The Staalmeester drawbridge that crosses the Groenburgwal canal is one of my favourite spots in Amsterdam. I always make it a point to bring visiting friends to this bridge as the view of the canal and the Southern Church are absolutely gorgeous. Recently, I’ve begun to notice the appearance of love locks (or love padlocks) on the chains that hold up the bridge. Love locks are also appearing on the Skinny Bridge (Magere Brug), one of Amsterdam’s most famous bridges, which crosses the Amstel River.
Love locks are a rather recent phenomenon – its origins are debatable but some say it started as a ritual on the Ponte Milvio bridge in Rome. Since then, these locks have been appearing on bridges around the world – I guess there’s a pent-up need to express one’s everlasting love for one another – and along with them, concerns that these locks are damaging the bridges, many of which (especially in Europe) are historic monuments. A famous example is the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris which was almost crippled by an estimated one million (!!) love locks. In fact, part of the parapet of the bridge collapsed under the weight of the padlocks in 2014!
I’m not a fan of these locks. They’re a unique expression of love – I appreciate the symbolism of it – but, in my view, they’re ruining the aesthetics and, in some cases, the structure of these beautiful bridges. Perhaps the city councils could create purpose-built structures, like this iron tree in Moscow, to preserve our monuments. Expressing our love for one another is the most beautiful thing there is, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of damaging our precious and fragile historic monuments. I urge everyone to please refrain from attaching love locks to monuments and bridges wherever they are to preserve these structures for generations to come.