We went for a walk yesterday in a quiet and serene part of the neighbourhood, where the grass is green and the ground covered by flowers. Its residents never make a sound, and some often prove to be great listeners to all one’s concerns and troubles. Many come here to sit and listen, to the birds that sing and the bees that buzz and for some, this is where they come to recollect beautiful memories, as well as visit masters of the old world.
The Bonn Alter Friedhof, the old cemetery, in the middle of the city centre is certainly a place that doesn’t feed like death. Like many other old cemeteries in many parts of the world, it feels more like a sculpture park, where old grave sites stand grand and tall, covered by a moist layer of moss and vines that took hold over time; and the grounds organic and varied, with enough weeping angels to freak out the Doctor Who enthusiast.
Old cemeteries are like heritage buildings, in comparison to the new cemeteries where graves are marked with headstones that are fixed to size, a minimalist attempt to keep order, like the newly developed modern flats.
A post I wrote two years ago I introduced you to some of my favourite cemeteries around the world, where not only are old cemeteries great places for a walk, where famous people lay have also become tourist attractions.
Here in Bonn, you’ll find the graves of Robert and Clara Schumann, as well as Beethoven’s mother (Beethoven was born in Bonn, but he is buried in Vienna) and many writers, singers and economists who made it big in their time.
In old cemeteries, it is common to find the entire family buried together in one site, some marked without dates, an indication that they may have died at the same time. Reading the inscriptions of tomb stones, the names and their dates, I wondered what life was like for many of these people, back in the 1700, 1800 and up to now. New residents are always coming in, as we saw a couple with this year’s date on them. Some have lived to a grand old age, too many died too young.
Cemeteries make you ponder about life. The rich, and the poor lie side by side, the young and old, all lie silently in the same grounds. All these things that people greed for, that people fight for, become redundant. It’s not about how much you earn and how rich you are or whether you only fly business class or owns a large house. In death, we are all equal.
We all die sooner or later, and with war and diseases that plague the world, we may die unexpectedly too. Other than look for famous people, I visit cemeteries for another reason: to remind myself not to take life for granted, and to live through life without regret.