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27 November 2011 / leggypeggy

Love locks—hanging around in Prague

Tom and Poor John check out some of the love lock inscriptions.

Sometimes I am reminded how out-of-touch I am.

Take love locks, for instance. I’d never heard of them, but they are the rage all over Europe. I first encountered them earlier this year in Prague in the Czech Republic, when Tom, who stayed with us while he was on exchange in Australia for five months in 2008, took us round to see a local bridge that is adjourned with countless locks. The bridge is just around the corner from the John Lennon Peace Wall.

In case you’re as out of touch as me, I’ll tell you a bit more about these locks. For starters, I’m not talking about hair, I’m talking about keyed locks. As a way of signifying their love and linked lives, couples attach the locks to bridge railings, gates, fences and any other likely surfaces that can hold them. This has been happening across Europe and Asia. Usually they add a message such as their names and a date. In Prague, they are said to throw the key into the nearby canal.

The canal in Prague where love lock keys get tossed.

In trying to find out more about love locks, I discovered a lot of conflicting information and probably a lot of folklore. So don’t take any of this as gospel. Love locking may have started in ancient China, in Serbia before World War I, in a Hungarian university town in the 1980s or somewhere in Europe in the 2000s. The custom has probably been spurred on by a tale spun in a recent romantic novel by the Italian author, Federico Moccia. To date, there is no mention of love locks being used in the USA.

The bridge in Prague is packed with locks—all colours and all styles from padlocks to luggage locks to bicycle locks—so couples are beginning to branch out and use nearby surfaces.

While we spent a little time reading inscriptions on the many locks, Poor John, who might glue a book to his hand if it made it easier to read, had no desire to add a lock to the bridge.

9 Comments

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  1. Forestwoodfolkart / Dec 5 2015 5:03 pm

    When I was in Salzburg, Austria – I was assured that the bridge was the first place that love locks appeared. I am not convinced, though. I have seen the odd one here in Australia, but I assume that the authorities remove them pretty quickly.

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    • leggypeggy / Dec 5 2015 5:48 pm

      You’re right about the authorities removing them. Locks started appearing on one of the bridges in Commonwealth Park in Canberra, and they’re all gone. We were in Paris recently and all the locks were taken off one bridge because they were overburdening the bridge.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Forestwoodfolkart / Dec 5 2015 7:31 pm

        Overburdening the bridge? Wow….there must have been millions

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      • leggypeggy / Dec 5 2015 10:31 pm

        Yeah, absolutely incredible numbers and weight.

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  2. jeanleesworld / Apr 23 2016 9:29 pm

    What a unique culture mystery! I can only imagine the variety of origin stories you heard. While I’ve never seen such things on this side of the Atlantic (I’m sure the Wisconsin farmers around me would harrumph at the waste of a good lock), it’s the little cultural mysteries like this that help inspire the quirks writers create for their own fictional words. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 23 2016 11:26 pm

      Since seeing the locks in Prague, I’ve seen ‘love’ locks on plenty of other bridges in plenty of other countries. But you’re right saying that farmers would think the practice is a waste of a good lock. It is also damaging to a good bridge. So far I know of two cities (Paris and Canberra) that have removed all the locks to eliminate excess weight on bridges.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jeanleesworld / Apr 24 2016 11:47 am

        Oh, that’s right! I remember hearing about that. While it’s a shame, it IS rather practical, too. A pity the love locks can’t work their magic from a wrought iron fence on good ol’ solid ground…

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      • leggypeggy / Apr 24 2016 12:25 pm

        It is more practical, and you’re right. A wrought iron fence on solid ground ought to work just as effectively. 🙂

        Like

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