Urban Legends of Budapest – The Padlock Story
Some say Valentine’s Day is nothing more than the international conspiration of florists, card makers and restaurants. Some say it only exists to shame single people. But let’s not get carried away. Let’s celebrate the day of cute little red hearts with a tradition that guarantees eternal love.
When you’re in love with The One (with the person that will hold your hand to keep your balance as well as theirs when you grow fragile and bent-backed), you place a padlock with your names carved on it on a fence, and as long as the padlock lasts, your love won’t fade away.
The tradition of padlocking was started in the fair city of Pécsin the mid-70s. The exact date of the first one placed on the decorative but functionless iron fence in downtown Janus Pannonius utca is unknown, but legend has it, it was not lovers who came up with the idea. Apparently, it was freshly graduated students of thePécsUniversity(other sources mention a neighboring high school) celebrated the end of their studies by clicking the padlock of their lockers on the bars. But as there are more lovers than graduating university students, the fence became a place for pilgrimage for couples. If you’re sure that the person you’re with is for keeps (the padlock wall is not for making an impression on your recent fling), get an engraved padlock with your names and your anniversary (optional), click it on the fence, and throw away the key. Or be more environmentally conscious at take it to a scrap metal collector. And you can live happily ever after…
Fences and Padlocks
You don’t have to travel to Pécs for solely romantic reasons though. There are fences to put your padlock on all around the country (in Miskolc, Szekszárd, Nyíregyháza, Győr, Békéscsaba, Vác, Székesfehérvár, Szombathely, Tata and Veszprém and on bridges far and wide.) Sometimes local authorities can’t see the romantic side of things when it comes to bridges and trees. Tiszavirág Bridge in Szolnok became an instant hit with padlockers, however, the one-year-old lightweight construction bridge was feared to be unable to carry the weight of the padlocks, so they were removed. Also in Budapest, the padlocks were originally placed on a fence around the ‘Lovers Tree’ on Erzsébet tér, then the bars were removed and romantically but not environmentally inclined people kept on padlocking the branches of the tree itself. Fortunately, a new structure was erected on the square (opposite the 5th district City Hall), so the tree can grow freely, and your love may last forever.