Berlin - The bridge sways as a stream babbles in a valley far below and snippets of speech from all over Europe mingle during a crossing.
Geierlay Bridge is the tourist sensation which came out of nowhere. In the middle of nowhere.
On average, 1 000 people scare themselves half to death every day by walking over Germany’s longest suspension footbridge.
A good year after its opening, the bridge has soared to number 85 in a popularity survey of Germany's best tourist attractions among around 40 000 visitors from 66 countries.
That puts it ahead of the renowned Nuerburg Ring motorsports track and even beats out the world-famous Hofbraeuhaus beer-hall in Munich, the data from the German National Tourist Board shows.
A web camera on the bridge has already recorded more than 370 000 tourists crossing the wobbly wonder connecting the forested flanks of a tributary valley of the river Moselle.
So what's the unique selling proposition? The bridge, it seems, sorts its visitors into the can-dos and can'ts.
Marie-Christin Remy says, “We have travelled 280 kilometres especially from Kleve, Germany for just one night’s stay. It’s worth it - the bridge is fascinating.” On the crossing, she was a cheerful can-do.
But many others are filled with dread as they place one foot after another on the wooden boards clamped to steel ropes that form the 360-metre bridge cross the valley.
Many don’t make it.
“Around 10 percent do set foot on the bridge, but then turn back again,” says local mayor Marcus Kirchhoff.”
“A further 20 percent of the people don’t even go onto the bridge. They sit themselves down by the valley and just watch.”
Ralf Heim, a can-do, says, “The bridge is really great.” His eager 12-year-old daughter Theresa sums it up in a single word: “Cool!”
Her father adds, “The bridge sways so nicely, like on a sea voyage.”
Many were initially unconvinced by the footbridge project, ostensibly designed to improve a hiking trail through the woods.
In August 2015, state auditors roasted the investment, describing the projected number of 190 000 annual visitors as “hardly realistic.”
But soon after the bridge’s opening on October 3, 2015, the tourists began arriving in droves, and the rush has never stopped.
Restaurants and new sausage stalls are doing good business, although mayor Kirchhoff admits that the many cars cruising round looking for parking spaces are a nuisance. The municipality has already set up pay parking spaces. The bridge is a kilometre from the nearest road.
It has become a popular side-trip for people touring by car the scenic beauties of the vineyard-lined Moselle.
In the middle of an economically underdeveloped area of natural beauty, his community with a population of just 620 is being overrun by global tourists. It is struggling to build enough toilets for the visitors.
Just the toilet paper used by tourists who endured the crossing is costing the tiny community several hundred euros per month.
Still, other villages would kill for this kind of global attention.
“This result is fantastic,” preens mayor Kirchhoff.