I think I must have first become aware of love locks when walking across the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in Taos, County, NM some time between 2012 and 2014. I saw a padlock affixed to the bridge’s railing, but I can’t remember if someone explained the lock was there to symbolize everlasting love, or if I figured it out on my own. Later, I heard all about love locks on the 81st episode of the Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase podcast (http://betty.libsyn.com/81st-show-lovelocks); that episode is called “Lovelocks.”
According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_lock,
A love lock or love padlock is a padlock which sweethearts lock to a bridge, fence, gate, or similar public fixture to symbolize their love. Typically the sweethearts’ names or initials are inscribed on the padlock, and its key is thrown away to symbolize unbreakable love. Since the 2000s, love locks have proliferated at an increasing number of locations worldwide. They are now mostly treated by municipal authorities as litter or vandalism, and there is some cost to their removal. However, there are authorities who embrace them, and who use them as fundraising projects or tourism attractions.
The history of love padlocks dates back at least 100 years to a melancholic Serbian tale of World War I, with an attribution for the bridge Most Ljubavi (lit. the Bridge of Love) in spa town of Vrnjačka Banja. A local schoolmistress named Nada, who was from Vrnjačka Banja, fell in love with a Serbian officer named Relja. After they committed to each other Relja went to war in Greece where he fell in love with a local woman from Corfu. As a consequence, Relja and Nada broke off their engagement. Nada never recovered from that devastating blow, and after some time she died due to heartbreak from her unfortunate love. As young women from Vrnjačka Banja wanted to protect their own loves, they started writing down their names, with the names of their loved ones, on padlocks and affixing them to the railings of the bridge where Nada and Relja used to meet.
In the rest of Europe, love padlocks started appearing in the early 2000s. The reasons love padlocks started to appear vary between locations and in many instances are unclear. However, in Rome, the ritual of affixing love padlocks to the bridge Ponte Milvio can be attributed to the 2006 book I Want You by Italian author Federico Moccia, who made a film adaptation in 2007.
The next times I saw love locks was during my adventure on the Tule River in California. (You can read about that adventure here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/05/22/steps-to-the-kern/.) As I walked down the steps to the river, I saw a lock left by Ash & Kate.
A few weeks after that, I saw more love locks at South Creek Falls. (Read more about South Creek Falls here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/?s=south+creek+falls.) Quite a few people had left locks on the barrier fence.
When I returned to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in the fall, I found many people had affixed love locks to the bridge’s railing.
During a brief visit to Tucson, AZ in late 2015, I spent an hour or so one afternoon wandering around the hip little North Fourth Avenue shopping area. I was excited to see several metal heart sculptures made for people to fasten on their love locks.
A brief announcement from February 2015 on the Arizona Daily Star’s tucson.com (http://tucson.com/put-a-lock-on-it/article_b40d5fb6-b244-11e4-9f1c-5724f278e6a8.html) says,
North Fourth Avenue is going all out for Valentine’s Day — big sales, live music, and all sorts of hustle and bustle. And get this: there will a number of heart sculptures along the avenue. Bring a padlock inscribed with your names, attach it to a sculpture, and lock in your love by throwing away the key…When a sculpture becomes full it will become a display in Haggerty Plaza.
Tomorrow I will share more photos of love locks that I took in California, New Mexico, and Arizona.
I took all photos in this post.