Tuesday, July 19, 2016
90. Lovelocked Padlocks - the Love Token Hardware - The Russia We Saw - 1
Foot deep snow crunch under our feet as we walk down the wooded path to the river. The merciless cold bite through the thick winter boots and two layers of thermal socks. The crisp chilly morning air hurts the lungs. When I turn my faces up towards the watery sun which is shining relatively brighter today, I feel the ghost of a warmth in the -7 ͦC Russian winter. We childishly shake the branches of the evergreens laden with snow creating mini s snowfalls.
There are four of us and our host Godwin the Nigerian trekking along having the time of our lives. Our son seems to be enjoying a lot.
Closer to the river, deeper is the snow. We climb the steps of the bridge and looked down at the frozen river.
A beautiful young, slender Russian girl comes skiing along the path parallel to the river and waits for her boyfriend who is left behind.
The frozen river stretches far into the distance. We go on taking photographs on and around the bridge. After all these will be the memories that would be left with us.
It is then the lovelocks catches our eyes. There are so many of them in brass, steel, stainless steel wrought iron and many shapes too. Some are actually heart shaped and are secured to the chillingly cold steel rails of the bridge now half covered in snow.
A love lock, aka a love padlock is actually a padlock which symbolizes the everlasting love and commitment of couple in love who would lock it on a bridge and throw the key into the river to seal the deal. Most of the time the lovers would inscribe their initials or names on the padlock. Though a rail of a bridge over a river is the most romantic place for a lovelock where the key can be thrown into the river to finalize it, lovelocks can be found on many other forms of public property like fences, gates and even trees making the area a ‘lovescape’.
We are amused to see them on this lonely bridge and took so many photos of them. My heart seems to warm up to the sight of them even in this subzero Russian winter chill. That’s why I select the love locks to be the first post of the series on Our Russian Tour.
As I later find out, thanks to the internet, this ritual could have started in China according to some people who believe everything has something to do with China. Some say this could be a custom started on the Bridge of Love (Most Ljubavi) in Serbia in Eastern Europe about a hundred years ago during the WW1. The young lovers Nada and Relja used to meet on this particular Serbian bridge over this Serbian River. It is a smaller bridge than the one we were standing now.
Everything turned upside down when the Relja who was an officer in the Serbian army had to leave his sweetheart Nada who was a school teacher, and go to the war somewhere in Greece. Relja met this other girl in Corfu and broke up with sweet innocent Nada who was waiting for him to return to her. When the devastating news reached her she could not bear it up and she died heartbroken.
The other girls from Nada’s village Vrnjačka Banja who were distressed by this, desperate to secure their own loves, started this strange innocent ritual of writing their own name + their lovers’ on a padlock and locking them on the railings of the Bridge and where Nada and Relja used to meet and throw the keys into the river. And so the romance of the padlocks began and the bridge that was anonymous so far was christened ‘Bridge of Love’ (Most Ljubavi).
This custom spread like a wildfire throughout Europe until the municipal councils found it to be a damn nuisance who were forced to remove them from time to time as some railing on popular European bridges were weighed down with tons and tons of this new love hardware, the love padlocks and weakened the structure. Some bridge rails had to be cut off using welding cutters or grinders. For example, it happened in Paris. (Paris ends relationship with 'love locks' removing padlocks from the Pont des Arts /)
Some municipalities that were thinking out of the box and didn’t consider lovelocks as vandalism or litter like many others did, actually promoted them and used them to attract tourists.
They say love padlocks raged on in Europe in the early 2000s and are found in almost all European cities
The Italian lovelock craze of affixing love padlocks to the bridge Ponte Milvio in Rome, was fueled by the Italian writer Federico Moccia’s 2006 best seller ,“I WANT YOU” which was made a movie the very next year.
We walk some more along the frozen riverbank on the other side of the bridge before retracing our footsteps back towards the main road. We are hanging around for the paint ball facility at the beginning of this road to open to have some fun.
An old truck with the radiator grill covered against the cold comes along the narrow path with the two friendly Russians waving cheerfully and yelling hello. Another Russian smiles and asks us (in Russian of course) how we like the Russian winter, which our daughter interprets for us. ‘Spasibo’. “Do svidaniya” I manage reply in my very poor very limited Russian vocabulary.
Well, before coming here I had the impression that all the Russians were rude arrogant brutes with an attitude as cold as their winters. Well, maybe. But not the ones we meet today, I am thinking to myself.
PS: Though I am reluctant to use other people's photographs in my post, If you are really interested you can always google by yourself and find about the lovelocks, love padlocks and the Bridge of Love and see images of heavily burdens bridge rails, the way they cut off sections of bridges ans so on.
Sinhala Translations available at මගේ ඩෙනිම and මට හිතෙන හැටි.