For several hundred kilometres the river Rhine is the natural border between France and Southern Germany. But the Rhine used to be and still is a very lively waterway, so really there is a very "connecting" aspect of the river - provided you posess a boat. Horse-drawn carts and later on cars and bicycles happen to need some other ways of crossing though.
Between the German village of Sasbach and the French village of Marckolsheim, from 1945 on a pontoon bridge existed over the Rhine with customs posts on either side. In 1984 a bridge built from prestressed concrete replaced the old bridge. In June 1985 the first European nations signed the Schengen treaty, which opened up the borders for Schengen citizens – without any controls at the borders and so this new Rhine bridge never really got a chance to get some large customs posts on either of its sides. In the years to follow you would have to look out very carefully to realize that you are really crossing a former border when you were crossing the bridge. The most prominent reminders are large signs indicating the different speed limits on French and German roads – rather straight forward (you can see one sign in the panorama just behind the police car).
No wonder this bridge was a very nice symbol for the open border between France and Germany. And for us citizens living on the Eastern side of the Upper Rhine Valley it is always a great pleasure to pay a visit to the Western side of it (i.e. Alsace). So we used to do it quite often.
But with Corona a really nasty change happened. Most of the border crossings between France and Germany were closed. You needed special permits to cross the border. When on a bicycle trip in the region I saw the Sasbach-Marckolsheim-Bridge I was really shocked. Several lines of rejection had been installed: Large partition grids, concrete blocks, safety gates and last but not least permanent police posts. Since no customs posts do exist at the bridge, the police had to stay there in cars.
For us Europeans, or rather Continental Europeans, this temporarily barricaded border was a gruesome symbol for the confinements due to Corona.
Thanks goodness the bridge is now open again – but the shock will certainly be remembered.
There might be one good thing we can learn from that strange episode: When you thoroughly felt the pain of separation you are now so much more aware of the joy of reconnection.