At what point does a street cease to be a street? According to the Guinness Book of Records, the narrowest street in the world is located in the old town of Reutlingen, in Germany. It is actually a narrow alley, called Spreuerhofstraße, between two closely built houses. The “street” is only 31 centimeters wide at its narrowest point and 40 centimeters wide on the average. The street isn’t particularly long either — just 3.8 meters. But since it is located on municipal land, the folks of Reutlingen insist it’s a public street.
There’s not much to see in Spreuerhofstrasse, and it isn’t particularly pretty either. In order to use the street one has to squeeze past two blank walls, and when it's raining, water drips from the gutter of an old half-timbered house on one side. Although a ton of tourists from Asia and America flock to inspect the alley, visitors aren’t necessarily encouraged to squeeze through the crack because there is a good possibility of them getting stuck. Anyone over 1.8 meters tall have to bend to pass through. Some locals are known to humorously refer to the Spreuerhofstrasse as a benchmark measurement for their diets.
The alley was built in 1727 during the reconstruction efforts after the area was completely destroyed in the massive city-wide fire of 1726. In 1820, a town hall administrator decided to elevate the status of this particular gap to that of a full-fledged public street. In 2007 it entered into the Guinness Book of Records as the world's narrowest street.
At one point the near-derelict half-timbered house (the one on the left on the photo above) started to lean making the street even narrower. Authorities feared that it if leaned too much, the street might become so narrow that humans will no longer be able to use it. In that case the Spreuerhofstraße would lose its status as a “street” together with its record title. The house couldn’t be torn down either because that would make the street too wide. So the city decided to shore up the building and will likely continue to prop this structure up as long as possible.
Shoring prevents the wall from collapsing and closing down the street. Photo credit
The title for the narrowest street in the world was previously held by the Parliament Street of Exeter, England, which in my opinion, fitted better to the definition of a "street". This 50 meter long street is approximately 1.2 meters (45 inches) at its widest and less than 0.64 meters (25 inches) at its narrowest. The street links the High Street to Waterbeer Lane and dates back to the 14th century. It was formerly called the Small Lane before being renamed in 1832.
Fan Tan Alley
Fan Tan Alley is located in Victoria, British Columbia's Chinatown, connecting Fisgard Avenue to Pandora Avenue in the block between Government Street and Store Street. It is the narrowest street in Canada with its narrowest point measuring only 35 inches (89 cm) wide. The area was originally a gambling district with restaurants, shops, and opium dens. Today it is a tourist destination with many small shops including a barber shop, art gallery, Chinese cafe, apartments and offices.
Marten Trotzigs Grand
Mårten Trotzigs Gränd is located in Gamla stan, the old town of Stockholm, in Sweden. The street descends down via flight of stairs, tapering as it goes down, to reach a mere 90 centimeters (35 inch), making the alley the narrowest street in Stockholm. The alley is named after the merchant and burgher Mårten Trotzig (1559–1617), who immigrated to Stockholm in 1581, and bought properties in the alley and opened a shop there. He later become one of the richest merchants in Stockholm.
The entrance to Marten Trotzigs Grand. Photo credit
Strada Sforii is located near Șchei Gate in the city of Brașov, Romania. It was initially built as a corridor that firemen could use, and it is first mentioned in 17th century documents. Strada Sforii is now a tourist attraction and meeting spot. Its width varies between 111 and 135 centimeters (44 and 53 in), and it is 80 meters (260 feet) long.
This article has been revised and republished from an earlier article that appeared on Amusing Planet on August 04, 2008.
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