Amsterdam is a romantic city, full of canals and pretty bridges isn’t it? So you would expect to see many, many more of those love-lock bridges around town. But no, we have only two, de Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) and de Staalmeestersbrug. The love-locks on the Magere Brug have recently been drastically pruned by the Amsterdam Council so only a few remain, clinging a little forlornly onto the bridge’s warning light.
UPDATE – Jan 2019! The last time I went to the bridge there were no love-locks. I think local residents/council have really clamped down on it. Many Amsterdammers feel that their city is overrun with tourists and the distaste for lovelocks is an expression of that resentment.
The Staalmeestersbrug with the tower of the Zuiderkerk in the background, puts on a better show. As I took my photos I met a lovely couple who were searching for the padlock they had placed there to seal their love, three years ago. The man even scaled the bridge’s chains, rifling through all the other padlocks in a desperate search for it. Sadly, it was gone, but the couple are still together, which strikes me as the most important thing! I wonder if Amsterdam council workers ever have any qualms while wielding their bolt-cutters destroying the pacts sealed by all those lovers? Knowing the pragmatic Dutch: probably not.
Where did it all begin?
According to Elisabeth Timmermans who writes a great blog called, ‘Love in the Time of Tinder’ (in Dutch) this tradition of lovers engraving a padlock with their names, chaining it to a bridge and then throwing the key in the water dates back to the eve of WW1. In Serbia, the stunningly beautiful, Nada fell in love with Relja, a Serbian officer. Relja was conscripted to fight in the war against Greece but the couple sealed their love and swore eternal fidelity to each other by getting engaged before Relja went off to war. Months and months passed and after a series of love letters that remained unanswered, it finally dawned on Nada that Relja would never come back home. Not because he had been killed, but because his heart no longer craved her or his native Serbia.
In Greece Relja had fallen madly in love with a woman from Corfu and subsequently broke off his engagement with Nada. Her heart broke. A lost soul, she wandered through the Serbian town of Vrnjačka Baja and jumped off the famous footbridge in Serbia, the ‘Most Ljubavi’ (literally translated as Love Bridge). She died from her injuries. Since then the ‘Most Ljubavi’ has been covered in love locks. According to legend, all soldiers return faithfully to their fiancée after their love is sealed by means of a love-lock to ‘Most Ljubavi.’ This ritual practice has now spread over many cities and even though Amsterdam Council does its best, it can’t totally control the lovers that are drawn to this romantic city with its shimmering canals and picturesque bridges.
The couple whom I met on the Staalmeestersbrug were undeterred however and set off to buy a new padlock and attach it to the bridge again, this time hopefully for eternity, or at least until the next bolt-cutting killjoy comes along.
Fascinating story! There’s a bridge in Paris, le Pont des Arts, that is so laden with love-locks that the authorities started to fear that it might collapse. They started removing the love-locks as a result.
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Thanks, Vanessa. I read about that bridge in Paris on the Dutch lady’s blog, amazing how this ritual has spread. In a way I understand the authorities in Amsterdam removing the padlocks. A lot of the bridges have to be opened for passing vessels so the extra weight could quickly cause a problem.
Fascinating background to the padlocks, Angela. There is an old monastery, not too far from us, where the practice of locking padlocks to the surrounding railings has taken place for many years. Not always placed by lovers, some are in memory of lost souls, but always put there from the heart.
Thanks for commenting and sharing your experience, Chris. I didn’t realise that it was a practice also for lost loved ones and can also be seen in a rural environment.
Thanks for the background on the Love Locks of Amsterdam, Angela. I’m thinking about a new way for lovers to leave their mark without weighing down the bridges….a special mosaic mural with the ability to stamp words into clay and then have those incorporated in the artwork. Do you think it would be a hit with tourists and locals?
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Difficult to say! Definitely a hit with the tourists but the locals probably less so. Great idea though. You could run it past a few shop owners in the area!
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Thanks for your comment! If you happen upon a good wall in Amsterdam for such I project, I’m interested to hear from you! Thanks!