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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. 

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OFFBEAT

It’s legal to trim your neighbour’s tree (even if he doesn’t want you to), Germany’s highest court rules

The Federal High Court (BGH) is used to dealing with some of the most high-profile crimes in the country. But on Friday it announced its ruling on a rather different deliberation - whether it is permissible to trim branches hanging over into one's garden.

It’s legal to trim your neighbour's tree (even if he doesn't want you to), Germany’s highest court rules
A spruce tree. credit: dpa-tmn | Andrea Warnecke

In recent weeks the BGH has confirmed rulings against far-right terrorists, police killers and murderous businessmen. 

So the judges were no doubt happy for a bit of light relief when they were asked to deliberate a slightly less gruesome issue – whether the law allows one to cut back the branches of a neighbours tree that have grown over the fence.

This seemingly inconsequential matter of law made it all the way up to the highest court after a Berlin judge ruled in favour of the tree’s owner.

A Berlin man whose spruce tree had spread its branches into the neighbours garden filed a complaint when he saw that his neighbour had cut back the branches in his side of the fence.

The tree owner said that the action could have destabilized his tree and made it more vulnerable to being blown over by a storm. He even insisted that the pruning of its branches could lead the tree to die.

But on Friday the BGH ruled in favour of the tree pruner, saying he had a right to self-help which was provided for in the German Civil Code.

The judges emphasized that the right to self-help could be restricted by nature conservation regulations, such as tree protection statutes, but that these did not apply in this case.

SEE ALSO: The story of Germany’s oldest national park as it turns 50

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