It was during the summer of 2008 when colorful love padlocks first started appearing on Cologne‘s Hohenzollern Bridge. Almost a decade later, the site is Cologne’s most sought after spot, where love is literally in the air and also deep under the waters of Rhine, whose river bed is dotted with keys to numerous love stories. No matter what time of the day you visit, Hohenzollern Bridge is magical and makes you fall in love with love. On a clear day, it forms a perfect setting to let go of everything and watch a pretty sunset.
During my visit to Cologne, I spent a considerable amount of time trying to decipher stories in these padlocks. Embracing love, life and hope this was one of the most magical moments of my three month stint in Germany. It’s hard to possibly describe in words, but almost everything about this day was picture perfect. I kept returning to the Hohenzollern Bridge during my numerous visits to Cologne and soon it became my favorite place in the city. Collections usually have an impact on people, and this strange collection of unrelated love stories left me spell bound every single time.
The roots of this lovely tradition can be traced to Serbia, a hundred years ago, during World War -1 with an attribution for the bridge Most Ljubavi (The Bridge of Love) in the spa town of Vrnjačka Banja. A local schoolmistress named Nada, who was from Vrnjačka Banja, fell in love with a Serbian officer named Relja. But like all great stories, circumstances played villian and Relja had to go to war in Greece where he fell in love with a local woman. As a consequence, Relja and Nada broke off their engagement. But Nada had loved too much, with all her heart and she never recovered from that devastating blow. It is believed that she died of heartbreak. As young women from Vrnjačka Banja wanted to protect their own love, 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 once used to meet. This beautiful tradition then spread to parts of Europe and rest of the world. It’s an irony that World War -1 is responsible for eternal love embracing various bridges across the world today?
To the world, the idea of padlocks might sound silly but to me it’s lovely. It is the power of a massive collection of unrelated love stories that lulled me into thinking irrationally, and being the hopeless believer that I am, I did something silly too. True love could be debatable in today’s time and age, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a beautiful thought anymore. Putting love locks might just be a ritual, but it is surely one that has an old world charm about it, which pushes you to think that maybe, love still exists somewhere, in a dimension that most of us are not capable of experiencing in today’s times. Maybe it’ll come back to our world, to the select few who still believe, maybe it never left us, we are only too busy to notice.
Cologne’s Love Bridge actually restored my faith in something as cliché as love and I’ll be forever grateful to the city of fragrances for that . I am already craving to go back as my heart is now brimming with memories. Germany was sure a dream that left me wishing for more, and now the heart desires to explore Europe beyond the tourist map, as I keep on looking for cheap international air tickets from Frankfurt airport to rest of the world!