Locked in love

Locked in love

On June 1, the city of Paris imposed a ban on people putting locks on the renowned Pont Des Arts bridge in Paris as a gesture of love.

For many years, lovebirds have been swearing their devotion to each other by placing a lock there, accumulating an estimated one million locks on the bridge, or some 45 tonnes worth of extra weight.

As these locks were threatening the structural integrity of the historic structure, the authorities removed them. Which just goes to show that one man's romantic gesture is another man's act of vandalism.

In Singapore, there is also a place where couples can swear their undying love to each other by buying a padlock and attaching it to a grille.

The place is just outside Clarke Quay Central mall, a metal lattice running along the walkway facing the Singapore River. It is simply called "the love lock space" by the mall.

The grille on which you attach your padlock measures 75cm by 450cm (just in case you are thinking of buying a lock, you might as well get the right size.)

This walkway has been a designated love lock spot since 2012, and the mall says there are about 800 locks there overall, which pose no risk to the structure so far, being spread out along 4.5m.

Couples can also choose to latch locks onto a 3.4m high heart-shaped structure, introduced in 2014.

Don't worry if you do not go with a lock prepared. There's a vending machine dispensing locks at $4 a pop.

Or be creative. Some couples have attached Polaroid photos, handphone cases and even drink cups with messages of love.

Undergraduate Jowin Ong, 22, attached a lock with her boyfriend late last year. She says: "This is a growing trend worldwide, so I'm glad that Singapore has created a place for love locks too."

Indeed, Rome has its own love lock bridge in Ponte Milvio and Moscow has the Bolotnaya and Luzhkov bridges.

There are a few theories on how the love lock practice started. Some people say it originated from an old Chinese legend, in which a couple pledged themselves to each other by fixing a lock near a bridge.

Others point to recent literature, such as the Italian novel Ho Voglia Di Te (I Want You), where the protagonists place a bicycle lock on a lamp-post on the Ponte Milvio Bridge.

In any case, part of the tradition involves throwing away the key after affixing the lock. In Singapore, it is not advisable to fling yours onto the street or into the river, given the anti-littering laws.


Moscow, Russia

The Bolotnaya and Luzhkov bridges in Moscow were so overladen with padlocks of love that in 2007, the authorities put in metal "love trees" on the bridges as an alternative for lovers to place their locks.

Bridges are important to Russian lovers because of a tradition that newly married couples should kiss on a bridge on their wedding day.

Seoul, South Korea

The roof terrace of the N Seoul Tower - a sort of Eiffel Tower of South Korea - is a wooden viewing deck offering panoramic views of the city.

Lovers come here for a different reason: To play out the K-drama trope of attaching padlocks onto the railings as a sign of their devotion. Because of the weight of these locks, operators have replaced the railings with glass fences to prevent people from attaching more locks.

There is also a notice not to throw away keys from the top of the tower, since it's 237m tall and the gesture might not inspire such a loving reaction from the people below.

Huangshan, China

Huangshan, a scenic mountain range in Easten China, is a favourite with landscape artists and photographers for its dramatic vistas.

But it is also a hit with lovebirds, who, inspired by a legend about two lovers who jumped to their deaths on Huangshan Mountain rather than be separated, hang locks on the iron chains along the mountain path.

Rome, Italy

The Ponte Milvio became a hot spot after Federico Moccia's 2006 novel Ho Voglia Di Te (I Want You) had its protagonists place a bicycle lock around a lamp post on the bridge.

Over the years, people latched locks onto the chains of the 2,114-year-old bridge, to the point that authorities feared structural damage.

So the city council moved half of the locks on the bridge to Rome's City Hall and also imposed a fine of €50 (S$75.80) on anyone caught attaching padlocks to the bridge.


This article was first published on June 7, 2015.
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