Trains rumbled over the bridge and thousands of padlocks chattered in unison as I walked across the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne, Germany, looking at messages of love.
Row after row of various shaped and sized padlocks covered a fence separating the foot path from the fast-moving trains. A vast array of colored locks with handwritten names announced that their love would last forever. Other locks had engraved names and dates of marriages, while big, clunky padlocks wrapped around chains told love stories.
The placing of the locks on the bridge's fencing began a few years ago, and it’s still a mystery as to who started the tradition or why it began. But ever since, locks have multiplied in abundance on this scenic bridge.
Where are the keys to these hundreds of locks? Ceremoniously, the keys are thrown over the bridge into the Rhine, never to be used again. Locals say it's easier to get a divorce than find the key in the cold, deep river.
The roar and speed of passing locomotives rattled the locks every few minutes as my search continued for the most unusual lock with a love story. Walkers and bicyclists dodged around tourists trying to find a date or name with meaning.
The Hohenzollern Bridge provides a breathtaking view of Cologne, connecting one side of the city to the Old Town, where the famous cathedral is within bird’s eye view.
Quite a debate has arisen about the weight of the bridge from all the metal locks and how much longer locks can safely stay in place. But the allure and mystery of love endures timelessly, and romance is locked above the Rhine.