We traveled to Moscow during the tail end of Winter, weeks before the city thaws out and Spring creeps in. At first we expected a grim welcome—grey skies, bone chilling winds, vacant faces—but if traveling to Russia the year before had taught us one thing, it was to expect the unexpected.
You see, unlike some cities that lose life during the Winter, Moscow comes alive. The city streets are bustling, Metro commuters are hustling, and life goes on as it has for centuries.
Moscow has a sweetness in the air unlike any city I’ve traveled through. The U.S. mainstream media would want us to believe that Russia is a place of despair, but I found the opposite to be true. The city streets are beautiful and charming and romantic.
Russian people are the same.
While Russians don’t generally smile at the drop of a hat like Americans do, a good proverb will tell you why: Смех без причины – признак дурачины (Smiling without a reason is a sign of idiocy). Russians don’t usually engage in small talk, either: Молчание – золото (Silence is Gold). But just because Russians are known for not outwardly show their emotions doesn’t mean they are cold-hearted.
In fact, in Moscow, romance blooms. Even at 22°.
No area is quite as romantic in Moscow as the Luzhkov Bridge, aka The Bridge of Kisses. This small bridge runs over the Moskva River and from afar it might not seem like much, but get closer and you can see why it’s such a place of importance to lovers.
Along the bridge there are metal trees that are full of padlocks left by couples. According to tradition, when people marry in Moscow, they write their names on a heart-shaped padlock, hang it to the metal tree frame and toss the key in the river. Throwing the key into the river is supposed to make the newlywed couple’s bond impossible to break. Butttt, if either of the couple wishes to break the bond, the husband/wife will have to dive into the river and retrieve the key to open the padlock!
Luzhkov Bridge was built in 1994 but it wasn’t until 2007 that the metal tree frames were “planted” on and around the bridge.
When we visited the bridge, it was a bitterly cold morning and I was sure we wouldn’t be lucky enough to capture a couple installing their own love lock… and then, 10 minutes later a young couple and their wedding guests arrived—champagne in hand!—to celebrate their love.
I watched as the groom picked up his bride, rocked her like a baby, and walked to the side of the bridge with their friends. From there the couple locked their padlock to one tree, kissed quickly then threw the padlock key into the river. Everyone cheered, even strangers.
The couple then walked off (the bride in sneakers!) and set off colorful flares in the park nearby in celebration of the day.
Some say Paris is the city of love and romance, but have those people ever been to Moscow?
Rachel Ruiz-Oakley is the Managing Editor of Slide Night.