Bridging the gap

Ed Smith
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You've probably never heard of the Hohenzollern bridge.

No reason why you should, of course, so don't start feeling inferior to those of us who have. You who have lived in the German city of Cologne may be intimately familiar with it.

Actually, it's a rather ordinary bridge as European bridges go, that spans a rather extraordinary river flowing through Cologne and much of Europe. I wasn't that much interested in history in what loosely passed for my high school education, but great rivers like the Rhine, the Danube, the Seine and the Thames captivated me.

Since much of the history of Europe took place on them, around them and in them, I did succeed in learning a great deal of European history, if I do say so myself.

One doesn't think of the Germans as a highly romantic people. The Italians and the French together with the Spanish have the corner on romantic cultures, with their languages identified as the romance languages.

The rough, guttural German tongue isn't meant for whispering sweet nothings in my lady's ear. How many Maurice Chevaliers have you known to come out of Berlin? Or Perry Comos out of Cologne? Our own English speech, while dependent on the French especially for many of our language roots, is likewise rough and unsophisticated.

So, what's all this got to do with the Hohenzollern bridge? Just that this bridge is the very essence of romance and undying love among the younger set. Perhaps among the older set, too. What do I know?

Anyway, it seems that those so inclined take steel padlocks and put them on some part of the bridge as a symbol of their eternal love for each other. That's all very nice, but then they take the key and throw it off the bridge into the Rhine River. That way, they assume their love can never be broken.

It's all very Hollywood and makes for a lovely story. But you and I know the sad truth of many of those stories. They all don't have fairytale endings. They all don't live happily ever after. So what happens then?

If I were writing that story, on most Sunday afternoons I'd have a dozen or more young fellows and/or young girls diving off that bridge looking for their keys so they could symbolically separate from each other.

To make a really great story, you then have young people diving for keys and trying to fit the keys into the various locks. When you found one that matched, you'd try out a new boyfriend/girlfriend.

Somewhere on the bridge, there would be a list of lock serial numbers with corresponding telephone numbers. OK, simpler to write the telephone number on the lock. Who's writing this story, anyway?

As usual, we in this province can take a lesson or two from the activities of those nations who have been around a lot longer than we have. I think there's a great deal of potential for the tourist trade in these parts that hasn't been explored. Take the Fontana di Trevi in Rome, for example. People have been throwing coins into that thing for generations, hoping to make their wishes come true.

Movies have been made about the Trevi Fountain. Hotels have grown up around it. Songs have glorified it, and lovers from all over the world have left their little bit of change and their big list of wishes in its waters. Someone a long time ago had a very bright idea. And someone's raking in the dollars as a result.

I think there's rich potential for something similar in this province, at least on the island. We could sell it as a kind of adventure tourism.

Forget the fish plants. Sorry, Earle, that didn't come out the way I intended. What I mean to say is that we should not be putting all our fishing roe in one basket. There are several new things with which we could experiment. I hope no one forgets that all this is my idea.

Fish pond

For example, we could have several small boats - up to 30 feet long - in the various larger harbours around the coast. Tourists would be told, and truthfully, that plastic lottery tickets had been planted in the stomachs of codfish in well identified areas, and that the prizes in this lottery would be quite substantial. The fee for fishing for these tickets would likewise be substantial.

What would keep the fish with the tickets from swimming far away? Large underwater tanks similar to what farmed salmon and cod are grown in. These will be well marked and the boats with the tourists would stop immediately over them.

Imagine the excitement when some poor fish is ripped open and there's a lottery ticket inside.

Tourists could also be told that getting a lottery ticket inside a rock cod or a sculpin would increase its value tenfold.

There could be a thriving market on the wharf for fresh cod already gutted.

All it takes is a little imagination and someone well-versed in what mainland tourists will actually shell out money to do. Have young couples secure fishhooks to cod's heads, preferably in the tongue, and throw them in the harbour. Then they could spend an afternoon trying to hook cod heads off the bottom, looking for tongues with hooks which would result in appropriate prizes.

For a complete package, teach them how to cut out cod tongues. Later, back in the By the Sea Chalet, show them how to fry tongues so that they're crisp and tasty. What you could charge for such a total experience is astronomical.

The Newfoundland and Labrador tourist department would then need to contract out the advertising for this overall scheme to the same people who have made those marvelous advertisements for the province as a whole.

Bring in, as special advisers, the photography people from "Republic of Doyle."

As a final touch, put a copy of "The Kama Sutra" in each room.

Newfoundland edition.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is

Organizations: Sea Chalet

Geographic location: Cologne, Europe, Danube Berlin Rhine River Hollywood Rome Newfoundland and Labrador Springdale

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