Love Legends Around the World
By Alexandra Potter
The language of love is universal, but travel the world and you'll discover many different customs, fascinating tales, and magical legends about love. From kissing underneath the Bridge of Sighs in Venice; to locking a padlock to the Pont des Arts in Paris; to having a red string tied around your finger and that of your soulmate in China, the list is endless... rather like love itself.
So grab your passport and join me as we go around the globe on this magical, mystery tour called LOVE.
First stop: Italy
Home to some of the most beautiful cities, gorgeous architecture and stunning landscapes, Italy has to be the Godfather of romance. Wander through the labyrinth of cobbled streets and piazzas, and around each corner you'll discover fountains, balconies and bridges, many of which have legends attached.
The Bridge of Sighs, Venice
Connecting the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace to the new prison, it was the sighs of the condemned, taking their last view of Venice before they were imprisoned, after which this bridge is named. However, local legend has it that if lovers are to kiss beneath it at sunset, as the bells of St Mark’s are ringing, they will be guaranteed eternal love. Is it true? Judging by the traffic jam of gondolas constantly underneath it, filled with kissing lovers from all over the world, I would imagine so...
The Lovers’ Fountain, Rome
Known locally as the 'lo', this unassuming fountain is often overlooked by its grander and more famous neighbour, the Trevi Fountain. During the First and Second World Wars couples would visit the fountain before a soldier left for the frontline. The tearful signorina would fill a glass from the fountain which her lover would drink. The glass would then be broken to symbolise their love which, unlike the glass, could never be broken. This romantic ritual is still repeated today by many lovers who have to be parted... in the hope that the magic of the fountain will reunite them again.
Romeo and Juliet's balcony, Verona
Shakespeare's tragic love story is set in Verona. Tourists flock to see the famous balcony where Juliet uttered the immortal words, 'wherefore art thou, Romeo?' and lovers queue up to re-enact the scene and take photos. It's a centuries-old story, yet not many people realise that the balcony was only built in the 1950s for the tourists. Not that it dampens the enthusiasm and appeal of standing on Juliet's balcony and calling to your lover. Recreating the famous scene, but hopefully not the tragic ending.
Next stop: France
Otherwise known as the 'city of love', France's capital, Paris, is a favourite destination for couples from all over the world. What could be more romantic than strolling hand-in-hand with your lover along the banks of the Seine? Well, how about declaring your undying love by locking a padlock to one of the famous bridges?
Pont des Arts & Pont de l'Archevêché, Paris
Walk across these two bridges in Paris and you'll see thousands of padlocks bearing lovers’ initials. This is a fairly new tradition, but one that lovers today have embraced, due to the legend that if you put a lock on the bridge, your love will last forever. However there is a difference between each bridge so be very careful where you put your lock! The Pont des Arts is for your husband or wife, but the Pont de l'Archevêché is for your lover.
So lock up your love and throw away the key...
Turkish dowry rugs, Istanbul.
Originating in the Turkish countryside hundreds of years ago and most often found now in the antique rug shops in the Grand Souks of Istanbul, are these beautiful, age-old dowry rugs. Woven from natural-dyed wool, in an array of colours and patterns, these stunning rugs were once part of the bride's dowry. But what makes these rugs extra special are the pieces of thread which friends and villagers tied onto the rug as it was woven, each thread symbolising their wishes for the happy couple. Forget the traditional wedding registry, what could be a more romantic and wonderful wedding gift than a rug made up of hundreds of good wishes? Let's hope that all of them came true...
Next: China and Japan
Red String of Destiny, China and Japan
Otherwise known as the Red Thread of Fate or Destiny, this is an ancient Chinese legend that is also found in Japanese legend. According to myth, the gods tie an invisible red string around the ankles (or little fingers) of two people who are destined to be soulmates. Regardless of geography, circumstance or time, these two people will be together. This magical cord may stretch or tangle, but it will never break. So, for all those of you out there who are currently single and wondering if you'll ever meet 'the one', if you believe in this legend, you are already connected to someone. It's just a matter of waiting until this invisible thread leads you to them...
Last stop: India
Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Described as a 'teardrop on the cheek of eternity' by Rabindranath Tagore; the 'embodiment of all things pure' by Rudyard Kipling, and by its creator, Emperor Shah Jahan as making the 'sun and the moon shed tears from our eyes', the Taj Mahal is the embodiment of love. One of the seventh wonders of the world, it was built in 1631 by Shah Jahan after his favourite wife died in childbirth. On her deathbed her dying wish to him was for a symbol of their love. The result is the Taj Mahal. Even the most hardened cynic can't fail to be moved by this magical building and it's a favourite with lovers and tourists from all over the world who come to visit, take photographs, and bask in its timelessness. If ever there was a true love legend, the Taj Mahal is it.
If all this talk of love has left you in the mood, read Alexandra Potter's new book The Love Detective, out 16th January.