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In Cologne, They Say It With Handcuffs

Cologne Dazzles

They say that you never forget your first time – and for me that was in Seville. While strolling along in the unfiltered sunshine, sharp flashes of light caught my eye. This was it, this was what I had heard about: the bridge of locks, the bridge of hearts, a new trend that was somehow already a tradition.

For the uninitiated, lovers sign their names onto a padlock and then throw the key into the river below. Authorities subsequently remove the locks.

A few months later in Paris, I had my second taste.On the intimate Pont des Arts, in the world’s most romantic city, a string of metal locks shimmered from the railings.

Then I visited Cologne, where passion, not to mention, imagination runs wild.

Cologne doesn’t limit itself to padlocks. The Hohenzollernbrücke Bridge excels itself, not only in terms of the length of its name, but also in terms of declaring undying love.

Cologne Says It With Handcuffs

Hohenzollernbrücke has padlocks, alright. It also has handcuffs, tin cans, bicycle chains and padlock formations. Glitter, gold and gratuitous gemstone stickers. Wilting roses, weathered writing and rusting romance.

A modern blacksmith-of-love sits at one end of the bridge, carving initials into padlocks, while a rose-seller approaches from the opposite direction.

The Hohenzollernbrücke Bridge excels itself, not only in terms of the length of its name, but also in terms of declaring undying love.

Perhaps things have got out of hand, especially given that Federico Moccia only invented the “tradition” a few years ago as a handy plot device for his novel and subsequent film Ho Voglia de Te.

The Padlock Bridge, Cologne

Creative Padlocks

Love overflows in Cologne…

Ah, well. True love conquers all, as they say.

Or does it? Perhaps I’m not alone in raising an eyebrow of cynicism at so much symbolism.

Stencilled onto the tarmac walkway lies the following message: “Love is only a four-letter word.”

…but not for everyone

I travelled to Cologne as a guest of the Eurostar Explorer team, although as usual, all opinions are my own. I have no relationship with any padlock sellers, engravers, florists or gemstone sticker salespeople, which is probably just as well.

 

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16 Responses to In Cologne, They Say It With Handcuffs

  1. azahar August 31, 2010 at 10:33 pm #

    Bicycle chains …?

  2. Melvin August 31, 2010 at 9:36 pm #

    True love conquers Cologne as a 4 letter word!

    Peace… Love… & Harmony! ;-)

  3. Sash September 1, 2010 at 2:57 am #

    Great post! I laughed, I smiled and I cringed just a little. What a wonderfully weird and bizarre tradition! Great shots too!

    Thanks for joining in on the carnival!

    Sash
    Barefoot inked.

  4. Jennifer September 1, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    I *love* it. I can’t wait to see my first. Amazing how something so recent can catch on so quickly and in different areas – it seems like it has been around forever. Great post for the carnival!

  5. Tom - Europe by Eurostar September 2, 2010 at 5:31 pm #

    That’s a great post Abigail! I wrote one about the same bridge on the Europe by Eurostar site recently but haven’t managed to go see it for myself yet! I liked your post a lot so I’ve updated the post with a link to it too, see here: http://ow.ly/2yySD

    Also, for your chance to win a year’s worth of Eurostar travel, remember to submit your explorers story to the site before Sunday 12th! Have a great weekend.

  6. Abi September 3, 2010 at 5:59 am #

    Thanks Tom for the link – and to everyone else for dropping by!
    Azahar – the bicycle chains connect padlocks with different dates and cities written on them (I presume it represents something about love around the world – rather than bike theft and an unusual locking device…)

  7. Suzanne September 3, 2010 at 4:25 pm #

    Hi Abigail,

    Thanks for this great post. It was really fun to read! I’ve even shared it with my readers on my facebook fanpage (http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Hungarian-Girl/155217874200). All the best. :)

  8. Andrew J Chandler September 3, 2010 at 11:23 pm #

    I seem to remember a similar place in Pécs.

  9. Ciki September 4, 2010 at 2:27 am #

    sigh.. so romantic.. sigh sigh sigh. It would be funny though if ppl were are actually padlocked to the fence. I’d like to see how strong love is when the frostbite sets in.. mwuahaha :P

  10. Abi September 11, 2010 at 3:56 am #

    Suzanne – thanks!
    Andrew – send a photo :)
    Ciki – great evil cyber laugh ;)

  11. Marie September 18, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    LOVE this exhibit! Have to visit Cologne on business next week so I get a chance to see it :-)

  12. Abi September 28, 2010 at 8:20 am #

    Great – let us know if you get swept away with romance ;0)

  13. eastlandgrl October 18, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    interesting, thanks

  14. Abi December 19, 2010 at 7:45 pm #

    You’re welcome @eastlandgrl

  15. Kirsten November 15, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    I saw the tradition on the Pont des Arts in Paris, after seeing it somewhere in America as well. It is shocking how fast this tradition has swept the world. Perhaps it’s because we’re so romance prone, even the most cynical of us. As if a lock on a bridge, or a pair of handcuffs, could ever secure what is one of the most undependable situations man can find himself involved in.

    Pont des Arts simply made me feel more alone than anything else in Paris. Then again, as a photographer, I did enjoy the picture taking opportunities. So I suppose it wasn’t a total waste!

  16. fotoeins | Henry November 13, 2012 at 12:59 am #

    When I witnessed the love locks on the Hohenzollernbrücke bridge in Köln (Cologne) in the fall of 2010, someone had thoughtfully spray painted the following message on the adjacent pedestrian walkway:

    “Was ist das für eine Gesellschaft in der das Symbol für Liebe ein Vorhängeschloss ist?” (What does it say about society when a padlock is a symbol for love?)

    Does this, can this ritual or newfound tradition go too far? If so, what then?

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