Love Locks – Statement of Love or Vandalism?
A SHORT STORY
As we travel we have at times noticed collections of padlocks attached to bridges and other public structures. It wasn’t difficult to figure out what was going on by all the couples names engraved on the locks. But in the last five years or so it is becoming difficult to not notice these collections, they’re popping up everywhere.
The practice isn’t new but in the twenty-first century it has exploded worldwide. A love lock is a padlock which lovers lock to a bridge, fence, gate or monument to symbolize their eternal love. Recently the lovers’ names or initials, and the date, are inscribed on the padlock, and its key is thrown away usually into the river under the bridge to symbolize unbreakable love.
This simple and romantic practice seems innocent but more and more being treated by authorities as litter or vandalism, and there is becoming serious cost associated with damage and their removal. We’ve been told that there are places where authorities are embracing them as a tourist attractions.
A little research will show that love padlocks date back at least 100 years to a Serbian tale of World War I, about the bridge Most Ljubavi or the Bridge of Love in the town of Vrnjačka Banja. A local schoolmistress named Nada, who was from Vrnjačka Banja, fell in love with a Serbian officer named Relja.
In Dublin there is a famous pedestrian bridge called the Ha’penny Bridge. It is one of the more famous symbols of Dublin. Nearly 200 years old (1816) it is a protected structure, but in recent years Dublin City Council have had to remove thousands of padlocks from the bridge. They are considered unsightly and are causing damage by chipping paint and adding considerable weight to the historic bridge.
While the key to many a heart now lies at the bottom of the River Liffey where couples in love have thrown them after securing their love locks to Dublin’s historic Ha’penny Bridge, a group is dedicated to breaking that bond. Almost as soon as the lovers have left, an expert lock-picking group arrives to tear these bonds of love apart and stop the locks from making the bridge structurally unsafe.
“It’s a fairly constant churn,” said Seán Nicholls, who set up the group when he was on his way to a professional lock-picking meeting. “I was heading to the meeting one day and I walked over the bridge and noticed all the locks. That’s kind of where the idea came from,” he said.
Dublin City Council made the group official in the aftermath of a love-lock situation in Paris where the locks caused a section of the Pont des Arts bridge to collapse.