There are many wonderful sights in Budapest, loved by both locals and visitors. The Chain Bridge has become one of the most well-known symbols of Budapest and is an indispensable feature of the city and Hungary.
The Chain Bridge was built between 1839 and 1849 and was one of the most outstanding technical works of its era.
Not only was it one of the first permanent bridges across the river Danube, but it is recorded among the largest and most beautiful bridges in the world.
Chain Bridge and the Royal CastlePhoto: my cousin, Mészöly Nóra
I have collected 7 interesting facts and stories about this beloved bridge, but there are many more.
1. Origin of the Chain Bridge
The idea of building a permanent bridge over the river Danube in order to bind the two towns, Pest and Buda facing each other, derived from Count Széchenyi István. He was a theorist, writer and politician, and one of the greatest statesmen of Hungarian history.
In the winter of 1820 he was not able to cross the river due to the heavy ice breaking and so he could not attend his father’s funeral. This was the moment when he conceived the idea of a permanent bridge.
Ice breaking on river Danube, Photo: Fortepan, / Budapest Főváros Levéltár
2. Symbol of Burden Sharing
Right after its completion the Chain Bridge became a symbol of burden sharing, as no one was exempt from the payment of toll. In these times noble men had many privileges, but crossing this bridge was not one of them.
A pedestrian crossing from Buda to Pest or back paid one kreutzer. If the pedestrian had a load on his back he had to pay double, for a cow it was 3 kreutzers and for chariots it was 5 for a small one and 10 for a big one.
Around 1898 Chain Bridge with the customs houses, Photo: Fortepan / Budapest Főváros Levéltára. Levéltári jelzet: HU.BFL.XV.19.d.1.07.106
3. The Legend of Lions Without Tongues
Numerous anecdotes have been circulated about the Chain Bridge. The one best known is regarding the tongues of the four lion ornaments guarding the bridge at each bridgehead.
The sculptor had been mocked so much for forgetting to carve the tongues that it was said that he committed suicide by jumping into the Danube.
But in fact, this was not true and he was alive right up until the 1870s. The truth is that the lions do have tongues they just can’t be seen from the level of the sidewalk.
Lion guarding the bridge, Photo: my friend, Bús Mónika
4. A Joke
This can be heard from Hungarians quite often: If it rains the Chain Bridge can be pushed into the Castle Hill Tunnel so that the bridge doesn’t get wet.
The tunnel is in line with the bridge and connects it with the eastern side of the Castle District Area. They are almost the same length, the Chain Bridge at 380 meters (1246 ft.) and the Tunnel at 340 meters (1115 ft.)
This is where the joke comes from.
Bridge and Tunnel in one line
5. Apartments in the Tunnel
Would you actually think that there are apartments in the Castle Hill Tunnel? Well there are, the caretaker of the bridge and his family used to live there, but these days the caretaker just uses it as his office.
His tasks include traversing the entire length of the bridge several times a day to ensure that everything goes well technically and the traffic flows smoothly. Cleaning away any graffiti is also one if his duties. In addition to this, he is responsible for the maintenance of the 350-meter-long tunnel under Castle Hill. His office in the tunnel comes in handy as you can’t get much closer to your work place than that.
6. Chain Bridge on Currency
The Chain Bridge has been depicted on several Hungarian coins throughout history, most recently on the 200 Forint coin that was released in 2009.
Chain Bridge on the 200, Photo: Virág
7. No Vehicles on the Chain Bridge
The bridge is closed to traffic during the weekends of the summer months and on some ceremonial occasions. On those days it is only pedestrians and cyclists that are allowed to cross it. The Chain Bridge Festival is held on a weekend in late June and people can join diverse programs and activities on the bridge whilst admiring its surroundings.