Around Europe, more and more couples are symbolising their eternal love by scratching their initials onto a love padlock and then throwing the key in the river. If you’ve visited any of Europe’s major cities, you’ve no doubt seen one of the famous love padlock bridges – or maybe you’ve even contributed to one?
But where does this recent public display of affection stem from?
The history of love padlocks dates back at least 100 years to a melancholic Serbian tale of World War I, with an attribution for the bridge Most Ljubavi (literally the Bridge of Love) in spa town of Vrnjačka Banja. A local schoolmistress named Nada fell in love with a Serbian officer named Relja. After they committed to each other Relja went to war in Greece where he fell in love with a local woman from Corfu. As a consequence, Relja and Nada broke off their engagement. Nada never recovered from that devastating blow, and after some time she died due to heartbreak from her unfortunate love. As young women from Vrnjačka Banja wanted to protect their own loves, they started writing down their names, with the names of their loved ones, on padlocks and affixing them to the railings of the bridge where Nada and Relja used to meet.
In the rest of Europe, love padlocks started appearing in the early 2000s, each city and its bridge with varying stories. In some cases, this tradition of decorating bridges in padlocks is seen as vandalism and efforts are made by the authorities to remove them – and is strictly prohibited on some historical bridges such as Rialto Bridge in Venice.
More commonly, the love lock bridge is deemed as a piece of art and a unique tourist attraction – as is the case with the Butchers’ Bridge in Ljubljana, pictured above, which I visited on my interrailing travels around Europe.