Monthly Archives: March 2014

Holzgerlingen Cemetery

I love cemeteries.  I didn’t pay them much attention while living in the United States, visiting them only when attending the graveside service following a funeral.  Then I would have passing thoughts such as, “It looks peaceful,” or “Hmm, interesting,” or “Everything looks the same.  How will I ever find my loved one in this maze of grey headstones and green grass?”  It seemed as if cemeteries were often set on the edge of town or out of the way.  Practically speaking, I realize they take up a lot of space on valuable land so it doesn’t make sense to place them on prime real estate in the middle of town – unless they are next to a church.  But when they are out of the way, are they also out of our thoughts?  Easily forgotten?  An ‘out of sight out of mind’ sort of thing?

HeadstoneI find cemeteries in Europe to be fascinating beautiful works of art.  When driving through villages, there is often a directional sign to the cemetery.  It is an important part of village life and many are living memorials to the deceased.

Bushes, flowering plants, headstoneTrees, flowers, headstoneThere is a cemetery behind my house.  Someone once said to me, “Good neighbors!”  So true; the residents of the cemetery are very quiet! 😉  However, this cemetery is a beehive of constant, yet quiet, activity.  As long as it isn’t raining or bitterly cold, there are people tending the gravesites, which are miniature gardens.  Some have potted plants, but many have flowers, plants, bushes and even the occasional tree planted at the site.  Rarely are there cut flowers.  On Christmas Eve, the cemetery flickered with dozens of burning candles, leading me to conclude that the living visited their loved ones before attending Mass on this Holy Night.  It was a quiet beauty in the darkness that cannot be captured on camera.  (Well, not my little ‘point and shoot’ pocket camera, at any rate.)

Daffodils with headstone

Daffodil Garden

Flowers, headstoneNow that it is springtime, the daffodils and other early spring blooming flowers adorn the gravesites.  Each gravesite is unique, reflecting the personality of those caring for that site.

Headstone

Lantern for Candle

Garden shops, home improvement stores, discount department superstores like Wal-Mart (except it’s called Real), and even the local grocery all carry candles specifically intended to be used at a gravesite.  They are pillar candles about 3” in diameter and 7” high in a (often red) sleeve.  They come with a metal cover which has cross-shaped cutouts allowing the smoke to escape.  These are designed to be lit and left unattended similar to the Eternal Flame in the church.  At the gravesite, the candles often sit in an iron and glass-enclosed lantern.  Many of these same shops also carry other items such as seasonal floral arrangements and décor designed to adorn a gravesite.

Grave covered in flowers

New grave

One afternoon, from inside my home, I heard the stately music of a brass ensemble.  Upon further investigation, I discovered musicians surrounding a gravesite and realized this was the graveside service for someone recently deceased.  Had the deceased been a member of the village band?  Were they an important member of the village?  Does everyone warrant a brass ensemble at the graveside service?  Much later I visited this gravesite and it was covered with brightly colored fresh flowers.  I have since noticed other graves covered with mounds of fresh flowers; they too are recently deceased.  I wonder how long the fresh flowers will adorn the grave; it has already been weeks past internment.

Headstones, wooden crosses

Each site is unique

A few gravesites have a simple wooden cross engraved with the name as well as the dates of birth and death.  But the vast majority have a granite headstone.  Is a wooden cross used until a granite stone is purchased or is a wooden cross preferred by some?

Headstone, flowers

My village is over one thousand years old!  While I haven’t found any headstones that old, I have gained a sense of the history of my village as I wander through the cemetery.  There are a couple of family names repeated throughout leading me to believe these are longtime residents with deep roots – no pun intended! 😉  One of the names is still displayed on various businesses throughout the village.  It is likely that many of these graves are so lovingly well-tended because the family still lives nearby.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons the cemeteries in the United States have a different atmosphere; we are such a transient society that we no longer live where we were born or where we grew up.  Therefore, we don’t live near the cemetery where our loved ones rest.

Sunrise over cemetery

Cemetery at sunrise

I watch the sunrise over the cemetery and marvel at the beauty the shadows cast through the trees and onto the headstones while other mornings there is a fog that is just as breathtaking as it weaves around the trees and headstones.

Cemetery with fog

Holzgerlingen Cemetery

Along the cemetery there is a well-used walking path.  Every morning I walk my dog on this path and even though we meet other dog-walkers, power-walkers, runners or bikers there is an overarching sense of serenity.  It is the perfect beginning to the day.

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Enchanting Prague!

Prague, Czech Republic – Day 2

Tunnel in hillside next to riverThis Sunday morning we set out on foot from our hotel headed in the opposite direction from all the activity of New Town and Old Town.  Last night Jason asked the hotel staff about an old tunnel/former city wall through which we had driven when we arrived Friday night.  They said it was lovely and suggested we explore it further in the daylight.  The entire area is called Vysĕhrad and sat atop a hill; what a delightful surprise and how fortunate that Jason had asked about it because it wasn’t on our list from the ‘Top 10’ guide book! Continue reading

Buildings and church

Prague, Czech Republic – Day 1

We decided we should take advantage of the 3-day weekend Natalie has due to President’s Day and take a small trip.  We let two 3-day weekends slip away in January without traveling anywhere.  I can’t view those as lost opportunities but rather a reprieve from all the traveling we did over 3 weeks at Christmas!  Therefore, we concluded Prague would be the perfect destination.  It’s a 5 hour drive from Stuttgart and we could hit all the highlights as tourists in two full days.  Hey, we can cram it all in; we’re Americans – likely also known as with ‘Turbo-Tourists!’ 🙂

With the hope of avoiding tons of traffic on our 5 hour drive from Stuttgart to Prague on Friday evening, Jason left work and pulled Natalie out of school early.  On the way home they stopped by ADAC, the German version of AAA, to pick up road maps.  We have become so reliant on our GPS that the road maps were an afterthought; but we are old school and like to see the ‘big picture.’  The helpful staff at ADAC asked if Jason would also like to purchase the vignette permitting us to drive in the Czech Republic.  (The vignette is a sticker placed in the windshield allowing temporary permission to drive on the roads in that country.  It is not cost prohibitive and varies in price according to the length of stay in that country.  Not all countries require them.  If caught without the vignette, the fine is quite steep.)  Vignette?  We need a vignette?  Oops!  Perhaps we aren’t as prepared for this trip as we ought to be…

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