Queen Emma Bridge

Many ports of the world that attract cruise traffic are well known for certain iconic aspects that they possess.

It may be Sydney’s Opera House or New York’s Statute of Liberty and Manhattan’s skyline. Capetown’s Table Mountain and Rio de Janeiro’s imposing Statue of Christ the Redeemer as well as Sugar Loaf Mountain also qualify to be on the list as they definitely help define the ports where they are adjudged to be as ‘Marquee‘ or ‘must see’ ports. There are, undoubtedly, many more such ports. However, certain other ports might not readily qualify for such a definition, except that is in the eyes of cruise passengers who will recall a distinctive and memorable feature.

One such Southern Caribbean port is Curaçao. Nestled between Aruba and Bonaire, Curaçao offers much of what people have come to expect from a Dutch Caribbean island – the perfect weather, gorgeous beaches, sparkling crystalclear waters, and so on. But Curaçao is also different from its neighbouring islands. It’s the biggest of the three, being twice the length of Aruba, which means even more of those beautiful white-sand beaches. Curaçao has maintained the closest ties to the Netherlands in a cultural sense.

However, in my opinion, one of Curaçao’s most distinguishing features that sets it apart, is its capital city, Willemstad. This incredibly well-preserved city has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is a rarity in the Caribbean. It’s made up of four quarters, including Punda and Otrobanda, which are separated by an inlet called Sint Anna Bay that, in turn, leads into a large natural harbour called the Schottegat. The downtown area features an array of colonial architecture dating back as far as the late 1600s and early 1700s that is heavily influenced by Dutch styles. After a visit three years ago, I won’t soon forget the stunning palette of bright colours displayed in the above photograph. Bridges also feature on the list of highly memorable attributes within Curaçao, specifically the Queen Emma Bridge, built in 1888 and named after the Dutch Queen Emma (1890– 1898). This bridge connects the Punda and Otrobanda districts.

It consists of 16 floating pontoon boats and, accordingly, is known as the “Pontoon Bridge” as well as the “Swinging Old Lady.” It swings open using two powerful ship motors, allowing ships to access the port. From 1901 to 1934, people had to pay a toll to cross the bridge — with the exception of pedestrians going barefoot. When the bridge is open to let ships from the harbour pass, pedestrians are transported free of charge by the ponchi, a small ferry.

The bridge was recently restored to its full glory. All asphalt was taken off and replaced by original wooden boards and the pontoons were repaired or replaced, as the photograph reveals.

More on this and other news in Sea Breezes Magazine - December 2017 Issue
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