When we think of bridges connecting two different countries we imagine large structures on which to travel for a long time until we cross to the other side. This is not the case with the world’s smallest international bridge. It turns out that this small infrastructure joins Spain and Portugal in what could well be solved with a good jump.
This peculiar bridge is 3.2 metres long and 1.45 metres wide, making it the smallest international bridge in the world. So much so that, as you might expect, no cars pass over this bridge, although motorbikes, bicycles and pedestrians do. Specifically, this bridge is known as El Marco bridge and joins two districts: Arronches, in Portugal, and El Marco, in Spain. This Spanish district belongs to the municipality of La Codosera, in the Extremaduran province of Badajoz.
The El Marco bridge was built with the aim of crossing the narrow course of the Abrilongo stream which separates both districts. This riverbed is a tributary of the Gévora River, while the latter is a tributary of the Guadiana, where it ends up joining near Badajoz.
The first bridge was built centuries ago
The small viaduct was built by the neighbours who lived nearby centuries ago. At that time, however, the bridge consisted only of wooden planks with which to cross the narrow river. But these planks were not enough, because as soon as it rained heavily, it was washed away by the river.
Although with the passing of time elements were incorporated that have given stability to the bridge (and security to the neighbours who cross it) it was not until last year 2008 that it was completely remodelled. The project turned the home-made arrangement consisting of wooden planks, metal plates and a weak handrail into a real construction that demonstrates the cooperation between both countries.
Thus, the initiative to build the current bridge came from the Portuguese town council of Arronches, but it was the workers on both sides of the border who carried it out from each of their villages. Thus, with European funds, the smallest international bridge in the world was created, from where in a matter of seconds you go from one country to another. The bridge currently has a footbridge and reinforcements that prevent it from being swept away if the river Abrilongo rises.
Other details were also added to emphasise the peculiarity of this being a border bridge: on each side of the bridge a stone was placed with the E for Spain and the P for Portugal, so that it indicates which country you are in when you cross it.
Today, the crossing between La Raya (land border) and Portugal is permitted. The Schengen Treaty, which has been in force since 1995, allows the free movement of people and goods between the two countries, which was not the case before. People therefore solved it by smuggling, as on the El Marco bridge, where they offered wine and pots from one side and towels, tobacco and coffee from the other.
The only trout river in Badajoz
La Codosera is a municipality located in the province of Badajoz to which the districts of El Marco belong, where the world’s smallest international bridge, Bacoco, La Rabaza, La Varse, La Vega and La Tojera are located. This is a municipality that borders on Portugal, which gives the town very specific characteristics in terms of diction. If you take a walk through the old part of the town you can see typical buildings of La Codosera.
In summer, a refreshing option is to visit the natural pool complex on the River Gévora, five kilometres from the town. Located in a rich natural landscape of high ecological value, there are three natural pools in the riverbed with different degrees of depth. In addition, the quality of the waters of this river makes it the only trout river in the province of Badajoz. Thus, every season many fishing enthusiasts gather in its course.
On the banks of the river Gévora there is also the Duke’s Mill, a flour mill built in 1509. It is the oldest mill in the area and the only one that has been fully preserved. When it was built, it was carried out with the resources that were available in the area, such as granite, slate, the pebbles from the river and wood.
Among the religious buildings that can be seen in La Codosera, the parish church of Nuestra Señora de la Piedad stands out. This temple is built in a Gothic-Renaissance style, so experts believe that it could have been built in the last years of the 15th century or at the beginning of the 16th. However, it has some elements that were added in the 18th century. For its part, the high altar belongs to the transitional period between the Renaissance and the Baroque, and corresponds to the Mannerist style. There are different carvings on it, among which is the head of the parish: a carving of the Virgin of La Piedad holding the baby Jesus in her arm. Other temples to see in La Codosera are the hermitage of Nuestra Señora de la Luz, the sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de Chandavila and the hermitage of La Varse.