Banking on love

Looking for a romantic place to spend Valentine's Day? Forget Paris or Verona - couples are now going to a small town in Slovakia, where lovers go to preserve their stories for eternity.

The Epicentre of Love non-governmental organisation in the small town of Banska Stiavnica venerates a real love story - between Slovak poet Andrej Sladkovic and his muse, Marina.

The "Love Bank" is the main attraction of an exhibition commemorating the world's longest love poem, Marina, by Sladkovic. Written in 1844, the 2,900-line-long poem tells the tale of the doomed love between the poet and Maria Pischlova.

The duo were star-crossed lovers but, unlike Romeo and Juliet, their tragic romance is a true story. Pischlova's parents shunned the poor poet and forced her to marry a wealthy gingerbread maker.

The house where Pischlova lived in the former silver mining town is now known as the Epicentre of Love.

For many couples, it is the "Love Bank" that attracts them to the site, where they can store and preserve mementoes of their romance.

A long tunnel in the basement of the house, where this couple is taking a selfie, has been turned into a vault with 100,000 tiny drawers, one for each letter, gap and punctuation mark of the original 174-year-old manuscript of Marina.

Lovers can only make "deposits" into these drawers a few times a year, and the next date is today - Valentine's Day.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2018, with the headline 'Banking on love'. Print Edition | Subscribe