ARTA, Greece - The single-arch stone bridge of Plaka, the largest of its kind in the Balkans, which collapsed over Arachthos River five years ago during the floods in February 2015 is reconstructed and once again connects Tzoumerka mountains with the Katsanohoria villages in the region of Epirus.
The historic bridge will be delivered to the public in the summer after being observed by specialists in how well it survives the difficult weather conditions prevailing in the winter by the river, Professor of Metallurgy and Mine Engineering at the National Metsovio Polytechnic Dimitris Kaliabakos told Athens-Macedonian News Agency.
Following the removal of the metal frame used to support the bridge during reconstruction, "now the major crash test begins," he said, speaking of "the largest restoration of a stone bridge globally."
Over 300 people worked for the restoration, he noted, including specialist stone masons and a university team comprising 30 professors and 40 researchers.
For the fallen arch, 9,000 replacement pieces in wedge form were hewed from a very hard stone, each measuring 70 by 40 by 10 cm, worked on twice or even thrice. "No modern technology or hidden supports, nor a single kilo of metal has been used for the restoration," Kaliabakos said, and everything is as it was built 150 years ago. "The result is a bridge which is more than a twin of the first one, it is a bridge with the same DNA," he said.
Plaka Bridge is located at the borders of Arta and Ioannina prefectures, spanning the waters of Arachthos. With its arch of 40 metres (130 ft) width and 17.61 m (57 ft 9 in) height, it is the largest single-arch stone bridge in Greece and the Balkans and the third largest such in Europe. The central, monumental arch also has two small auxiliary arches, 6 metres wide, on either side. It was considered "one of the most difficult, single-arch bridges to be built."