48.2094° N • 16.9728° E

Bringing together what belongs together

On a hot summer’s day, Kenneth and Susann visited the Cycling Bridge of Freedom (aka the Chuck Norris bridge) that arches over the Morava, a tributary of the Danube, and connects Austria and Slovakia.

Bridge of liberty

This section of the Morava is one of the oldest national boundaries in continental Europe, going back some 1200 years. During the Cold War, it separated Austria and Czechoslovakia and its border barriers formed part of the Iron Curtain. Though heavily guarded, the area was an escape route from Communist Eastern Europe, and many people died while attempting to swim across the river.

Chuck Norris now strides the river in a place where bridges have stood since the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empress Maria Theresa. The Cold War left only ruins behind, but in 2009 the authorities in Lower Austria and Bratislava agreed to re-establish the connection by building a bridge for pedestrians, cyclists, horse-drawn carriages (and emergency vehicles) using EU funds.

On the Austrian side visitors can discover the Schloss Hof, a baroque palace complex with a beautiful park, and the picturesque city of Hainburg an der Donau. On the other side there is Devinská Nová Ves, a borough of Slovakia’s capital Bratislava whose roots go back to Neolithic times. Further along is the national nature reserve Devínska Kobyla and the Sandberg, a world-famous paleontological site where fossils of more than 250 extinct species have been found, including whales, sharks, and mastodons.

There are also the picturesque ruins of a mediaeval castle in the borough of Devín. It was there our travellers took a break for some much needed refreshment. Check out our weekly recap video for details on their adventure there!

Now about that name. The Slovaks have a peculiar sense of humour, and when the locals were offered the chance to propose and vote on the name of the new bridge, “Chuck Norris” appeared out of nowhere to beat more official proposals such as “Maria Theresa”. The authorities eventually rejected it, but it has kind of stuck in people’s minds.

The bridge connects not only Slovak and Austrian cycling routes but also forms part of the Eurovelo 13 network or the Iron Curtain Trail that passes through 20 different countries. No time to explore it further here, but the Iron Curtain Trail will cross the path of the Road Trip Project again, so watch this space!

Read more about the history of the bridges in the area here.

See also

A cycling day trip upriver

Kenneth and Susann spent the day cycling along the famous EuroVelo route 6, which stretches across Europe from France’s Atlantic coast all the way to the Black Sea, covering 3 653 kilometres and ten countries.