Porto is one of the most beautiful cities I ever had the chance to visit. I have learned that one of the bridges over the Douro, the Ponte Luis I, has been built by Mr Gustave Eifel. Yes, the same as the tower in Paris! It allows cars and pedestrians to cross from Porto to Gaia. It is old, it is safe, but feels the opposite.
Crossing it, I have noticed the presence of curious padlocks hanging on the iron pieces that compose the construction. They are often scribbled with two names and stay there, unnoticed by most users. It reminded me of another bridge, in Paris (again!) that presents the same particularity. The meaning of those padlocks is simple: couples come to that place, hang the padlocks to the iron piece, write their names, and leave it there, as a symbol of their love. Rumor says that, as long as the padlock stays there, the love will last. I don’t know if it is true or not, but it came to my mind that the symbol of the padlock could be the least important in the ritual. What if it was the bridge? Isn’t it the most important thing Human kind has invented to link people? Over a river, a ravine, or even a highway, bridges are built to enable us to go from one side to the other.
It made me think of those other bridges we build constantly to link ourselves to friends, family or lovers. My visit to Porto was made by the invitation of a friend that I had never met before. She has worked in a company that provided services to the one I work for. We did work in different companies, in different cities and it was unlikely we would meet one day. We have communicated about work during a few months and then stopped when she left her job. Curiously, it is only after she left that we started talking, over the ‘phone or email, about ourselves. We have discovered that we have lots in common and that we enjoy to share ideas, talk about books we read, passions we have, and many other things.
I realized during that visit that, what we had done, was building a bridge. Across the country where we live to travel through the two hundred kilometers that separate our places, across our cultures, across our experiences, and we keep doing it on a daily basis. The bridge from Mr Gustave Eifel will probably be crossed by thousands and thousands of people after us, but the one built between my friend and I is a personal one, a unique one.
I will enjoy creating other bridges in the future to reach my friends and family living abroad, because those are the most important in life. I could cross (if I wasn’t that lazy) the Douro swimming, but without a bridge there is no way I would reach my friend.
And you? When is the last time you have built one of those special bridges?