The Quay Bridge3
January 14, 2013 by Matt
Have a seat because I want to tell you about a very special bridge.
Not far from where I live in west Copenhagen there is a bridge, called Bryggebroen (“the quay bridge”). It crosses a wide stretch of water from behind Fisketorvet mall (“the Copenhagen Mall”) to the modern high-rises that define the recent regeneration of Islands Brygge (“Iceland’s quay”). Here it is…
For a start, it has two sides separated by a sturdy barrier – one for walkers, so they can stroll across and admire the view at their leisure, and one for cyclists, so they can speed across and escape the often chilly winds coming off the water beneath, without fear of smashing in to an ambling pedestrian. It’s an obvious solution to a clear potential problem. But it’s amazing how few other bridges I’ve ever seen employ it.
Secondly, it’s a special bridge for me. When we first moved here, it was early spring, and we picked a jogging route that took in this bridge. I remember vividly running across it with a sense of awe – partly at the fact I was out running (something that I’ve only really picked up since moving here), and partly because if you get lucky with the light you can be treated to some gorgeous scenery. It definitely symbolises the hope and excitement I had, and still have, about living here.
But the final reason why this bridge is special is because of padlocks. I don’t know why, but the metal ropes that form its fences are covered in thousands of locked padlocks, most with initials or dates written on them. My early theories were that maybe this was a sort of bike mausoleum and that people put a padlock on the bridge when their bike expired (I think I may have been taking the whole “Danes really love their bikes” theory a little too far there though). But I think it’s more to do with people, and couples in particular. Certainly this second theory has been given weight recently when one of my English friends in Copenhagen, Sean, has upped sticks with his Danish wife Julie, and moved to Brazil. Before they left, they added a padlock of their own (the one pictured above). I haven’t spoken to him in detail about it, but here are his own words which pretty much explain their thinking…
“We wanted to do something symbolic before our move to Brazil. Our wedding was, of course, a significant and wonderful event, but nothing communicates lifelong commitment quite like a bit of vandalism…”
So Sean, if you’re reading this, I’d love to know what you know about the bridge. And also, what happens to the key??? I’m hoping it got tossed into the watery deep below, but maybe that would have been an act of vandalism too far….
Love locks can be found on bridges around the world. Have observed the phenomenon in Wroclaw, Prague, and Ljubljana amongst other places. Seems likely to have been popularised by locksmiths. See: http://www.locksmiths-r-us.co.uk/blog/index.php/locks-of-love/
To be honest, I can’t tell you anything you don’t already know about Bryggebroen, and not much more about the padlock tradition. Like you, I’d crossed the bridge many times, and had seen the padlocks long before I understood what they meant. When I actually took the time to look at a couple and decode their engraved or varnished pledges, often weathered to the point of indecipherability, I found myself drawn to the simplicity and significance of the gesture.
When Julie and I were planning our wedding, I mentioned the padlocks to Julie and she also liked the idea. Ours were in her handbag as we walked up the steps to Råduspladsen. A couple of weeks later we ventured out in sub-zero temperatures to do the deed.
I think there’s something humble about clicking that little lock in place – one small, hopeful symbol of permanence in a chaotic world. No religious hoo-hah, no ceremony – in fact I don’t think I ever spoke to anyone else about. The beauty of it is its intuitiveness – and I love the fact that your post draws attention to the obviousness of what you have to do.
Walk onto the bridge together and find a space. Look each other in the eye, click the lock and then throw the key out as far as you can.
There are two padlocks in the picture, you’ll notice. The big one has “S J” for Julie and I; the small one has “L” for Lily – our two-year-old daughter. We all went out onto Bryggebroen that night. Each padlock comes with a spare key, so Julie threw hers first then I mine. Lily threw hers last, letting go with a happy squeal as she did.
Then we all went home for dinner. And you know what? It did feel a bit different from then on.
I’m not Sean, but the padlocks are a hung there by couples as a symbol of love, it’s a tradition mirrored from Paris. More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_padlocks 🙂