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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Abigail King is a writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. Now published by Lonely Planet, the BBC, CNN, National Geographic Traveler & more, she feels most at home experimenting here: covering unusual journeys, thoughtful travel and luxury on www.insidethetravellab.com