Pedestrian bridges in cities around the world are acquiring spontaneous decorations from lovers – padlocks. This global custom is popping up in all sorts of places. While the first city where it cropped up may be an open question (Paris claims it started there), there is no denying its growing widespread appeal.
The idea is that two people declare their love by putting their names or initials or other message on a small padlock. Then they fasten the lock to the bridge and toss the key into the river below.
I saw two such bridges in surprising places on this last trip (see slideshow).
Salzburg, Austria – the chain link on Makartsteg Bridge over the Salzach River turns the padlocks into more of an art installation than Ljubljana’s almost hardware store display. These padlocks looked more colorful even as the shackles began to rust and the inscriptions – scratched by hand or professionally produced – more personal because they faced the bridge. Give Matthew credit, he’s covering all his bases!
Ljubljana, Slovenia – The cable wires on Ljubljana’s Butchers’ Bridge (the original name) spanning the Ljubljanica River mean that the padlocks can nestle together and the faces of the locks can’t be read from a distance. On the upside, there’s plenty of room to add more. Part of the bridge pavement is made of glass which is unnerving to stand on. The blue cable lock raises an interesting question – is this a combination lock and if so, are the lovers hedging their bets in case things don’t work out? Just wondering.
In all these cities though, I find myself wondering 1 – what happens to the padlock if the relationship crashes? and 2 – do the keys piling up on the riverbeds pose any health issues for any fish down there? OK, OK, so maybe if I clamped a padlock to a bridge somewhere in the world I wouldn’t be thinking about the poor fishies. (Untrue. I always worry about the other critters on the planet).
There are two other concerns, at least in Paris – the physical aesthetic of having an iconic piece of the city buried under a bunch of ugly padlocks and the idea that love should be represented by an item as closed and unforgiving as a padlock.