It has been 15 years 2 days ago that ATAWALK was started. I twas incorporated in the province of Ontario in June 2000 and laid dormant for a few years. As I travelled to Germany and discovered many structures, it became clear that covered bridges were present in so many places but that little was known of them across the linguistic and cultural barriers imposed by our political past and the flow of common and often tumultuous history.
How to present the subject in a way that reflects all the locations and takes nothing away from the cultural heritage in which the structures are placed? How to do this soon became obvious when searching for covered bridges on the web. German covered bridges were found using German search engines and German words for wooden covered bridges... bedeckte Holzbrücken.
And in the same year, 2005, news came that there was over 5000 covered bridges still standing in China. So that kinda became the order of the day. If ANYONE wishes to do a publication about covered bridge and be serious about it, one cannot simply ignore 5000 + structures on the pretext that they where not made for vehicular traffic... as some would have liked us to do!
Since I took some German and became able to handle some of the work of translation, the transformation began and along came some amazing reactions and also some dreadful one. Overall reaction is positive in Europe, I apparently made very little mistakes and the site is well liked for it gives good direction in German to the bridges in Amerika...
Nothing says WILLKOMMEN like seeing it in your own language!
Bienvenue and 欢迎, now it also comes in Chinese.
The addition of the Chinese scripts for me is the real symbol of the international flavour of ATAWALK for sure, but more importantly of the amazing legacy left to us by architects and designers all over 3 continents.
ATAWALK doesn't have yet the resources to translate the complete site. But having the different languages in the main pages will go a long way in making this NEW platform a showcase for jurisdictions and industries related to the covered bridges.
Many have asked if it was important to present 4 languages on ATAWALK...
Many still don't really understand that the #1 language in Europe is German, not English.
Even in Business, German is used more and more and as for Asia, business may be done in English in the great port cities... but the bulk of the covered bridges are in areas where English is not at all common, so for the information to flow in and out, a vehicle had to be devised to be able to carry it.
Even to the folks in Quebec and in France, access to the bridges in French seems to have had an impact if only for telling them the meaning of the words associated with the locations. After listing directions in English to bridges in Germany, it made sense to me that the German directions to North-American bridges was as important specially in view of the affluence of that segment of the tourism trade!
Since the largest groups of visitors in places like Rome, Paris or Barcelona are from Asia, mainly Chinese, attitudes are changing fast. These facts also have to influence the way we look at the world and the vacation habits of those who now have the means to go abroad and cross those bridges between cultures. Eventually, ATAWALK will list all known covered bridges as it once did, but in four languages without that dreadful language BUTTON atop the page that seldom works correctly.
Ever notice how the content of a page shrinks under some translation options... sorry but ATAWALK will give you the content in a clear, uncluttered way. The magazine will do the same. People don't usually read magazines, they look at them and read the bits that inform on the photos they like. So text will be there, precise and clear! Again, this is not a Covered Bridge Society Bulletin... it is a magazine about architecture/travel that follows the location of covered ridges in Asia, America and Europe. We would never be able to replace these groups of volunteers, but what we can do is to bring attention to them and tell a bit of their stories to the other cultures so that they know it exists, and also know where to find the action!
There are covered bridge festivals in China too. They rebuild some structures at those events a bit like the Cedar bridge in Iowa or Bridgeton Indiana... no, Oprah wasn't at the Chinese festivals but judging by the crowd, they had no trouble raising the structure and having a good time at it anyway!
So why a covered bridge magazine?
Sylvain @ ATAWALK.net