Throughout the ages fresh faced, glowing lovers inspired by Shakespearean literature have looked for ways in which to prove to the world that this love, their love, is the real thing.
Like a junkie, with that first rush of chemicals through the body, addiction sets in as dopamine and its fellow “homemade” intravenous organics wreak havoc upon the unsuspecting victim’s body. That’s what love is. Intoxicated young lovers have been known to attempt to prove their love in various ways. Poetry has always been a popular option; in the past serenading the object of affection (preferably from the ground floor while looking up at a balcony) has been in style. However, more recently continental Europe has seen the rise of a new way to express true love.
This newly popular and somewhat profound way of professing your undying love is in the form of a “love-lock”. The lovers engrave their names onto a padlock, lock it to a fence (preferably one on a bridge) and throw the key into the river below.
Most sources agree that the tradition started in the city of Pécs in Hungary sometime during the early 1980s, as a sign of solidarity between student couples trying to cope with their demanding studies and a relationship at the same time.
However, in China it seems that locks and keys have been used to symbolize love and marriage for a great deal longer, the Great Wall of China being one major site where the Eastern version of this cultural phenomenon can be seen.
Cologne is one of the cities most newly converted, and the Hohenzollern Bridge is a particular hotspot for the craze. If passing through it is well worth a look. The attention to detail and personal touches on every lock is astonishing so if you do decide to visit, make sure you have enough time on your hands.
Love-locks seem to be rather more permanent in their symbolism than the relics of the past, and their permanence contrasts with the increasingly short term nature of modern relationships.
Whatever the cultural symbolism of the love-lock, their popularity is still on the rise, as sites all over Europe, Asia and the USA have been spontaneously chosen to bear the sign of this generation of lovers.
I’d like to take this opportunity to raise awareness; there are dopamine addicts amongst us! Like the tell tale signs of the intravenous drug user, there are always ways you can spot this dangerous figure: needles are replaced by love poems (usually self written, scrawled in fountain pen, possibility of watermarks increased if the victim is female); as opposed to being in debt, victims tend to be rather flush, having given up all activities other than long walks in the park in each other’s company (if this is the case I strongly suggest you take advantage of this situation as memory loss of anything but a significant other will result in borrowed money being forgotten).
If you spot either of these symptoms in one close to you, please be aware that irrationality is severely increased, and attempt all dealings with them in a soft-spoken and slow manner.