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Crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney sightseeing

It's an iconic landmark, one of those places instantly recognized around the world. The Eiffel Tower and Big Ben are another two structures that need no written description. That's Paris and that's London. The coathanger says 'Sydney'. It has an interesting history.

If Australians had trouble cutting the apron strings from Queen Victoria in the 19th century, they carried on that tradition well after the grand old dame had died. The bridge, opened in 1932, was designed and built by the English and almost 80% of the steel was sourced in the Mother Country. Many of the stonemasons came from Scotland and Italy. Australians were apparently not up to scratch. At least the granite was local and the bricks used for the pylons were transported into Sydney on ships built especially for the job.

It would have made a great spectacle as the bridge took shape. Imagine two massive metallic arms reaching out in the sky growing longer and thus closer over many years. The opening had a false start when an enthusiastic monarchist, mounted and dressed in a fake military uniform, rode up to the official party and slashed the ribbon with his sword. They had to tie a yellow ribbon round the new steel bridge and have another go. The sword waving gate crasher was fined a fiver or ten bucks in today's money.

Today's visitors to Sydney can relate to the famous bridge in many ways. Once you could have taken the tram but alas those days are long gone. Now you can cross it as a pedestrian, on a push bike or motor cycle. You can drive or be driven across and you can travel by train. And for those with a sense of adventure you can climb the jolly thing and, if you live to tell the tale, tell everyone what you've done and show them the snaps to prove it. Of course being built across the famous Sydney Harbour you can also sail under in all manner of floating craft.

The climb
Would you believe more than 2.5 million people have climbed the bridge and official climbs only began in 1989. Today there are three variations of the climb - the quick, the detailed and the top although they are known as The Express, The Discovery and The Bridge. The choices allow you to decide which way you'd like to take the experience. In some cases you may not have the time to spend half a day or longer so the Express climb - it takes a little over two hours - would be your only option.

The quick or Express Climb gets you to the summit and back but there are fewer stops and a shorter downward journey is used. You can't take any personal items with you for safety reasons but you will have your photo taken on the bridge and you do get a certificate and cap to go with your photos.

The Discovery Climb last about 3 and a half hours and gets you into the heart of this engineering marvel. The guide gives you an on-the-spot history of the building of the coathanger. Again you can't take your own camera but you get fantastic views, have your photo taken and get the certificate and cap.

The Bridge Climb again takes about 3 and a half hours but goes via the outer arch of the Bridge using catwalks and ladders. It's a steady incline and en route you can feast on the stunning views as you head to and then depart from the summit. The usual safety rules means no hand luggage but the freebies of personal and group photos plus cap and certificate give you plenty of reminders of this fabulous experience.

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