This strange tradition began over a hundred years ago and it eventually became a big problem in Paris. Here’s why the City of Light finally cracked down on its thousands of “love locks.”
The tradition began at least a century ago, likely by a woman named “Naba,” a teacher from Vrnjačka Banja, a small town in Serbia. Supposedly, Naba fell in love with a military officer during World War I. They strolled around town and would linger on Most Ljubavi, a bridge over a stream. When he was sent to Greece during the war, the officer fell in love with another woman and forgot all about poor Naba. The grief-stricken teacher eventually died from a broken heart. Worried that they might suffer the same fate as Naba, local ladies wrote the names of themselves and their boyfriends on padlocks and attached them to Most Ljubavi. They hoped that these “love locks” would magically help their relationships stay strong. After attaching the locks, they tossed away the keys.
The strange tradition remained a local custom in Vrnjačka Banja but people in other cities began attaching them to other bridge railings. But love locks have really become a problem. Hundreds of heavy locks can damage a bridge. City workers in Florence, Italy, recently, had to yank more than 5,500 off the famous Ponte Vecchio. Paris, one of the most romantic cities in the world, is where love locks are especially popular, which means it has several bridges literally buckling under the weight. In 2010, locks on the Pont des Arts (nicknamed “The Love Bridge”) disappeared. Citizens assumed the city did it…but it was actually an art student who turned the locks into a sculpture. But the locks quickly returned, which caused part of the bridge to collapse in the summer of 2013.
Despite the damage, people are still stubbornly putting love locks on the Pont des Arts. This is why city officials have finally decided to install panels up and down the bridge to help protect it from the hundreds of lovers that flock there every day. They’ll later add Plexiglass and the current plan is to recycle the padlocks that have already been removed.