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Saturday Photo Hunt: BRIDGES

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The Saturday Photo Hunt theme for Feb. 1 was BRIDGES. It's plural, so I'm posting three photos this time -- in stone, wood, and steel -- so we can compare and contrast bridges from three very different eras.

Ponte Vecchio
When in doubt, go to Italy. So I'm starting with a famous Medieval BRIDGE in one of my very favorite cities anywhere, Florence, in the Tuscany region of Italy. This is the Ponte Vecchio, which means simply, "old bridge."

P1000826 BRIDGES - Ponte Vecchio, over the Arno, Florence 50%

A bridge has spanned the Arno at this spot since at least Roman times, with a wooden bridge mentioned in a document of 996. That bridge was rebuilt in stone and swept away in floods at least twice, but was the only bridge across the Arno in Florence until 1218. The current bridge dates to 1345, with architect and painter Taddeo Gaddi credited with its design.

Stores have lined the Ponte Vecchio since the 13th century. Originally they included butchers and tanners, but the smell got to be too much, and in 1593, King Ferdinand I decreed that only goldsmiths and jewelers could sell their wares there. Today the bridge is still a big draw for tourists looking for deals on gold jewelry.

Hogback Bridge
Next, our tour of BRIDGES brings us to Madison, County, Iowa. Yes, we're talking about the picturesque covered bridges made famous by the popular but very bad book, The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert James Waller. In this book (and the subsequent film starring the wonderful Meryl Streep and the miscast Clint Eastwood) a surly, aging photographer with nothing going for him except a sexy job and some good camera equipment heads to the heartland on assignment, to film covered bridges in rural Iowa. He happens upon a pretty but sexually frustrated Italian war bride whose family has conveniently just left town. For the next week, she cooks for him, has sex with him, and supports him in his work, so that he can then pack up and leave with no further commitments or expectations. In other words, it's the perfect male fantasy book. Did I mention that I thought this was a stupid book?

Robert Waller's fantasies aside, the bridges in the book are real. I was passing through Madison County on my way to Council Bluffs/Omaha when I noticed a sign for one of the famous bridges and couldn't resist a detour. First I had to see John Wayne's birthplace, also in Madison County, Iowa. On my way back to the interstate I stopped at the charmingly named Hogback Bridge.

P1100744 BRIDGES - Hogback Bridge, Madison Co., Iowa 50%

Hogback Bridge is the northernmost of the six remaining covered bridges in Madison County. Built in 1884, it spans the North River. It was built of wood, but its piers have been replaced with steel supports. In 1993, a new concrete bridge was built 200 feet away to divert traffic from the more fragile historic bridge.

Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
The final bridge is one I crossed on that same trip. It's the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, also known as simply The Footbridge, and it spans the Missouri River to connect Council Bluffs, Iowa, with Omaha, Nebraska. The S-curved cable-stayed bridge is 3000 feet long and 15 feet wide, with a striking, modern design. It's the first-ever pedestrian bridge to connect two different U.S. states, so you can stand on the bridge with one foot in Iowa and one foot in Nebraska.

P1100947 - BRIDGES - Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge 50%