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  • Steven Hansen

Great Passageways


We are always moving. Crossing passageways from point A to point B, beginning to end, winter to spring, border to border, good to bad, sickness to healing. Some we undertake as a challenge, some are part of our everyday transits in life, others happen in our minds, still others we observe standing still. Some passages are short surprises and others take years to complete. All passages are symbolic of change, discovery, or achievement.


Enjoy this small collection of memorable physical passages and passageways around the world. Some you may have already experienced for yourself; others wait for you to come across.


The Brooklyn Bridge

Sure, there are other stunning bridges you can walk across – San Francisco’s beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, the SkyBridge in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (see intro photo above), which is the longest suspension bridge in North America that includes glass-bottom sections guaranteed to give you the willies, and the ultra-cool, submerged Moses Bridge at Fort de Roovere in the Netherlands.


But crossing the venerable Brooklyn Bridge over New York City's East River is a bucket list must. Opened in 1883, the bridge was the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge. It connects Lower Manhattan with the borough of Brooklyn.


NYC travel guide Jennifer O’Brien shows you how it’s done in this Brooklyn Bridge Guide video.



Scala d'oro (Golden Staircase)

The stunning pink and white marble Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) located in Venice’s iconic Piazza San Marco housed the grand private apartments of the Doges, the supreme rulers of the Most Serene Republic of Venice. The palace, constructed in stages between 1340-1577 also contained reception rooms, meeting chambers, offices for various administrative officials, and prison rooms. It remained the seat of power until Napoleon occupied the city in 1797 and the 1,100-year-old republic came to an end.


The grand entrance to the palace is through the Scala d’Oro, designed by the leading Venetian architect Jacopo Sansovino, and sumptuously decorated by Alessandro Vittoria, (1525-1608). The vaulted ceiling is sculpted in white stucco garlands of fruits, leaves and putti and lavishly gilded in gold, created intentionally to wow visiting dignitaries as an over-the-top manifestation of the Republic’s wealth.



Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs)

While in Venice, also arrange to check out the Bridge of Sighs located on the top floor of the Doge’s Palace. It connects the “New Prison” (Prigioni Nuove) to the criminals’ interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace.


This small bridge decorated with mournful, (sighing) faces, was the very one that Venice’s famous lover, Giacamo Casanova, was marched across in chains after his arrest for an “affront to religion and common decency.” Hire a gondola to ferry you and your sweetie under the Bridge of Sighs at sunset. Lovers who kiss beneath it as the sun dips into the Grand Canal are guaranteed to enjoy eternal love and happiness.


Incidentally, Casanova was the only man ever to escape the Doge’s prison. He climbed onto the roof of the palace and fled to Paris in 1756.



Seven Mile Bridge

The Overseas Highway connecting mainland Florida to Key West is one of the longest overwater roads in the world. Much of the highway was built on the elevated railbed of Henry Flagler’s now-defunct Overseas Railroad (1912-1935). It consists of 42 bridges that link all of the main islands in the Florida Keys.


The longest of them all is Seven Mile Bridge, connecting Knight’s Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. When completed, it was considered the Eighth Wonder of the World.


The highway was opened to auto traffic in 1938. Seven Mile Bridge was replaced with a wider, higher bridge in 1982. The original version still stands nearby and is now open to pedestrians and bicyclists.


Traveling along either version of Seven Mile Bridge on a sunny day is an unforgettably beautiful experience.



Baarle-Nassau: The Netherlands/Belgium Border

If you ever find yourself in the charming Dutch village of Baarle-Nassau in the southern Netherlands, you may feel a bit confused. Here, you will see streets and public squares embedded with white tiles and letters indicating the official border between Belgium (B) and the Netherlands (NL). In other words, the border between the two countries runs right through this town!


This is the result of a feudal-era scattering of land parcels in the region that belonged to either the Duke (hertog) of Brabant or the House of Nassau. In fact, the town goes by two names, Baarle-Hertog+Barrle-Nassau. The town library and cultural center are jointly run, but there are separate police, fire, and utility companies serving the Belgian and Dutch areas of town.


Here, strolling from Belgium to the Netherlands is effortless. The border crisscrosses many streets as well as running through the middle of gardens, shops, and cafes. Where the border divides a private home, the location of the front door determines to which country its residents belong and pay taxes.



Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road, a magical fifty-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 34, is the highest paved through road in America. This “Highway to the Sky” meanders through Colorado's spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park between Estes Park in the east and Grand Lake in the west, crossing the Continental Divide along the way.


Soaring to an elevation of 12,183 feet, a drive or bicycle trip along its cliff-clinging route on a sunny day feels otherworldly. Magnificent mountain summits surround you in every direction. Elk and bighorn sheep graze the lush meadows below and tiny exotic wildflowers blanket the tundra higher up.


The Alpine Visitor Center is located at the halfway point and is a perfect place to give jittery drivers a break. Short hiking trails nearby allow travelers to stretch their legs and wander father upward to dizzying alpine views in the rarefied air.


Trail Ridge Road is open only from Memorial Day through mid-October when it is clear of snow. Snow plowing prior to opening day can take up to 55 days of work.



Minneapolis Skyway

The Minneapolis Skyway System is the largest contiguous system of enclosed, second-level bridges in the world. It is comprised of 11 miles of these indoor pathways (plus a few tunnels) that connect 100s of buildings in 80 city blocks in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was begun in 1962 as a way to alleviate pedestrian and auto congestion at street level.


The most recent addition to the system opened in 2016, connecting U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings football team, to the rest of the skyway.


The Skyway connects corporate offices, condominium and apartment complexes, the convention center, a university, bars, restaurants, bakeries, hotels, government services, retail, gyms, grocery stores, liquor stores, banks, doctors, dentists, masseurs, pharmacies, hair and nail salons, dry cleaners, live theaters, three pro sports facilities, a church, and art exhibits.


A number of apps have been developed to help confused skyway visitors find their way around. But if you get lost, you can also just ask any pedestrian who looks like a skyway local (i.e., someone wearing Bermuda shorts and a T-shirt in the middle of winter) for directions.



Longest (and Shortest) Covered Bridges

The bridges of Madison County, Iowa, may have their romantic illusions, but they have nothing over Ashtabula County, in Ohio’s charming Lake Erie wine region. That county boasts the longest covered bridge in the nation. The Smolen–Gulf Bridge, 613 feet in length, spans the Ashtabula River from State Road in the city of Ashtabula. It opened to traffic in August 2008.


It so happens that Ashtabula County is also home to the shortest covered bridge in the U.S. The West Liberty Covered Bridge, which carries West Liberty Street across Cowles Creek in Geneva, Ohio, is all of 18 feet long – barely longer than the average American midsize car. It was dedicated in October 2011.

Both bridges were designed by John Smolen, former Ashtabula County Engineer. There are 15 other drivable covered bridges in the Ashtabula County.



Gondola at Telluride

The mountain town of Telluride, Colorado, has the only free gondola public transit system of its kind in North America. The gondola service carries nearly 3 million hikers, skiers, snowboarders, festival-goers, and commuters between the historic town of Telluride (elev. 8,750) and the ski resort of Mountain Village (elev. 9,450), soaring over the 10,500-foot Coonskin Ridge along the way.


This spectacular ride lasts 13 minutes and provides sweeping vistas of the San Juan Mountains, colorful stands of aspen and pine, waterfalls, bird’s-eye views of Telluride and treetop views of Mountain Village. On a clear day, riders can see all the way to the La Sal Range in Utah.


Take the gondola ride from Mountain Village down to Telluride right after sunset to enjoy the unique golden alpenglow effect on the surrounding mountain peaks.


The gondola was built in 1996 to help improve air quality in the region by keeping cars off the road. Its operation costs are subsidized by the community.



Longest Escalator in the World

To alleviate traffic congestion on the city’s narrow, hilly streets and keep commuters, shoppers, and tourists moving, Hong Kong opened the world’s longest escalator in 1993.


The Central–Mid-Levels escalator and walkway system covers 2,600 feet in distance and climbs up 443 feet from the Central to the Mid-Level district. Original plans considered a monorail or cable car line before the escalator solution was decided.


Hop aboard with travel guide Chis Raney for a quick tour of this unusual service.



Abbey Road Crossing

It may not be the busiest road crossing in the world, but it surely is the most photographed. London’s Abbey Road crossing, also known as the Beatles Crosswalk, was immortalized as the cover of the group’s “Abbey Road” album. It shows George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon marching over the zebra crossing on Abbey Road, outside EMI studios (now Abbey Road Studios) in London.


The album's title was originally planned to be called “Everest,” and a plan was made to photograph the band in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal. Not up for the long journey, McCartney instead suggested they title the album “Abbey Road” and simply step outside the studio where they were recording and have the cover photo taken at the street crossing there.


To find this crossing and replicate your own version of the famous photo, take the London Underground to St. John’s Wood. Exit the station and walk west on Grove End Road for approximately 1,600 feet (1/3 of a mile) and make a right turn onto Abbey Road. The famous crossing, and Abbey Road Studios, are right there.



The Appalachian Trail

One day in early 2018, hardworking business attorney Evan Schaeffer decided it was time to push away from his desk and hit the refresh button on his life. Though he was an accomplished weekend hiker, Evan wanted to finally tackle the longest hiking-only trail in the world – the Appalachian Trail.


Its 2,200 miles wend their way through 14 states from Georgia to Maine, and every kind of terrain you could imagine.


His journey was both a physical and emotional challenge that we posted about on this site last September. We had to revisit it again in this roundup of great passageways. Evan’s gripping 1.5-hour video, compiled from 41 individual recordings that he posted during the trip, bring this amazing trek to life!



The High Line

Strolling along New York City’s elevated High Line park gives you a sense of floating through a bustling Big Apple replica in a 3-D virtual reality experience. And even though this 1.45-mile abandoned freight rail line, that was transformed into a beautiful promenade in 2009, has become a leading tourist destination, it’s also a truly remarkable architectural achievement.


An ingenious redesign of the original railbed turned it into a series of planted ecosystems (water pools, wildflower woodlands, grasslands, etc.), performance spaces, and café areas that has also helped to revitalize the former industrial neighborhoods of Manhattan’s West Side.


Every step along this one-of-a-kind aerial walkway through the city is a photo-op. In fact, it was named one of the top ten Instagrammed places in the world in 2013.



360-degree Timelapse at Grand Staircase-Escalante

Our final notable passage is that from day to night and day again, in Utah’s beautiful and serene Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. William Briscoe shot this 360-degree video over 12 hours in 2017 to create a stunning 1:22-minute time-lapse experience.





Still photos (from top): The SkyBridge, gatlinburgtnguide.com; Scala d'oro, Visit-venice-italy.com; Ponte dei Sospiri, Antonio Contin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; An outdoor cafe in Baarle-Nassau, Jérôme, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; The West Liberty Covered Bridge, Roland Penttila, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Telluride Gondola, Telluride.com; Abbey Road Crossing, from the album cover; The High Line, Friends of the High Line

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