Charles bridge is famous not only for its rich history but as a place for couples to attach ‘love locks’. The Association of Artists now believes they have removed an incredible 13.2 tonnes of these locks over the past 11 years.
Roman Kotrč of the Association has taken lock splitters and a bucket to the grilles on Charles Bridge every Tuesday morning for the past five years. He then devotes some of raw materials to artists for recycling. They also plan to feature them in an exhibition on modern-day symbols at the Prague City Gallery.
The Association has been granted funding to help with their removals over the years, allowing them to buy new shears, cutters, containers, pliers, and gloves.
This custom was first popularised by Italian tourists and has since spread to Prague, where locks appear on many bridges.
Legend has it that if you touch the relief and make a wish, your wish will come true. It’s therefore an ideal place for couples to write their names on a lock, make a wish then throw the key into the river.
The problem is that the number of locks attached to the grid makes the bridge very heavy, which can cause structural damage. “The lamp has been destroyed by the weight of the locks and our association has already financed its repair twice,” Kotrč explained. Also, according to Kotrč, inexperienced people try to cut the locks off and accidentally cut the grid itself.
The solution is not simple. There are ongoing negotiations to create a heart of iron bars on the Náplavka riverbank, but no conclusion has been reached. Prague is also trying to improve tourists knowledge of the damage these locks can cause.