Over the Wupper

In German there is an expression ‘über die Wupper gehen’ (= ‘to go over the Wupper’), meaning to die, like going over the Jordan or the Styx in other cultures and epochs.

No one knows for sure why the Wupper was chosen for this expression, rather than some better-known German river such as the Rhine or the Elbe, but one local explanation is that the main courthouse of Wuppertal was (and still is) located on an island (called appropriately the Gerichtsinsel = court island) in the Wupper River, while the prison and guillotine in earlier times were on the left bank, so those who were sentenced to death had to be taken ‘over the Wupper’ to be beheaded.

Wuppertal’s Schwebebahn

Another thing that is ‘over the Wupper’ (in a different sense) is Wuppertal’s unique suspension railway, the Schwebebahn. It was closed for repairs when I was there, so I can’t show you the trains hovering over the river, but it is scheduled to resume operation at the beginning of August, 2019. In the meantime, they are running a fleet of large articulated buses as a substitute.

The suspension railway on struts above the river

The trains on this railway do not run on tracks, but are suspended from a monorail above the river. The Schwebebahn was built from 1897 to 1903 to connect the industrial cities of Barmen, Elberfeld and Vohwinkel. It connected them so well that the three cities were merged in 1929 to form the city of Wuppertal (= Wupper Valley).

The Wuppertal opera house behind the struts of the Schwebebahn

My photos and text in this post are from 2019.

See more posts on urban transport.

7 thoughts on “Over the Wupper”

  1. Expressions often don’t translate well. I was thinking Wupperware when I saw the title.

    1. Hi Rich, thanks for mentioning the Wupperware angle, which hadn’t occurred to me. Wupperware is a small company in Wuppertal which sells casual clothing, household goods and Wuppertal souvenirs. I think their name is intended to remind people of Tupperware, which of course is a much larger and better-known company.

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