Love around the world

By Danielle Wright

In honour of Valentine’s Day, Danielle Wright finds monuments to love in the unlikeliest places

If you know where to look, there are inspiring monuments to love all over the world. Photo / Thinkstock
If you know where to look, there are inspiring monuments to love all over the world. Photo / Thinkstock

When travelling, it's often the monuments to war that are most visited - Nelson's Column in London, the Twin Towers in New York, the Berlin Wall. But, if you know where to look, there are inspiring monuments to everyday love as well.

European love locks

In Paris, the city of love, the Pont de l'Archevech, just behind the Notre-Dame Cathedral, is known as the Love Bridge because it's covered in padlocks with lovers' initials scrawled across them, and the keys thrown in the Seine to seal couples' love.

In Rome, the bridge Ponte Milvio is covered in these "love locks", said to be inspired here by the book I Want You by Italian author Federico Moccia.

In Serbia, they are attached to the bridge Most Ljubavi (Bridge of Love) in honour of a broken-hearted local schoolmistress who used to meet her lover on the bridge, before he ran away with another woman.

Locals hope their own love can be secured against this happening to them, by throwing away the key, a sentiment mirrored across the world from the Wild Pacific Trail in Canada to the Ha'Penny Bridge in Dublin.

Philosophical Parisians have voiced their disdain for the love locks; not so much because of rust or unsightliness but because they don't believe love should be locked away, that love should be freedom.

Modern Russian monuments

Valentine's Day is not celebrated widely in Russia, and Moscow had no monument dedicated to love until 2004. But it seems the city is now showing its softer side with Gregory Pototsky's Love Tree, in Trubetsky Park, a sculpture with the face of a man and a woman emerging from a tree.

The Moscow Hermitage Garden house is in the heart of Moscow where lovers are said to come to make a wish. Russia also has love locks covering one of the purpose-built iron trees on a bridge across the Vodootvodny Canal, as well as a 'reconciliation bench' at the end of Luzhkov Bridge, just in case love has soured.

Romantics beware: don't visit the western Russian city of Belgorod, which banned Valentine's Day in 2011. A spokesperson for the governor's office in Belgorod, Grigory Bolotnov, said at the time: "We are not talking about true love here, (Valentine's Day) is only about being in love. Society needs to think about the consequences. We could have started celebrating a day of vodka or beer just as well ..."

Then again, a day celebrating vodka or beer may well have led to the romantic love Bolotnov fears.

Urban Ukrainian sculptures

Romance is strong in Ukrainian cities with urban sculptures dedicated to lovers, as well as attractions such as the Love Tunnel in the town of Klevan near Rivne.

Beautiful greenery creates the tunnel for a romantic walk surrounded by trees.

In Kharkov, there's the heartwarming Monument to Lovers sculpture by architecture students of two figures straining for a kiss. It's now a popular spot for newly weds.

Kiev has a sculpture called Chairs Having a Date. Two chairs sit on a park bench in a passageway, one's leg playfully touching the other. It's an endearing concept.

Love nests

Love comes in many forms and through history wasn't confined to man and wife. Petit Trianon in Versailles, for example, was originally built for Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV. The King's love died four years before it was finished so, in rather an unromantic fashion, he gave the chateau to his next mistress, Madame Du Barry.

Later, the chateau was gifted by Louis XVI to his bride, Marie-Antoinette and she used it as an escape from her formalities, sharing it with her closest friends, and by invitation only. Her decadent personal taste is on show - there's a private theatre, a 'temple of love', mirrored shutters to stop prying eyes, a lantern with symbols of Cupid and a table carved with images of her beloved pets.

Nature's love

What does a millionaire in love do to show his affection? Hotel magnate, George C. Boldt, of Waldorf-Astoria fame, bought his wife a heart-shaped island in the middle of the 1000 Islands in New York State. As if that wasn't romantic enough, he built Boldt Castle on it.

Unfortunately, like Madam de Pompadour, Mrs Boldt, died before completion of the castle. Instead of finding a new love, though, Mr Boldt stopped all work on the project and vowed never to return. It remained vacant for more than 70 years.

It is now a popular attraction with boat tours from the US and Canada stopping here.

Reviews are mixed, often mentioning the beauty of the grounds, but also the graffiti. It seems in need of some tender loving care of its own.

Using nature as monuments to love is common. There are many heart-shaped islands, including Tavarua Island Resort, Fiji, as well as heart-shaped forests, such as one in Cantabria, Northern Spain, and heart-shaped lakes, such as one near the top of Chembra Peak in India.

Lovers have also been flocking to Bruges to visit The Minnewater, translated as Lake of Love, filled with one of the symbols of Bruges, the white swan.

If you visit in winter, the lake might be shrouded in white. Take a balloon flight over the lake or travel in a horse-drawn carriage through the cobbled streets of this historic city.

It's a more affordable city of romance than Paris and is called "the Venice of the North".

Lovely wishes

To me, Kyoto is one of the most romantic cities with its beautiful temples and pretty landscape. One Buddhist temple, Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera is associated with wishes being granted, whether from drinking water from one of the ponds under the waterfall (don't drink from all three, it's said to be greedy), or visiting the Jishu Shrine, dedicated to the matchmaking God of Love. Walk between a pair of 'love stones' (positioned 18 metres apart) with your eyes closed - if you make it, your true love will be found.

Not being fluent in Japanese, I didn't know of the wishes that could have been granted when I visited, but I did find lots of things to fall in love with on the way up to the temple through the Higashiyama district with its authentic buildings housing small shops filled with pottery, crafts, sweets and souvenirs.

Thinking back, not long after visiting the temple, we found out we were having a baby, a wish I had worried would never come true, so maybe something in the water I drank at the temple granted me my wish. Next time, I will be ready with a list of requests for the gods.

In your neighbourhood

Closer to home, in virtually every neighbourhood, there are monuments to love, whether it's a simple message etched into a tree, a single red rose added to the wall of North Shore eatery Nicolino Restaurant every year, or the crafted love heart seat beside Campbell's Bay beach. If you look for it, you'll notice that love is, actually, everywhere.

- Herald on Sunday

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