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Monday, April 28, 2014

Padlocked Bridges

I took this picture last November in Cologne: Millions of padlocks attached to a bridge, put there by lovers who threw the keys into the river.
In recent years, padlocks attached to bridge railings have become tokens of couples safeguarding their love and the locks have been showing up on bridges from Florence to Montevideo, from Paris to Moscow, from Denmark to China. Until about a decade ago, however, those locks were confined to a single pedestrian bridge in the Serbian resort town of Vrnjacka Banja. In the legend surrounding the bridge and the padlock tradition, a schoolmistress named Nada would meet her lover, a army officer named Relja, on the bridge where they pledged their love in the days before World War I. The soldier went on to fight the Germans at the Thessaloniki front in Greece, where he found a new love and married her. Nada is said to have died of sadness and grief. Nada's tale of grief inspired young couples determined not to abandon one another to begin writing their names on padlocks and chaining them to the fence of the bridge where Nada and Relja swore their devotion. Serb couples then sealed their promises by tossing the keys into the clear spring-like Vrnjacka River below. It remained a local phenomenon until Desanka Maksimovic, a noted Serb poet who died in 1993, heard the story of the bridge's lore and wrote one of her most beautiful poems "A Prayer for Love." The poem has stoked the romance of the bridge. A great pop song about this waits for its creator.

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