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Crossing The World's Most Beautiful Bridges (PHOTOS)

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Bridges have always held a place in our collective history. Whether symbolizing escapes to new frontiers or the intrinsic connection between old and new, these architectural marvels are captivating. Some seem to defy nature by spanning treacherous waterways or deep canyons; others defy the human condition by connecting cities in conflict over territory or ideology. Other bridges are romantic constructions, paying homage to art and beauty as much as form and function.

The Brooklyn Bridge, the iconic symbol that connects lower Manhattan to Brooklyn over the East River, incorporates several of these criteria. City engineers in the 1800s were faced with a formidable challenge: designing a bridge to span one of the era's busiest and roughest stretches of saltwater. As historical author David McCullough relates in The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge, his 615-page account of its construction: "If there is to be a bridge," wrote one man, "it must take one grand flying leap from shore to shore over the masts of the ships. There can be no piers or drawbridge. There must be only one great arch all the way across. Surely this must be a wonderful bridge." Today the Brooklyn Bridge is part of the cultural fabric of New York--few could imagine the cityscape without it.

Each of the magnificent bridges on this list comes with its own story. According to lore, Ponte dei Sospiri in Venice offered a final glimpse of freedom to prisoners on their way to execution. The lovely Khaju Bridge in Iran was both a respite for lovers and a getaway for the shah. And in Singapore, the newly constructed Helix Bridge looks to the future of bridge building, with aesthetics, engineering and imagination integrated into its high-tech double-helix design.

Whether motivating the planning of an adventure or simply brightening a commute, these wonders of the world are well worth crossing.

--Erin Schumaker

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