If you want to declare your love to the world, or at least the people of Cologne, Germany, go to the Hohenzollern Bridge. It’s easy enough to find, it’s right next to the main train station. You can’t miss it. Locks line the railing, from the very beginning to the very end.
What’s a love lock?
It’s just a lock that a couple will attach, usually, to a bridge. Sometimes the locks are inscribed with the couples names and an important date; sometimes it’s just the lock. Once locked, the couple throw the key away. In Cologne they throw it right into the Rhein River. Without the key, the locks stayed love forever and the couple’s love is guaranteed forever.
I first heard of this tradition when I went to the Great Wall in China. So, I thought the tradition started there. I was wrong. This tradition started in Italy, but has spread throughout the world. I’ve noticed them on major bridges in popular cities. I’ve also seen them in lesser known places, like my local park. (Which, by the way, might have the record for fewest number of love locks at three.) Once you know about them, you’ll start seeing them everywhere.
Cologne’s Love Locks
But, the love locks in Cologne are quite a site. The bridge is over 1300 feet long. Coming from the train station side, the locks are very dense, no space uncovered. I liked crossing opposite the train station first. On that side of the river the locks are more sparse. As you walk, there are more and more locks until you are left wondering how people were able to fit all the locks in that small of an area at all.
This tradition is fairly new to Cologne. The city started to take notice less than 5 years ago. Now there are so many locks that they are estimated to weigh over 4,000 pounds. They aren’t without controversy, though. Several years ago Deutsche Bahn, the bridge’s operator, threatened to saw off the locks. The public stood by their locks (and their love) and they remain today.
Hey, what about the kids?
The pedestrian pathway is wide enough for everyone who want to look at the locks, photographers to set up their camera to take pictures of the locks, and families with big strollers to enjoy without getting in each others way. As most bridges in big cities, it’s a nice stroll. I also saw many bike riders crossing the bridge. As you know, my son loves all forms of transportation. This makes the Hohenzollern Bridge even more fun. There are plenty of trains going into and out of Cologne’s main train station (around 1200 a day), so my son was in awe. Look down and a variety of boats pass under the bridge. Not to mention that big cathedral in the distance.
You’ll want to leave plenty of time for your visit because lock-spotting is truly mesmerizing.
I think I’m going to add love lock sightings to my traveling scavenger hunt. Do you know of any other places (big or small) with love locks?