The bridges over the Emajõgi River can safely be classified as Tartu’s landmarks. The newest of them is the automobile Freedom Bridge (Vabadussild in Estonian), which connects Lai and Vene Streets. The bridge as we know it today appeared here in 2009, but its history goes back much earlier.
History of the Freedom Bridge
The necessity to build a bridge across the Emajõgi River was first felt by the people who lived in Tartu in the Middle Ages. The bridge was needed primarily to ensure the trade route to Russia. City borders in those days were very different from today’s borders and the river actually ran next to the city, not within its borders.
The first written mention of the bridge on this spot dates back to 1554. At that time it was called Russian. In 1704 the Russian Tsar Peter the Great ordered to build a temporary bridge across the river to the Russian gates of Tartu. In 1772, the authorities nurtured the idea of building a stone bridge over the Emajõgi, but the plans were disrupted by a fire in 1775, which destroyed almost the entire historical center of Tartu.
In 1810, an ordinary wooden bridge was built in place of today’s Freedom Bridge. However, the construction quickly depreciated and it became necessary to build a new bridge. Another wooden bridge was built in 1826, designed by the town architect Georg Heist, and stood for almost a hundred years. It was destroyed in 1923 by a fire caused by a nearby factory.
Another bridge over the Emajõgi River was built in 1926. This time reinforced concrete was used as a construction material. In 1940 the bridge was named after Victory, and in 1941 it was destroyed by Soviet troops. In 1942, German builders began to restore the bridge to its original design and built it by 1943, but in August 1944 the German troops were forced to retreat and blew up the structure.
Thereafter, for more than half a century, there was no crossing that could have connected Lai and Vene Streets. The bridge was rebuilt in 1993. This time it was a black-painted metal structure that could be used only by pedestrians. Iron bridge was destroyed in 2007, and in 2009 the new bridge, called Freedom Bridge, was opened.
The length of Freedom Bridge in Tartu is 90 meters and width – 18.75 meters. The arch is illuminated with colored lights at night. The designer of the bridge was the St. Petersburg company Transmost. The crossing is designed as for cars, as well as for pedestrians.
Other Tartu bridges
- The most famous in Tartu is the Arch Bridge. Many curious cases are associated with it.
- In Toomemägi Park is the historic Devil’s Bridge. Here you can take pictures in the Gothic style.
- You can make a wish by crossing the Angel’s Bridge. If you follow the instructions, it is sure to come true.