Walkers of the world unite: Marx traffic light installed in his hometown

Karl Marx has begun lighting up his birthplace of Trier, appearing on traffic lights with outstretched arms and his token gruff beard.

Walkers of the world unite: Marx traffic light installed in his hometown
Marx welcoming pedestrians in Trier. Photo: DPA

The lights were installed on Monday, slightly shy of the 200th anniversary of Marx's birth on May 5th, 1818. With a modern twist, they were installed with LED technology, with the figure of Marx stencilled in the light with lasers. 

“It’s a beautiful symbol and the city is showing its flags for Marx,” said Trier mayor Wolfram Leibe, who commissioned the first light installation.

Another traffic light is slated to be installed before Easter weekend at the Karl Marx House, where the communist philosopher was born. During anti-communist times, Trier stayed largely mum about Marx, but today the philosopher is a top tourist draw to the city. 

The famed intellectual spent his first 17 years in Trier, a Roman-ruin filled university town on the banks of the Moselle river in western Germany. Along with co-author Friedrich Engels, he wrote The Communist Manifesto in 1848, which today remains a core political text on class struggles.

One of its most famous lines, “Workers of the world, unite!” was used as an official slogan of all former Soviet Republics, translated into their local languages. It remains a rallying cry by some current communist oranizations, as well as labour organisations during protests. 

The anniversary of Marx’s birth has not come without controversy, as Trier was criticized last year when it accepted a bronze statue of him from the communist Chinese government. The figure is set to be erected close to the traffic light on May 5th.

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Germany’s Scheffelbrücke: Everything you need to know about the ‘world’s most expensive bridge’

Germany's Scheffelbrücke might not seem like much to look at, but by some accounts it is the most expensive bridge in the world. Here’s what you need to know.

Germany's Scheffelbrücke: Everything you need to know about the ‘world’s most expensive bridge’
The Scheffelbrücke in Baden-Württemburg isn't known for its astounding beauty or engineering prowess - but it is known for its price tag. Photo: Heinz Seehagel, Creative Commons.

If you’re travelling near the Swiss border, you might come across the Scheffelbrücke – a quiet, two-lane bridge over the Radolfzeller Aach in Baden-Württemburg. 

By bridge standards, the 20-metre concrete construction seems relatively unremarkable – until you take a look at the engraved sign on the side which quotes the price tag. 

A sign on the bridge references the incredible price of the bridge: 1,520,940,901,926,024 Deutschmarks. 

That’s 1,500 trillion marks. 

Why is the Scheffelbrücke Germany’s most expensive bridge – and why is it so drab?

While Germany has the money and the landscape to have some expensive bridges, that over the Aach hardly rivals the Golden Gate, London Bridge or Sydney Harbour for elegance or ingenuity. 

The bridge, completed in 1923, takes the name of Joseph Victor von Scheffel, a German writer who will forever be associated with the glorified concrete slab. 

While one might suspect pork barrelling or crafty accounting as a reason for the astonishing cost – or perhaps a trick to reel in the tourists to the otherwise unassuming village of Singen – the cost is in fact real.

The high price is a consequence of the out of control post-World War One inflation which hit Germany, where money almost completely lost its value. 

A sign for the bridge reveals its extortionate building costs. Photo: Heinz Seehagel, Creative Commons.

Local authorities, wanting to boost the economy, signed off on the bridge as an infrastructure project. 

As a consequence, some local workers presumably became millionaires as a consequence – although there was perhaps little meaning to the idea of being a millionaire when a billion would only buy you a concrete bridge. 

Fortunately, Germany was able to bring inflation under control and wheelbarrows full of money were no longer required to purchase basic things.

And almost a century later, when not taking wacky inflation into account, Germany’s ‘most expensive bridge in the world’ no longer has that title. 

That goes to the Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco (no, not the Golden Gate but the other one), which cost 6.3 billion US dollars – or roughly 5.2 billion euro  – to build. 

The Oakland Bay Bridge however goes for eight kilometres and possesses some of the aesthetic qualities which one would expect from the most expensive bridge in the world.