12 of the World’s Most Fascinating Cemeteries
Human beings have honored their dead since the dawn of time – even Neanderthals buried the fallen. In fact, burial is the oldest of human rituals. From simple stone dolmens to the glory of the pyramids, humans have spent a lot of time and energy providing the deceased with a decent send-off. Modern cemeteries run the gamut from park-like settings with simple gravestones to elaborate cities of the dead with architecture rivaling buildings designed for the living. Basic or bombastic, cemeteries tell us how people died, but also how they lived..
I wouldn’t say it’s all fascinating; I tend to get a little melancholic when examining burial grounds. Again it isn’t the first site for visiting on a trip, unless of course we’re discussing Lenin’s Mausoleum at the Red Square. I recalled a deep strong emotion overwhelming me as my friends and I entered the tomb. It was dark, eerie, flanked by fierce Russian guards at attention near to Lenin’s body. We almost didn’t dare to breathe any harder than a short gasp enough to get some oxygen to the mind. Respectable indeed. Political inclinations aside, it was an amazing experience to see it first-hand, after reading all about this man, the histories behind him and his country.
I couldn’t help but agree with the article above – “cemeteries tell us how people died, but also how they lived…”. This, I would purport, is the most fascinating of it. I haven’t been to all the 12 sites stated in the article 12 of the World’s Most Fascinating Cemeteries but a little thought on some of them…
La Recoleta – Buenos Aires
On first sight of the picture from the article, I was almost surprised to see this as a burial ground – it almost mirrored a typical street lined with old-styled architecture. Although I was clearly disturbed by the story of Rufina Cambaceres who was buried alive there, this location boasts of great architecture and respect for those who have left – a site of respect and appreciation.
Okuno-in Cemetery – Mt. Koya, Japan
This isn’t so much of awe – more of creepiness. While I love village life and all the simplicity which preserved their cultures, the Okuno-in Cemetery is said to have winding paths lit by stone lanterns – too eerie for a visit in my opinion. A respectable deity Jizo is said to guard women and young in their afterlife.
Cemeteries in Bayeux, France
Be it the British or German cemeteries in Bayeux, this site brings on overwhelming sadness. I recalled someone telling me of how his plane flew over a military burial ground and all he saw was an entire land spotted with white crosses. Those of the Germans were darker, oftentimes black, symbolizing the regime which had rained terror on the innocent. Similarly noted in the article referring to two sad figures in the middle of the graveyard, I quote: The sculpture adds a touch of humanity to the depressing atmosphere. And the words on a sign at the entrance remind us of who paid the price for Hitler’s ambition: “…it is a graveyard for soldiers not all of whom had chosen either the cause or the fight.”
It really shouldn’t be a matter of pure anger or vengeance anymore. While I do not pretend to say that the world is forgiving and I definitely do not feign magnanimity, I guess this is an important lesson of the past that one might not wish to forget.
Kalavryta – Peloponnese Peninsula, Greece
I couldn’t possibly understand the gravity of the foreboding burial grounds Kalavryta. This cemetery holds a deep history of WWII and as the article mentions, “sadness still pervades the town”, albeit the destination of the scenic Odontotos railway. Things like these don’t just dilute with time – again I am not a believer of the saying, “time will heal”. It is but a blatant lie to even say it.
A random addition: Bukit Brown Cemetery, Singapore
Bukit Brown Cemetery in Singapore is a spot that many not have given much attention to. Within the tiny country of Singapore holds a truly unimaginable vast burial ground known as Bukit Brown. Recent news has it that the cemetery will have to make way for the living, a sad situation that has been questioned, “no space for the dead?”. One might concur – a small and highly populated country would require all the space it could lay its hands on for development. I must say that the pictures found in the above link is truly fascinating – albeit a place that I might not wish to set foot into, this location holds a history unknown to too many.
Having examined the above, I started to wonder what really happens in the netherworld. Many present offerings to those who have passed-on, some believe that when a person leaves he will no longer exist. I would choose to believe in life-after-death, and some respect must be reserved at least for the burial grounds that hold them. I read deeply into the phase of mourning – some mourn by clearing the weeds at tombs, some create fictive kinships, some choose to believe in unseen presence of their loved ones.
Do we have to modernize, progress, and move on in life to the extent that we no longer preserve our memories in the little ways that we can? Must we now give up all that we had in the past in order to accommodate the future?
What a sad, sad fact of the modern world.