15 Landmarks With Romantic Origin Stories
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Chocolates, cards, and romantic movies aren’t the only ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Around the world, there are fascinating landmarks that are steeped in romantic legends and historical love stories — here are 15 spots to visit with your Valentine.
Heart Island, Thousand Islands, New York
Part of the Thousand Islands archipelago on New York’s northern border, Heart Island is the epitome of a romantic getaway. The island itself was reshaped by hotel magnate George Boldt to be in the shape of a heart. On the land, he built his namesake castle — a spectacular medieval-style estate — as a tribute to his wife Louise. Tragically, however, she died just a few months before construction was completed. Now, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority owns the property, and landscapers regularly sculpt hearts into the gardens and around the island for people to find.
Singing Sands Beach, Bete Grise, Michigan
When you walk along the beach in Bete Grise, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the sand seems to sing underneath your feet. Or at least, it sounds like the squeaking noise you’d hear from a windshield wiper. Legend has it that the “song” comes from the spirit of a local Indigenous woman who lost her beloved in the roiling Lake Superior waters. When she calls for him, the sand sings. You won’t be able to replicate the sound at home, either; once sand is removed from the beach, it stops singing.
Sweetheart Abbey, Dumfries, Scotland
When Scotland’s Lord John Balliol died in 1268, his widow, Lady Dervorguilla of Galloway, was devastated. To keep her love close at hand, she had his heart embalmed and put into an ivory casket that she took everywhere with her. In 1273, she founded the Dulce Cor, or Sweetheart Abbey, in his memory. She died 16 years later, and she and her husband’s heart were buried in the Cistercian abbey. The site is now a ruin, but you can pay homage to Lady Dervorguilla by stopping at the stone statue of her (carrying her husband’s heart, of course) in the south transept of the church.General3ptsTest Your Knowledge!Chocolate chip cookies were invented in which state?PLAY!
Dobroyd Castle, Todmorden, England
Dobroyd Castle was a true labor of love that took three years to build, and was finished in 1869 in this small town in West Yorkshire. The wealthy heir to an industrial fortune, John Fieldene was in love with a local weaver, Ruth Stansfield, but she would only marry him if he built her a castle. So he did. The monogram “JFR” is carved in spots scattered around the 66-room castle as a testament to their love for one another.
Flowerpot Island, Ontario, Canada
Alongside Flowerpot Island at the tip of Bruce Peninsula in Ontario stand two tall, peculiar rock formations that resemble oversized pots. (At one time, there were three, but one fell over in 1903.) According to an Indigenous legend, a prince and a princess from warring tribes fell in love and, determined to be together, left their tribes in the middle of the night. They had almost reached a sacred island when they discovered they were being followed. The couple turned their canoe to the island, hoping a spirit there would keep them safe. Once they touched shore, the two lovers were turned into stone flowerpots so they would always be together.
Pelister Eyes, Pelister National Park, Macedonia
The Pelister Eyes are formed by two lakes on Baba Mountain, known as Big Lake and Small Lake. According to local legend, the pair of glacial lakes formed when two sisters fell in love with the same boy. The girls’ mother didn’t approve of a marriage to the boy, named Pelister, by either of the sisters. She sent them away to the mountains, where they were cursed to be close together but always just out of the other’s eyesight. The girls began to cry heartbroken tears — for the loss of both Pelister and each other. Their tears formed the lakes, which are located in Macedonia’s oldest national park.
Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Perhaps the most famous romantic landmark in the world, the Taj Mahal was built between 1631 and 1648 in Agra, located about 125 miles south of Delhi. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan had it commissioned to honor the memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The entire building serves as her tomb, and her mausoleum stands in the center of the main chamber, with Shah Jahan’s mausoleum adjacent to hers. Both of them are empty, though; the real graves are underneath the building in the crypt.
Iguazu Falls, Brazil and Argentina
The legend of Iguazu Falls’ creation centers around one specific spot: Devil’s Throat. It’s one of the widest spots of the river and the largest single cascade in this massive South American waterfall. Before the Spanish came to the area, the local Guarani tribe had a tradition of sacrificing a maiden to M’Boi, the serpent god living in the river. One day M’Boi saw the maiden Naipi walking along the river, and he fell in love. He demanded Naipi be the next sacrifice; however, Naipi was engaged to the warrior Taruba. Taruba and Naipi made plans to run away before the sacrifice could occur, but M’Boi caught them, and in his anger, he forced the earth to split, which caused the falls, turned Naipi into a rock, and turned Taruba into a palm tree high above her. The couple is forever together, but just out of reach.
Yellow Mountain, Anhui Province, China
Similar to the now-removed “love locks” of Pont des Arts Bridge in Paris, the metal chains lining the path on China’s Yellow Mountain are covered in padlocks from couples professing eternal love. This spot in the path is where legend says a couple sealed their fate together forever. A young wealthy girl fell in love with a poor boy, and her father would not allow them to marry. Instead, he arranged a marriage for her to a rich man. Just before the wedding, though, the poor boy came to get the girl and they ran away to Yellow Mountain, where they held hands and jumped off the cliff together.
Alley of the Kiss, Guanajuato, Mexico
Behind the Plaza de Los Angeles in Guanajuato, there’s a colorful alley so narrow that people on balconies on either side can lean over and kiss each other. And that’s exactly what happened in the legend that inspired the alley’s name. There once was a girl from a wealthy family who fell in love with a poor boy. The boy rented a room in the building across the alley from hers, with windows opening to one another. They would meet at the windows, lean out, and kiss each other. Unfortunately, their story met a tragic end when the girl’s father found out and killed her in a fit of rage, but the alleyway remains as an enduring symbol of their love.
Coral Castle, Homestead, Florida
The Coral Castle outside of Miami isn’t so much a love story as it is a story of lost love. Edward Leedskalnin, the Latvian immigrant who built the castle in 1923, had just been jilted by his bride at the altar. In response, he decided he would prove to everyone that he was living a remarkable life — by building this unusual structure. The castle isn’t quite a castle, and it isn’t actually made of coral, either; instead, Leedskalnin painstakingly carved every piece from limestone himself over a 28-year period.
Chocolate Hills, Bohol Province, Philippines
The Chocolate Hills are a collection of more than 1,000 small, conical brown hills that get their name from the brown grass covering them. Even geologists aren’t sure how they formed, but they have several purported origin stories — including one related to love. Back in the time of giants, one named Arogo was in love with Aloya, a mortal woman. When Aloya died, Arogo was heartbroken and couldn’t stop crying. His tears formed the hills. In the other stories, the hills were formed by giants who fought, throwing things at one another, or built by ancient Egyptians.
Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
The tale of Finn McCool and Giant’s Causeway — a series of 40,000 large black basalt columns that jut into the sea off the coast of Northern Island — is built on the partnership between a man and his wife. One day long ago, the Irish giant McCool got into a fight with the Scottish giant Benandonner. McCool headed to Scotland to challenge Benandonnar to a duel. To get there, he threw giant rocks into the sea, creating a causeway. But on his way across, he saw that Benandonnar was a much bigger giant, so he ran home to ask his wife for help. She dressed him up as a baby, and when Benandonnar came over to fight McCool, his wife said he wasn’t home. Benandonnar saw the massive baby, though, and fearing his size, he ran back across the sea to Scotland, tearing up chunks of rock along the way and destroying the joined path between the two countries.
Juliet’s Wall, Verona, Italy
In fair Verona, home to fictional Romeo and Juliet, a house once owned by the Cappello family is known as the Casa di Giulietta, or Juliet’s house. There’s a courtyard with a bronze statue of Juliet and a balcony put up in the 1930s honoring one of the most enduring love stories of all time. To get to the courtyard, you need to walk through a tunnel, where you can find thousands of love notes to the star-crossed lover. Leave your own by sticking it up with chewing gum (like most people do) or tape.
Xia Hai City God Temple, Taipei, Taiwan
In Chinese mythology, there’s a love god named Yue Lao, who has a book of marriages that will find your soulmate and bind you two together for life. People pray to statues of Yue Lao all over, but the most popular one to visit is in Taipei’s Xia Hai City God Temple. Successful couples (and there are many) come back to leave an offering of wedding cookies for Yue Lao. Those cookies are part of a ritual for people seeking their love. To pray to Yue Lao, you have to pay an admission fee, light incense, pray to three separate gods (the City God, his wife, and Yue Lao) with as much detail as possible about the person you want to be with, eat wedding cookies from successful couples, and then wear a red string with a Yue Lao amulet that you can only remove once you’ve found your partner.
Written by Jennifer Billock