Rakotzbrücke (English: Rakotz Bridge) is an arch-shaped bridge in the Azalea and Rhododendron Park Kromlau, a 200 acres (81 ha) landscaped park in the municipality of Gablenz, Saxony, Germany. The park and the bridge were built in the 19th century. Like many other spooky bridges in Europe, it’s nicknamed The Devil’s Bridge.

Rakotzbrücke

Rakotzbrücke - Rakotz Bridge
Rakotzbrücke (English: Rakotz Bridge)

The Rakotzbrücke (also known as Teufelsbrücke, the Devil’s Bridge) was specifically built in 1860 as a semi-circle, to complete a full circle when it is reflected in the waters beneath it. If you catch the right angle of view, you will see a very beautiful and amazing illusion of a complete stone circle.

The bridge’s artificially-formed basalt columns were specially shipped from distant quarries.

The park has no entry fee and can be accessed at any time. But, in order to preserve it, today, crossing the bridge is prohibited.

Why it was nicknamed the devil’s bridge?

Rakotzbrücke actually means the “cancer bridge”. Rakotz means “cancer” in the Sorbian language, a West Slavic language spoken by the Sorbs, a West Slavic minority in the Lusatia region of eastern Germany.

Rakotzbrücke is nicknamed the “devil’s bridge” because of the belief that the magical circle must be the hands of the devil. There are also other (more than a hundred) Devil’s bridges in Europe as well. In only France, there are 49 Devil’s Bridges!

Each of the Devil’s bridges typically has a corresponding Devil-related myth or folktale regarding its origin. Most of these bridges are stone or masonry arch bridges and represent a significant technological achievement in ancient architecture.

Some have the Devil as the builder of the bridge, relating to the precariousness or impossibility of such a bridge to last or exist in the first place, so much so that only the Devil himself could have built it. Others have the knowledge to build such bridges given to humankind as a gift from the Devil as part of the deal, pact, or bargain between the Devil and the local populace, usually in exchange for their souls.

Rakotzbrücke falls into that second group. According to a local legend, it was built by a night named Friedrich with the help of Satan himself.

Rakotzbrücke (Rakotz Bridge, also known as Devil's Bridge)
Rakotzbrücke (Rakotz Bridge, also known as Devil’s Bridge). Photo: Wikipedia

To photograph the bridge with a perfect circular reflection, the best time is spring or Autumn. In winter, the lake underneath the bridge usually gets frozen and covered with snow, which makes it hard to see the reflections. In summer, there might be no water at all.

In autumn, the foliage adds an element of wonder to the already surreal view.

You may wonder if it’s worth making the trip to Kromlau to see Rakotzbrücke. The answer is yes because this bridge is just too beautiful not to be seen.

Azalea and Rhododendron Park Kromlau

The Azalea and Rhododendron Park Kromlau is a 200-hectare landscape park in the Kromlau district in Gablenz, Germany. It is considered the largest open-air rhododendrons as a landscape park in Germany and is always open with free admission.

The park was built in the 19th century.

In 1842 the rich landowner Friedrich Hermann Rötschke, a contemporary of the landscape designer Hermann Ludwig Heinrich Prince von Pückler-Muskau, acquired the Kromlau estate. From 1844, with the first planting of native and foreign trees on this property, Rötschke made almost half of his property available to design the park.

Basalt stones were fetched with ox carts from various quarries in Saxon Switzerland and Bohemia. The hexagonal basalt steles gave rise to caves, grottos, and pyramids, the judge’s chair, the organ, and “heaven and hell”, in the water and on land.

After the Second World War, the Kromlauer Park was made public property due to the land reform and declared a nature reserve in 1948. The targeted maintenance and reconstruction of the park only began in 1966. Today the municipality of Gablenz is the owner of the Kromlauer Park.

Rakotzbrücke is among the most interesting buildings in the park.

Rakotzbrücke (Devil's bridge) in 2021
Rakotzbrücke (Devil’s bridge) in Azalea and Rhododendron Park Kromlau after renovation in June 2021. Photo by WissensDürsterOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Renovation work

The renovation work started on August 11, 2017. It was financed by the federal and state programs “Urban Monument Protection” and “Future City Green” in the amount of 2.4 million euros and 2.7 million euros, respectively.

In addition to the renovation of the Rakotz ensemble (Rakotzbrücke itself, group of basalt columns and the cave between the Rakotz Bridge and the outside staircase, which collapsed in 1956), the park paths and the stone group “Richterstuhl” in the western part of the park were also renovated.

The historical bridge on the island pond, also in the western part, was rebuilt and historical sculptures restored. A multi-generation playground near the castle was completed in 2018. The visitor parking lot was also expanded, including the construction of an information point with a toilet facility.

The scaffolding around the bridge was removed in November 2020. Then the Rakotzsee was sealed in order to guarantee a constant water level and thus to bring out the mirror effect.

After completion of all renovation work, the official re-release by Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer took place on July 10, 2021.

Muskau Park

You can also visit Muskau Park nearby, the largest and one of the most famous English gardens in Central Europe. It was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in July 2004. It is a cross-border cultural collaboration between Poland and Germany. It covers 3.5 square kilometers (1.4 sq mi) of land in Poland and 2.1 km2 (0.81 sq mi) in Germany. It extends on both sides of the Neisse river, which constitutes the border between the countries.

The park also stands as one of Poland’s official Historic Monuments, as designated May 1, 2004, and tracked by the National Heritage Board of Poland.

New Castle, Muskau Park
New Castle, Muskau Park. By Schläsinger – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Rakotzbrücke, Germany 4K Ultra-HD video
Camera, production, and editing: Andreas Bedity

Sources

M. Özgür Nevres

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