Today in Transportation History – 2001: A Rebuilt Bridge Between Two Eastern European Nations

The rebuilt Mária Valéria Bridge, which spans the River Danube between the Slovak Republic (formed after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993) and Hungary, was officially opened to the public. This structure measures approximately 1,640 feet (500m) in length and connects the Slovak town of Štúrovo with the Hungarian city of Esztergom. The bridge was named after Archduchess Marie Valerie of Austria; she was the youngest child of Franz Josef I, emperor of Austria and king of Hungary, and his wife Elisabeth.

The original Mária Valéria Bridge made its debut in 1895. It was designed by János Feketeházy. He also designed several other bridges on the Danube, including the Liberty Bridge in Budapest and the Elisabeth Bridge between the Slovak town of Komárno and the Hungarian city of Komáron.

The first Mária Valéria Bridge came to an end in 1919, when the structure was destroyed by a detonation of explosives on its western side. The bridge was completely rebuilt, however, and resumed service in 1926. This version of the bridge was highlighted by acclaimed British travel writer Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor in his books about his extended walk across much of Europe during the early 1930s. His book “A Time of Gifts” concludes with him reaching the Mária Valéria Bridge, while his follow-up work “Between the Woods and the Water” begins with him walking eastward across the bridge and into Esztergom.

This version of the bridge lasted until World War II, when it was destroyed – along with several other bridges in the vicinity of Esztergom—by German troops as they retreated in 1944. It would be more than a half-century before the Mária Valéria Bridge was again reconstructed, a delay that was attributable in large part to tensions between the Communist governments of Czechoslovakia and Hungary. After the demise of those regimes, efforts to rebuild the bridge finally took place. On the day that the current version of the Mária Valéria Bridge was opened, a Slovak postage stamp commemorating the structure was formally released.

For more information about the Mária Valéria Bridge, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%A1ria_Val%C3%A9ria_Bridge

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