May 30, 2013
A few years ago, whilst strolling over the Seine across the Passerelle-Solferino in Paris, I stumbled across hundreds of padlocks adorning the bridge, all inscribed with initials, hearts and ‘amour’. Bemused, I (of course) had a Google to find out more and came across a simple explanation – “padlocks symbolise the unbreakable bond in love”. Star-crossed lovers express their undying affection by attaching a padlock to the bridge and tossing the key into the water below. It’s not just the City of Love where these declarations of devotion can be seen, either…
France – Pont Des Arts: Paris
You may see couples canoodling at the top of the Eiffel Tower, but the most amorous of Parisian locations has to be the Pont des Arts. This metallic footbridge, built in 1804, is a popular meeting place for artists who find inspiration in the grand backdrop of the Louvre, Ile de la Cité and Institut de France. Municipal officials have labelled the locks an eyesore but this doesn’t deter tourists from flocking to the photogenic monument.
Italy – Ponte Vecchio: Florence
Although shrouded in mystery, the love lock phenomenon in Europe is said to have started in Italy, attributed to the book I Want You by Federico Moccia, in which the young and in-love protagonists attach a lock to Rome’s Milvian Bridge. While visiting Florence last year, I discovered an assortment of padlocks attached to railings on the Ponte Vecchio and got snap-happy. The city council later decided that the padlocks were harmful to the aesthetics of the bridge and set about removing 5,500 of them. But a few lucky lovers’ locks still exist despite the threat of substantial fines.
China – Mount Huang: Huangshan
Some also suggest that this symbolic custom originated in China. On Mount Huang, every metal gate and fence is obscured by padlocks and, after sweethearts lock their souls together (cheesy, hey?), keys are thrown off the cliff deep into the misty abyss below.
Germany – Hohenzollern Bridge: Cologne
80,000 smitten kittens have hung 40,000 padlocks to the railings of the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne, adding two tons of weight to the bridge whilst thousands of tiny keys line the Rhine riverbed below. Deutsche Bahn, the bridge’s operator, once threatened to remove the locks but, in the face of romanticised public resistance, had a change of heart.
Russia – Luzhkov Bridge: Moscow
A whole love-lock forest exists on this bridge, which spans a Moscow River canal, as the Russian authorities decided to install metal trees to embrace the tradition. Hoards of wedding parties show up in hummer limos (classy) so the newlyweds can place a padlock on the tree. Then, if for any reason the husband or wife wishes to end their union, legend has it that they must dive into the freezing waters below to retrieve the key. It is said that divorce rates have thus declined in Moscow.
I, myself, wonder what happens when the committed couples do break up. Do you have to get the bolt cutters out? Possibly choose a combination lock instead? Or maybe, just maybe, this is the key to everlasting love…