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The Bridge

Russia’s grand project to link Crimea

“Lena, look! This is your dear Kerch, and this is our bridge,” Irina points out a T-shirt with a picture of the Crimea Bridge on it to her sister as they walk through a street market. 

Irina lives in Taman on mainland Russia, while her sister Lena lives in the city of Kerch on the Crimean Peninsula. Separated by the Kerch Strait, the women have only two ways to visit: by plane or by ferry.

Like many locals and tourists, Irina and Lena had been eagerly waiting for a quicker and more reliable route. The link finally took shape in one of the most ambitious engineering projects in Russia - the Crimean Bridge.

RTD followed the huge construction project with former boxing world champion and now Russian State Duma Deputy Nikolay Valuev, who tries his hand at being a bridge builder. The film also uncovers the region’s hidden gems with Kerch native, singer Alyona Sviridova, who meets Crimeans for whom the bridge link is vital. 

With the bridge deck 35 metres above the water, the giant structure stretches 19 kilometres (12 miles). The bridge is expected to carry up to 40,000 vehicles and 94 trains a day, once it becomes fully operational in 2019. 

Although plans to span the strait with a bridge date back to the 19th century, the link became a practical necessity for the peninsula, which only has a land border with Ukraine, after Crimeans overwhelming voted to rejoin Russia in 2014.

Nikolay Valuev begins his journey at the construction camp on the Taman Peninsula, where he joins men and women working on the site. To get the first-hand experience, Nikolay tries various jobs, from welding large metal tubes for future piles, to pouring concrete and operating an elevator which lifts builders onto the arches.

The installation of the 6,000-ton arches marked a milestone in the construction of what is said to be the longest bridge in Europe and one of the largest in Russia. 

The link will significantly cut the time people have to spend on the road, queueing at the busy ferry crossing, often troubled by bad weather. “It took us three days of waiting in line to get on the ferry out of Crimea and a week to get on the ferry back,” says Yulia, who drives a truck from the resort city of Evpatoria to Moscow. 

Once complete, the bridge will also make it easier for holidaymakers to reach Crimea, a popular tourist destination for Russians. However, it’s not only the Black Sea resorts that are worth visiting. 

From getting muddy in Lake Chokrak, dubbed the Crimean Dead Sea, to fishing for anchovies, and grocery shopping at Kerch market, Alyona shows some of the off the beaten track Crimean attractions.

Alyona meets a Crimean Tatar, named Reshat, who is searching for a bride. As he wants his future wife to be from Crimea, Reshat takes long, arduous journeys via ferry to the peninsula in pursuit of love.

“Never mind the wines, it’s the bridge that connects us,” Irina tells her sister. 

With the Crimean Bridge now open to car traffic, learn more about the building of the much-awaited connection and get an inside look at Crimea’s must-see places.

What do you think?

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