The Pont des Arts in Paris and the canals of Venice may be renowned for their romantic atmospheres, but the world is full of lesser-know, but equally passionate, places.
1. El Callejon del Beso (The Alley of the Kiss), Guanajuato, Mexico
In the tiny city of Guanajuato, Mexico, sits an alleyway so narrow that the balconies of the opposing houses look like they’re ‘kissing’ each other. Every day, but especially during February, couples queue up to share a smooch in the alley of the kiss. If you kiss a loved one on the third step, legend has it, you’re guaranteed 15 years of happiness. Well worth the claustrophobia!
How did a cramped alley (the distance measures just 27 inches) in a city with tons of cramped little alleys come to have such significance for visiting lovers? Well, according to local legend, a rich family owned one of the houses and the daughter of the family, whose bedroom overlooked the alley, fell in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks after spying him one day.
Not willing to let their disparate social statuses stop him, the boy rented the house opposite so he and his secret love could share some clandestine kisses across the narrow alley.
Unfortunately, the story has it that the girl’s father stabbed her to death after discovering the relationship. This prompted her lover to hurl himself out the window onto the cobbles of the alleyway below, or in some versions of the story, into the main shaft of La Mina de la Valenciana (the Valentian Mine).
Visitors can share a kiss in the narrow alley or even hang love-locks from the balcony bars (but please don’t – that shit is played out.)
For more information visit Travel Guanajuato, Mexico City
2. Most Ljubavi (Love Bridge), Vrnjacka Banja, Serbia
Ever wonder where that annoying ‘love-lock’ tradition comes from? Well, the earliest mentions of them – dating back over 100 years – relate to a pedestrian bridge in the Serbian village of Vrnjacka Banja.
The story behind the ‘love locks’ is predictably sad: as Europe began gearing up for World War 1, a young school teacher named Nada fell in love with an army officer named Relja and the two got engaged before Relja was sent to war.
But Relja forgot all about poor Nada after encountering a Greek siren while on deployment in Corfu, and never returned to Vrnjacka Banja. A disconsolate Nada stopped eating, wasted away and died.
When other girls with boyfriends away at war heard Nada’s story, they began affixing padlocks with their names, and their lovers’ names, to the bridge where the couple used to meet (Most Ljubavi) in the hopes of avoiding Nada’s pitiful fate. The keys of the locks are then thrown into the river below, thereby cementing a couples’ ties.
The hundreds of locks now adorning the bridge stand as a poignant WW1 memorial as well as a tragic reminder of one woman’s heartbreaking end.
3. White Bridge (Beli Most), Vranje, Serbia
Interestingly, there is another ‘love bridge’ in Serbia, the White Bridge, in Vranje, with a similarly tragic backstory.
The story goes like this: Aisha, a Turkish girl who was the daughter of local honcho, Ottoman governor of Vranje, Selim Pasha. At some point Aisha fell in love with lowly Turkish shepherd Stojan.
One day they were spotted at their meeting place, the riverside, by Aisha’s father. Selim tried to kill Stojan but Aisha leapt in front of her beloved to protect him, and died as a result. Stojan killed himself immediately afterwards.
The bridge was built by Aisha’s mother in memory of her daughter’s tragic demise. A marble plaque on the bridge reads:
“This bridge is called White Bridge (Beli Most), and it will serve to help people. The water that is flowing beneath it, will serve for the people’s health! Passers-by, cross the bridge and cross it back. You will see that it was built for the good of every man. Muhamed, Mustafa, help the human Aisha the owner. Guardian, forgive the sins of the beautiful and good Aisha and the sins of her parents!”
“Cursed shall be the one who divides what love unites.”
4. Juliet’s Balcony, Verona, Italy
Now for something a little more high-profile. Every year hundreds of thousands of visitors – many of them honeymooners and loved-up couples – pay a visit to 13th century house in Verona where Juliet Capulet, star-crossed lover of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, is once said to have lived.
Let us be clear: it is certainly not the balcony of Shakespeare’s teen lover, and we know this for several reasons. Firstly, Romeo and Juliet is a fictional drama, duh, Juliet Capulet never existed and Shakespeare never even visited Verona.
Also, the balcony in question was added in the twentieth century, Romeo and Juliet was written in 1595 (ish) and the house was built in the 1200s, but what’s historical rigour among friends?
The house itself once belong to the Dal Cappello family (and still bears the family’s crest), which sounds similar enough to Capulet for the whole scenario to be sort of plausible, I suppose.
Visitors flock to the site each year to glimpse the balcony from whence Juliet uttered the famous ‘Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?’, and to take pictures with the bronze statue of her in the courtyard.
Over the years many visitors, no doubt those not entirely confident in their love’s chances of enduring beyond a visit to Verona, have taken to sticking messages with their names – often secured with CHEWING GUM – to the villa’s wall in the hopes Juliet will cast a lucky spell on them, and their love will last for eternity.
Naturally, sticking chewing gum all over a historical site is a bad idea, so don’t be an idiot or Verona county council will fine you €500 (true story).
Apart from the chance to glimpse Juliet’s balcony, take statue selfies and stick chewing gum all over the walls, you can also admire the furniture and the hilarious velveteen costumes worn by the actors in MGM’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (not a patch on Luhrmann’s, obviously).
For more information visit Tourism Verona.
5. Tomb of Victor Noir, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
Paris’ famous Père Lachaise Cemetery contains many familiar corpses (Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf etc) and as a result is a popular, if wildly inappropriate, tourist hot-spot.
One grave, that of Victor Noir, is especially popular with those seeking a husband or help conceiving a baby.
Noir, a French journalist, became a symbol of the imperial injustice after being shot and killed by Prince Pierre Bonaparte in 1870 (Noir was just there to organise a duel between Paschal Grousset and Bonaparte). Bonaparte’s subsequent acquittal caused enormous public outrage and Noir became a martyr to the cause of French republicanism.
Noir’s tomb is adorned with a life-sized bronze statue, designed to appear as if he had just fallen dead on the street. His hat lies next to him.
But not entirely dead: Noir appears to have what Wikipedia euphemistically refers to as as “very noticeable protuberance” in the trouser department.
This “noticebable protuberance” has made the tomb one of the most visited in the cemetary. Legend has it that placing a flower in Noir’s upturned hat after kissing him on the lips and rubbing his crotch will ‘enhance fertility, bring a blissful sex life, or, in some versions, a husband within the year’.
And so, Noir’s crotch, lips and nose are all worn smooth and shiny from the affections of millions of man-hungry, baby-wanting visitors.
Concerned cemetary wardens attempted to erect a fence in 2004 to protect Noir from the ravages of touchy tourists, but it was torn down following protests.
For more information visit Visit Paris.
© 2017 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.