Many tourist who visit Cologne, Germany, chose the city because of the famous Cologne Cathedral that stands close to the Rhine River. Those who arrive in Cologne, Germany by train, enter the city either from the Köln Hauptbahnhof or Köln Messe/Deutz train stations. The two train stations sit on opposite sides of the Rhine River. However, the stations are connected by a bridge that allows trains and pedestrian traffic to cross. Many tourist including myself tend to call the bridge the Cologne Bridge or Cathedral Bridge because of its location. However the bridge is officially named the The Hohenzollern Bridge. In the German language, the bridge is pronounced and spelled as the Hohenzollernbrücke. The bridge was officially named after the House of Hohenzollern. In this article we will refer to the bridge as both the Cologne and Hohenzollern Bridge.
When the The Hohenzollern Bridge was constructed at the beginning of the 20th century, German and Prussian Monarchs ruled the German territories under the House of Hohenzollern. It was not until post World War I and the German Revolution when the Monarchy fell.
The Hohenzollern Bridge stood until World War II when the German Army blew it up to prevent the Allies from entering Cologne. The German army was actually destroying many bridges across Germany in order to slow down the Allies from entering Germany as the war was coming to a conclusion. After the War, the bridge was reconstructed into its present day form. Understanding the history behind the bridge can have a significant impact on people when they first cross the bridge. The fact that the bridge was used as a strategic mechanism during World War II is not known to many tourists that cross it every day. The fact that a country blew up a part of its own infrastructure is quite daunting. Such is war! However, seventy three years later, the Hohenzollern Bridge represents just the opposite of war. Of course, the bridge is still used to transport trains and pedestrians across the Rhine River. However, the bridge’s architecture has been infiltrated by the people. Locals and tourists have all claimed the bridge for themselves utilizing the most powerful concept in human history….Love!
The human concept of love is defined on the Hohenzollern Bridge by the use of padlocks otherwise known in Cologne as Love locks! Couples claim their love for each other by attaching a padlock to the fences along the pedestrian walkways of the bridge. Once the padlock or shall we say “Love Lock,” is attached, the couples walk over to the rail and throw the key into the Rhine River. Throwing the key away is a symbol that their love will never be broken. While the majority of the Love Locks attached to the fences on the Cologne Bridge are placed there by couples, there are people who attach Love Locks to the Cologne Bridge as a tribute to lost loved ones. In essence, it’s a heartfelt tribute to the human spirit. To see it in person, is mesmerizing.
Love Locks on the Cologne Bridge (The Hohenzollern Bridge)
History of Love Locks
The concept of attaching Love Locks to bridges is not a notion that is pertinent to just the Hohenzollern bridge in Cologne ,Germany. We have seen love locks attached to bridges in other European cities especially Paris and Rome. The Ponte Milvio bridge in Rome is the only other place in Europe that we have seen to be as covered in an aspect ratio of bridge to locks as the Cologne Bridge.
It’s not just bridges that lovers attach their symbols of commitment. In the Russian City of Moscow by the Vodootvodny Canal, there are man made metal trees that are filled with Love Locks. On many streets around the world in Big Cities, couples will find any sort of metal piping or fencing along city infrastructures to attach Love Locks.
There are many stories circulating over the history of Love Locks. Some historians argue that the history of Love Locks goes all the way back to Ancient China. However, the infiltration of Love Locks on bridges worldwide is based on a very recent 21st Century phenomena. That phenomena is attributed to the popularity of Federico Moccia’s best selling novel, Ho Voglia di Te (I Want You). The novel depicts a young couple attaching a Love Lock to a bridge in Rome, Italy as a symbol of their eternal love. The novel was eventually turned into a movie that attracted millions of young adults triggering the Love Locks phenomena.
The attachment of Love Locks to the infrastructure of public places has developed concerns among public officials. Concern over the weight of the love locks and the threat that weight may pose to a bridge’s stability has caused many cities to remove the Love Locks from their bridges. In recent years over twenty thousand Love Locks were removed from the Southgate Footbridge in Melbourne, Australia. Four years ago in Paris, a section of the Pont des Arts Bridge collapsed due to the weight of the Love Locks. Parisian officials no longer allow Love Locks on their bridges.
In Cologne, Germany, officials estimates that the massive amount of Love locks chained to the Hohenzollern bridge has added over forty tons of weight to the bridge. Nonetheless, the Love Locks have become such a symbol of the bridge, city officials have declined to remove them because of any weight issues due to the locks. When you look at the comparison of the weight of the Love Locks to the weight of one German ICE train that weighs around 400 tons, there seems to be in reality, no comparison. The fact that the infrastructure of the Cologne bridge is so strong as to carry over 1200 trains a day that weigh around 400 tons each, contributes to the argument that German engineering and steel is among the finest in the world.
In early July of 2018, some of the Love Locks from the Cologne Bridge were removed not because of weight issues, but because some of them were sticking out so far that they were posing a risk to pedestrians. and cyclist. As the Love Locks in some areas engulfed the fences, people beagen attaching Love Locks on top of Love Locks until it became unsafe.
Exploring the Cologne (Hohenzollern) Bridge
We decided to explore the Hohenzollern bridge by walking across the bridge from the Cathedral side across the Rhine River and then back on the opposite side of the bridge. There is a pedestrian walkway on both sides of the bridge. Finding the entrance to the northern side of the bridge was a little tricky. We had to go through the Hauptbahnhof Train Station and then walk down to the river side. From the river side, there are steps that will take pedestrians up to the northern pedestrian crossing on the bridge. Below are some pictures of the area surrounding the start of the bridge on the Hauptbahnhof Train Station Northwest side. The first picture is the view from the top of the steps at the start of the bridge. There is a small little market at the beginning of the bridge where people can buy pretzels, drinks and assorted trinkets. You can also see the back of the Hauptbahnhof Train Station.
At the start of the crossing, the Love Locks are displayed on a pretty consistent basis. Nonetheless, the concentration of Love Locks is not as heavy on the north side of the bridge as opposed to the south side. There are some spots where there are very few Love Locks. It is possible that these were some of the sections where the Love Locks were removed. However, we think it more based on the northern side just not having as many pedestrians crossings as opposed to the southern side of the bridge.
As we traveled across the north side of the Cologne Bridge we came across a metal figurine perched out on a pole. There was no description of the metal figurine and no one seemed to be able to identify the artwork in any way. The notion that the metal figurine depicts a human being walking carefully on a thin rail can be interpreted many ways. Our interpretation was it was the human condition trying to find balance through the river of life. Or it could mean something completely different. Such is Art!
Like any pedestrian sidewalk in Europe, the concrete and brick streets are always shared by pedestrians and cyclist. While Germany may not have as many bicyclists as Amsterdam, we saw a good share of cyclist crossing the Cologne Bridge in both directions. The Cologne Bridge features a wide sidewalk on both sides that offers enough room to walk across comfortably.
While most people cross the bridge to take in the majestic views of the Cologne Cathedral, one can not discount the incredible views of the Rhine River while crossing the bridge.
The views from the north and south sides of the Cologne Bridge are very different from each other. Look at the dramatically different view of the Right bank seen from the south side of the Cologne Bridge on the picture below, when compared to the northern view of the Left Bank from the picture above.
Choosing the correct side to cross on the Cologne Bridge
Most people cross the Cologne Bridge on the south side. One of the reasons most people cross from the south side is that the northern sides entrances are tough to find as we mentioned before. It’s especially tough to find on the Left Bank of the Rhine River. Furthermore we don’t recommend exiting the Cologne Bridge on the Right Bank from the northern side. The northeast side of the Cologne Bridge (Hohenzollern) empties into a rather delosite area. It’s not a place that I would recommend walking through at night. Even in the bright daylight, I felt a little uncomfortable in that one spot. The area leads to the Köln Messe/Deutz train station. It’s only a three minute walk from the end of the bridge to the station, but it still is a distressing three minutes.
One can still reach the Köln Messe/Deutz train stations from the south side. In fact, the front entrance to the Köln Messe/Deutz train stations is on the south side. Exiting from the northern side of the Cologne Bridge will take you to the back end of the Köln Messe/Deutz train station. So take our advice, if your crossing the Cologne Bridge, take the south side across. Take a look at the pictures below comparing both exits and you will understand what I am talking about.
Exit from the north side on the Right Bank of the Rhine River
If you are going to walk across the Hohenzollern Bridge, we also recommend walking across on the southern side because it’s physically easier to cross on the southern side. The crossing begins about a quarter mile behind the Cologne Cathedral. There are no stairs to the pedestrian crossing on the southern side on both ends of the bridge. The entrance to the southern sides are surrounded by wide open parcels of land and many people.
The Historical Statues on the Hohenzollern Bridge
At both ends of the Cologne Bridge (Hohenzollern Bridge) are four marvelous statues of historical German Figures. The four statues represent former German and Prussian emperors and kings of the Hohenzollern family. On the Right Bank of the Rhine River are the statues of William Frederick Louis also known as William I who was a Prussian King and the first emperor of Germany. Also on the Right Bank is a statue of Frederick William IV who was a Prussian King in the mid nineteenth century.
On the Left Bank of the Rhine River are statues of Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert von Hohenzollern also know as William II. The statue of William II can also be seen clearly from the wonderful beer gardens that sit below the Cologne Bridge on the Left Bank. The final of the four statues that surround the Cologne Bridge represents Frederick III, a German Emperor and Prussian King who was the son of William I. Frederick III only sat on the throne for a little over three months in 1888.
The city of Cologne Germany offers so many wonderful attractions for tourists. It’s not a city that is overcrowded like Rome or Paris. It’s a city that still has that small community vibe, yets hosts some of the most spectacular sites in the world. The food, the beer, the people, and of course the Cologne Bridge and Cathedral make Cologne, Germany a must stop for anyone planning a European Vacation. One can spend hours on the Cologne Bridge, gazing at the Love Locks, Statues, Cologne Cathedral, Rhine River, Cologne City views and the people themselves. All for only the cost of your time. Time well worth spent.