects in the city, and a backdrop for selfies, and has long been present on social media channels.  The city invests more than 100,000 euros annually to maintain the structure, which to date has withstood all Elbe floods.

In May 2013 the Blue Wonder had to be closed due to the Elbe flood

In 1993, 3000 locals re-enacted the historical stress test performed in July 11, 1893. Back then, according to a newspaper report, “three steamrollers, six four-in-hand horse-drawn rollers, three tram wagons loaded with stones, a fully occupied tramcar, four filled water tank wagons, three coaches, five horses, a loaded goods wagon” on the central section of the bridge.

Directly next to the bridge is the traditional restaurant Schillergarten

Nowadays 29,000 vehicles drive over the Blue Wonder every day, 5000 fewer than before the controversial Waldschlösschen Bridge was opened downstream. “The traffic is still heavy,” says Reinhard Koettnitz, head of the office of road works and civil engineering. The bridge's load-carrying capacity is tested at regular intervals and its remaining service life estimated regularly, the next time in 2025. Koettnitz emphasises that the bridge is in no danger of being closed in the near future. He says the Blue Wonder is very old for a steel bridge, and won't last forever, “but I assume it will last for at least another 20 years.” After a quarter of a century the structure is getting a fresh coat of paint. For more than 10 million euros the protective anti-corrosion coating will be renewed – in bluish grey, as it was originally.

Simona Block/ms (dpa, dw)  

The Blue Wonder is only one of the sights in the capital of Saxony. Dresden is famous for its baroque architecture and art treasures.

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Canaletto's view

You should venture out over the Augustus Bridge and stand where artist Canaletto once set up his easel in 1748 to paint his famous view of Dresden. The cityscape, with the Frauenkirche church, Dresden Castle and Dresden Cathedral, has hardly changed. Looking at it from this perspective, you will quickly understand why Dresden is also known as Florence on the Elbe.

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It's a church but also so much more. It was destroyed during World War II and for 50 years its ruins were a war memorial. After German reunification, donations from around the world helped to have it rebuilt. It now serves as a symbol of intercultural understanding and a testament to reconciliation. The church is open to visitors and every midday there is an organ concert.

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Dresden's Zwinger Palace

The Zwinger Palace is one of the most important buildings of the Baroque era. Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony, had it built at the beginning of the 18th century as an appropriate splendid setting with gardens for court festivities. In the 19th century, the Zwinger Palace was made into a museum which displays paintings, Meissner porcelain and historical scientific tools.

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The Grand Garden

Some two kilometers (1.4 miles) outside of the city center, you'll find Dresden's biggest park, the Grand Garden or Große Garten. It is a Baroque style landscape garden with colorful flowerbeds, established on the orders of John George III, Elector of Saxony. The rulers of Saxony spent the summer months in the Garden Palace, where they were also known to hold grand, opulent parties.

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Dresden Castle

The Renaissance building is one of the city's oldest. Over the centuries, it has served as a residence for electors and kings of Saxony. Today it houses the Dresden State Art Collections. The castle, like most buildings in Dresden, was destroyed during the Second World War. In 1985, while Dresden was still under East German Communist rule, reconstruction work began - and it is still ongoing.

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The Green Vault

Dresden Castle also has one of the biggest treasure chambers in Europe, boasting some 4,000 exhibits. Augustus the Strong was the first to present these masterpieces of court culture to the public in 1724. The precious items are now displayed in the Historical Green Vault and the New Green Vault. One of the highlights is the Golden Coffee Service made by court goldsmith Johann Melchior Dinglinger.

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The Fürstenzug - Procession of Princes

The Fürstenzug is a large mural of a mounted procession of the rulers of Saxony. It is located on the outer wall of Dresden Castle's stables courtyard. It displays the ancestral portraits of 35 margraves, electors, dukes and kings. To make the work waterproof it was replaced with 23,000 Meissen porcelain tiles between 1904 and 1907, making it the largest porcelain artwork in the world.

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The Semperoper is one of Europe's most elegant opera houses. The Neo-renaissance building was completed in 1878. Architect Gottfried Semper focused both on the perfection of form and sound. The acoustics of the Semperoper is famous the world over. Arial bombing during World War II completely destroyed this splendid building, so it took until 1985 for the opera house to be reopened.

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The Elbe river banks

On the banks of the Elbe river, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the cityscape. During the summer, movie nights are held on the river meadows - making it probably Germany's most beautiful open-air cinema. Dresden's palaces also serve as locations for festivals and events during the summer. One of the highlights is the Dresden Palace Nights, which involves concerts and firework displays.

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The Elbe River

The river adds to Dresden's quality of life. The river banks serve as a living room extension for most city inhabitants. Those wishing to escape the city can do so in style, by boarding one of the historical paddle steam boats. Dresden has the oldest and biggest paddle steamer fleet in the world. It consists of nine wheel steamers, most dating from the late 19th century.