The Chain Bridge in Budapest is probably the most famous landmark of Budapest. This can be seen on a whole bunch of postcards, and it can almost be compared to the Charles Bridge in Prague. There is though a few differences as the Charles Bridge was built in the 14th century and the Chain Bridge was finished in 1849, more than 500 years later.
Before the Chain Bridge was constructed pontoon bridges existed, but as the winter came and the Danube froze to ice, the boats were removed, and people walked on the ice instead. Sometimes though, due to the melting of the Danube, people got stuck on the “wrong” side, not to pleasant if you had important business on the other side of the river.
The one who initiated the construction of the Chain Bridge was Istvan Széchenyi, a very rich man, who got fed up with not being able to cross the river whenever he wanted to (on a special occasion he wanted to visit his sick father, but could not reach him because of all the ice on the Danube, and none dared to bring him across the Danube). He not only initiated the construction of the Chain Bridge, but he also donated large amounts of money to the construction. As the Chain bridge was finished a tax needed to be paid by everyone crossing the bridge, and this was not a popular law. Someone in fact said that they would rather walk a couple of days, crossing the river somewhere else, than to pay the taxes to cross the bridge.
Destruction of the Chain Bridge
The bridge was just finished as the first order was given to destroy it. The Austrians who escaped towards the Buda hills, running away from the Hungarian freedom fighters, were ordered to bomb the bridge. Luckily they did not succeed, but less than 100 years later Budapest was not that lucky. The Chain Bridge was destroyed during the Second World War by the Germans, as they blew up all the bridges crossing the Danube, to make sure that the Communist army could not follow after them. The bridge was later rebuilt and finished for the 100-year anniversary in 1949.
During summertime, the bridge is sometimes closed down on Sunday and an open-air market can be found here.
Renovation of the bridge
The people of Budapest are quite used to construction work happening on the bridge. On September 16th in 2023, the bridge re-opened for car traffic and it also received a new color. Instead of the warm white known to decorate the bridge in the evenings, the bridge has now received a green color. I guess you suddenly got one more reason to visit Budapest again!