So, we are one again! After a long 300 year wait the far south of Croatia has been reconnected with the rest of the country. The new Pelješac Bridge is up and running and traffic is flowing over the largest and indeed most important infrastructure project in the history of this country.
After 1,277 days of work, 68,000 tons of concrete and 33,600 tons of steel, we are one again.
“Men build too many walls and not enough bridges,” said the great Issac Newton. Well Issac we now have a mammoth one!
As the pomp and ceremony have passed, the last smoke from the fireworks drifted out to sea, we can start to live with the bridge. Will I use it? Yes, of course. Probably not every time I head north, but if it makes the journey faster then I course I will.
A few months ago Google Maps made a mistake and on their app the bridge was open. As I drove down from Zagreb I had two options. To cross the borders or to take the bridge. And Google was telling me that going over the bridge would be 8 minutes faster than going through the borders. I am guessing that this was 8 minutes driving time and not taking into consideration the border controls and probable traffic jams. And I’m not sure that it was even allowing for the Greeks not finishing the access roads to the south of the bridge, roads which unfortunately were not open for the grand opening. And this very fact means that Ston could be in for a rough few months as tourists and day-trippers wind through the sleepy town.
Photo - Mark Thomas
The new bridge is very much an international one. It might be located in Croatia, but it’s a co-operation of many countries. The main architect is from Slovenia, the money mostly came from Brussels, the work force and construction largely from China, the access roads to the north were built by the Austrians and to the south by Greeks, so the idea of naming it the Europe Bridge probably wasn’t such a bad one. Although Pelješac Bridge makes sense as larger construction projects are generally named geographically.
So what difference will it make for us in the far south?
Let’s start with tourism. We are clearly an air destination, and in spite of the bridge that probably won’t change much. We’ll get a sprinkling a new campers and day-trippers, but if that reaches one percent of the total number I would be surprised. Joining the Eurozone and Schengen will mean that tourists from Paris, Berlin and Rome will in the future be able to drive from home to us without having to show their passports. Clearly a bonus.
Then more practical reasons. The advantage of not having to exit the EU means a lot for transport companies. No more loads of paperwork and permits, no more import and export documents, meaning ease of travel and savings of time. Even moving things, and you probably didn’t expect this, like rubbish will be easier and less bureaucratic.
It is also symbolic. The re-joining of a country. These divided countries are extremely rare, but not unique in the world. And clearly any joining, by bridge or by tunnel, is better than dividing. There is far too much division in the world. And if anyone ever tells you that history doesn’t affect the present or the future than firstly tell them that they are mad, and then recount why we have just spent so much time, effort and work on building this bridge. So, yes I celebrate this opening, especially as we didn’t really pay for any of it.
There are of course negatives, but the positives far outweigh the minuses. Yes, it will not be part of the future motorway system, making it slightly obsolete in the future, and yes when Bosnia and Herzegovina is a member of the EU, it will be even more less necessary, but both the motorway and the EU membership are in the distant future. So right here and right now we need the bridge.
Even if, as Google states, it only saves us eight minutes. That’s eight minutes that I’m going to save. Golden bridge, silver bridge or diamond bridge; it doesn't matter! As long as the bridge takes you across the other side, it is a good bridge!
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