Locks of love cover Cologne’s Hohenzollern Bridge

Love locks are a romantic symbol of true love: Walk across a bridge with your sweetheart, affix a lock scrawled with your names to the structure, and then toss the key into the river below.

The tradition is said to have originated on the Ponte Milivio in Italy, but from Australia to Uruguay the practice has caught on. I found these on the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne, an overpass that is becoming so packed with padlocks the bridge’s operator has threatened to saw them off. After public outcry over the matter, the company was forced to have – you guessed it – a change of heart.

From near and far, the love locks add a little glitter to a bridge that is otherwise gritty and dull. But up close its not always picture perfect: there were a few spots where fence wires were cut, perhaps in an effort to release scorned lovers of their shackles. Two little boys crossed the bridge tugging on the padlocks as they went along, trying to shake them loose (ladies, watch out – the heartbreaking starts early!). Below the bridge, I was actually surprised there weren’t vendors hawking padlocks to tourists for 20 euros a pop. I guess there are some things that are still sacred.

Click through the gallery to see more padlocks on the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne, and let me know where else you’ve found them below!


[Photos by Libby Zay]