Query Corner

Q11.06. Padlocks on Hohenzollern Bridge at Köln

   A DB Regio service for Rheine is nearly hidden by the thousands of padlocks attached to the Hohenzollern bridge as it departs Cologne on 29th December 2010.   Callum MacLeod
This massive bridge across the Rhine, immediately east of Köln’s main station, has pedestrian walkways on both sides, each separated from the running lines by a chain-link fence. Across the entire length of the bridge, each of these fences is covered in a variety of padlocks (see attached image) but none is actually locking anything, other than itself to the links. Judging by their appearance, some appear to be quite recent additions to the thousands already there, so it would appear that there is an on-going ritual to keep adding to the ‘display’. Does anybody know what this is all about? (ACM:12817)


I saw a similar collection of padlocks attached to some footpath bridges (not over a railway) in Istanbul last summer. We were told they had been placed there by couples who wished to remember each other as they went about their future travels. Whether each lock was a 'joint' purchase or whether each person bought their own I cannot recall, but the locks were marked with names, symbols etc. (SB)

A friend of mine now tells me that the Cologne ones are known as ‘love-locks’ (so similar to what was found in Istanbul , I guess). Apparently the lover scratches his (or her) partner’s name on the padlock, attaches it to the fence and then chucks the key into the Rhine . Judging by the number of such padlocks, I’m surprised that passing barges do not run aground on the pile of keys (although, thanks to the flow of the river, they are more likely to be choking the sea lock at Rotterdam )! Most are attached around Valentine’s Day, apparently – so not quite the same link with ‘travels’ that Steve discovered in Turkey. Apparently DB threatened to cut away the fences on either side of the Hohenzollern Bridge and replace them with a lightweight wall (making the bridge unlockable) but a furious local protest stopped them from this dastardly deed. I didn’t see any names on those padlocks I photographed last December but they may have been on the inside or just weathered away. Of course, I didn’t study them that closely as I was unaware of their true purpose at that time. (AM:12817)

If you look carefully at the locks you will see that the majority are engraved usually with a male and female name and a date. Tradition has it that as a token of lasting love the couple have the padlocks engraved, lock it onto the bridge fence and then, holding each other tightly, drop the keys into the river below. There are however some locks indicating perhaps a slightly less strong relationship, these tend to be written on in felt tip! (DB:16516)

They are ‘love padlocks’ attached by courting/married couples as a sign of their affection or love. It’s a phenomenon that’s springing up worldwide. (JT)

last updated: 21/03/11