Monday, 1 November 2010

The Day of the Dead


November 1st, 2010, Nürnberg

Today I was in one of the big cemeteries, the one in the south of the city. It was a lovely atmosphere and the most gorgeous autumn weather.

The cemetery has many huge, hundreds-of-years-old beech trees, also sycamore and horse chestnuts.

It is Allerheiligen, The Day of the Dead, All Hallows

The cemetery and the streets and trams were full of people. The neighbouring streets, beside the cemeteries, were full of cars. It was as if there was a football match on, but much quieter.

I walked with the bike (no cycling is allowed amongst the dead people). There were crowds of live people walking beneath the huge yellowy-brown leaved trees in the gorgeous sunshine.

Almost every one dressed in black, all in their Sunday best and of all ages. From babies in prams to old men and ladies on the arm of someone else. There were young couples with toddlers and people pushing wheelchairs, there were people with walking frames and children holding hands. There were people in groups chatting, family groups walking to the grave of a loved one. There were people standing in circles, praying around candles or sitting on the benches that are scattered around beneath the trees, beside the graves and around the walls filled with urns.

I have never experienced anything like it before in Germany. Once I went to a cemetery on November the first in Budapest, but that experience was much different to today’s.

That day in Budapest was a cold, bitterly cold, frosty day. It was late evening and there was a grey and dreary light. There were no beautiful trees backed by blue skies and the people seemed to be draped in black, almost enveloped in their black clothes and grey atmosphere. Not dressed in their Sunday best like today's people were. The feelings I had on that day in Budapest were very different to those of today.

Today the families were all out to visit. They were visiting each other and visiting their dead relatives. The atmosphere was so peaceful and even if sad there was such a closeness amongst strangers, something I have never known before. It radiated an inner peace a serenity, but there was a lot of sadness there too.

But there was so much respect, for the dead and for each other. Children and teenagers behaving well, playfully quiet, not restrained and false, they were respectful. It was nice to be there and the flowers that were being brought in were spectacular.

Unfortunately my camera battery ran out before I could even photograph the amazing blue sky above us, hidden slightly by the amazingly autumnal trees.

It was a picture too beautiful to capture on film or with paint. It was so impregnated with feelings and the movements of people, the almost silent murmurings and the respect for each other that it is only possible for me to describe it in words or to keep the image safe in my head as a memory.

Today is a holiday in Bavaria. I think it is probably one of the nicest celebrations as regards to the atmosphere that there is. The buses and trams were full, some people carrying baskets of flowers from gardens and allotments, others with bowls with dried flowers arranged for them at one of the many stands and shops on the roadside. The only places open for business today.

There were whole families out together, not all in a rush as they are when they go shopping, are on their way to work or to school, they were making a relaxed journey to the place of rest of the dead members of their families.

I am so glad I went out to make that journey too so I experienced all that I saw and felt.

Notes

Allerheiligen -

1 comment:

Aenna said...

It interesting reading about Germany from your eyes and its even more interesting as its the southern view. Allerheiligen doesnt really exist in Northern(or Eastern) Germany, except Easter i dont think there is an equivalent. It does sound beautiful though...

On a different note I was thinking about death and how death is dealt with in Germany. And I could tell stories who dont share the same acceptance, however it made think of the song by "The toten Hosen" "Zehn kleine Jaegermeister". I would love to discuss this song with a teenage/young adult group but its unfortunately not the same in an English speaking country. If you know just enjoy this blast from the past.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pqp8WhieV0o

Aenna
Anne