One of my favorite childhood travel memories is of a trip to Curacao in the early 1980s, and my first stroll over Curacao’s famous floating bridge, the Queen Emma. I had only heard of the iconic attraction in passing before my trip, never really giving it much thought. Seeing it in person, though, left it forever emblazoned in my memory.
Majestic in its Old World simplicity, the Queen Emma bridge operated then, as it does today (and always has since 1888) swinging slowly open from right to left for those standing on the Otrobanda side of Willemstad, its full 548 feet in length stretching astride the St. Anna Bay when fully open to allow great ships from all over the world entry to Curacao’s sprawling natural port, the Schottegat.
I remember marveling at the immense vessels – cruise liners, container ships, oil tankers – all of them dwarfing the colorful buildings along the Punda and Otrobanda waterfronts as they passed by, their access completely at the mercy of this ancient span of steel and wood floating gracefully atop 16 pontoons.
I also remember the hurried excitement of folks trying to jump on and off the bridge as the bell sounded to indicate it was about to open. “Riding” the bridge as it hinges open and closed is a unique little aspect of visiting the downtown Willemstad area that I enjoy simply for the sheer novelty.
Jumping on or off as it starts moving is not advisable, though that never really seems to stop a good portion of the people I’ve seen using the bridge every time I’m here.
It was a moment right out of my childhood (sans the beer, of course) – Curacao’s Swinging Old Lady, sashaying aside ever so effortlessly to welcome another vessel, just as she’s always done.
Thankfully, some great things in the Caribbean never change…