Love padlocks

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

While on one of my afternoon strolls in the centre of Pest (aka. the eastern side of Budapest) I found myself in Deák Ferenc Square. It wasn't the first time, for this square seemed to be the centre of everything. I had stumbled upon it on my very first day, gasping for a coffee and later perused the tourist-trap market stalls with their arrays of magnets and souvenir paprika. I had passed through it on my way to meet a friend one evening, the metro station lending itself to be the central hub of all three metro lines. But it wasn't until this particular day - my last full day, in fact - that I had ambled through the actual square. In a way, it reminded me of any old town square: it had greenery and it had scenery. And as all squares do, it had something uncommon. Something to look at. Something that takes you totally by surprise. This something was love padlocks.

Love padlocks are exactly what they sound like: locks that are fixed to a structure to symbolise the 'everlasting' love between sweethearts. You write your names, nicknames or initials on them and perhaps a little message and then you get locking! They mostly appear on bridges over rivers (like the Seine in Paris, the Tiber in Rome, and the Guadalquivir in Seville to name but a few) where lovers may traditionally throw away the key into the water below so that the lock - the never-ending bond - may never be severed. Or they may choose to keep a key each as a memory. Other fixtures such as trees in Moscow, fountains in Montevideo, and fences in Pécs (also in Hungary) have since sprung up to play host to arrays of these declarations of love. All in all, there aren't many spots in the world that play host to myriads of padlocks and it seems that pretty much anything goes - but there are a lot of understandable annoyances surrounding them. The increasing weight of padlocks on some bridges means that councils have had to forbid the attachment of any more locks for fear that it would compromise the safety of the bridge. Also in the protection of certain listed or heritage structures, love padlocks are very quickly taken down after being put up. However it's not all doom and gloom as some cities truly embrace the phenomenom! Moscow even have special iron trees erected so that couples can continue their love-locking spree with no danger to the bridge nearby, and in Seoul the council installed a "key bin" so that keys were no longer thrown into the river and thus damaging the environment. Stealth!

In Deák Ferenc Square, these love padlocks are affixed to a railing around a tree. Despite research, I can't seem to find exactly how long lovers have been a-locking here but I sure hope they continue - and that maybe I can join in with all the fun one day. There must be literally over 1,000 locks on this teeny-tiny patch and I hope for all it's worth that most of these sweethearts are still together. Love!

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