Well actually it’s quite sweet and innocent.
Love padlocks are a tradition that involves placing a padlock on a piece of municipal iron work, usually a bridge railing, and throwing the key into the river below. It’s a symbol of your never-ending love for your partner and should be inscribed with your names and an important date to add significance to the event. I wrote about the practice in Florence, Italy in 2011.
Apparently it started in Florence when soldiers who were being transferred from the local army barracks would put the padlocks from their kit lockers onto the Florence bridges and throws the keys into the River Arno below. A romantic gesture, symbolising love and commitment.
The practice has gone viral, spreading to 30 countries across the world. There is plenty of material about love padlocks on the Internet including details of the battles between sweethearts placing the padlocks and officials who want to remove them. If you are interested there are even businesses that will provide an inscribed padlock of your choice.
Here is the example I saw recently in Berlin. That’s Berlin Cathedral in the background and the River Spree below. This surprised me a bit. The extent of the love padlocks was a bit restrained in comparison with those I’d seen in Florence. Given the scale of other forms of self expression I’d seen in Berlin, particularly graffiti (which is everywhere) and things like the Love Parade, I’d have thought love padlocks would have taken off and gone viral. Perhaps love padlocks are a bit too tame and mainstream for the Berliners?
I suppose it goes to show, you can’t predict human behavior and what will go viral.
By the way, as far as I’m aware there is no evidence yet of love padlocks taking off in Cardiff, or anywhere else in Wales (excellent locations in Cardiff Bay, probably). You could however argue that the Welsh love spoon is a sophisticated demonstration of love. Love spoons are unfortunately quite expensive and not that practical for attaching to bridges as public expressions of love.
So, what’s the PONT?
- Public expressions of emotion do seem to vary hugely between countries and cultures.
- Human emotions are complex and it’s incredibly difficult to predict what people might do, and what might go viral.
- Perhaps the Italians really are the most romantic people in Europe. I’ve just come back from Italy. There are plenty of love padlocks dotted around Florence, Venice and even popping up in places like Volterra.