When I travel to various countries and locations, one of my favorite areas to visit are cemeteries. Many might find this strange, and I totally understand since cemeteries are not usually popular. However, I have learned so much by visiting not only the famous ones such as the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl Crater in Oahu, Hawaii), Père Lachaise Cemetery (Paris, France) but also the less known ones in small communities.
I share with you some of the reasons cemeteries are on my “to visit” list:
1 – Cemeteries have some of the most beautiful statues and monuments ever seen. Each cemetery has its own look and feel. Some cemeteries do not allow tall statues or require that only plaques be placed on the graves. I find the older the cemeteries have statues that are much more ornate than a modern cemetery. In my travels, I discovered La Recoleta Cemetery, by far one of my favorites. Located on 14 acres, the site has 4,691 vaults, all above ground, of which 94 are National Historical Monuments. I spent many Sunday afternoons admiring the statues and reading the many interesting epitaphs. One of the most visited vaults in Recoletta is that of María Eva Duarte de Perón was the wife of Argentine President Juan Perón and First Lady of Argentina. To this day, people still visit and leave flowers in her honor.
2 – Cemeteries are a bevy of historical facts. I often look to older cemeteries where epitaphs had a lot more information than the modern ones. Often, in the larger known cemeteries, one can find plaques with lots of information related to the deceased, or to the entire family.
3 – Cemeteries remind us of the dedication of those who gave their lives for freedom. To me, the military cemeteries are the saddest ones to visit as many of the soldiers lost their lives at a very young age. The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Oahu Hawaii is one of the most beautiful military cemeteries I have seen. The grounds are immaculate, and there are so many monuments that list those who perished in military conflicts.
4 – Cemeteries give us a great insight into the culture and ways of the residents. I visited a Christian cemetery in Bangalore India, and I was touched by the simplicity and earthy beauty of the location, and the graves. What moved me the most were the simple crosses and modest signs as well as one very particular grave that was cement or plaster base, coloured in bright blue, not a common colour in India for anything religious.
5 – The rituals and remembrance of families and loved ones who have passed vary greatly from country to country. I have found beauty in every single cemetery I have visited. While in France I was amazed to see most graves covered in porcelain flowers and plaques. Beautiful sayings etched or painted on special plaques told of the love and respect for the deceased. This was something I had never seen before in my travels.
6 – Amazing art can be found in cemeteries. It always impresses me to see statues of people that are so alike to the actual person. Here are two examples found in the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. The first picture is of Pierre-Frédéric Dorian, well-known politician and manufacturer. Much is understood of his legacy simply by observing his statue. The second photo is of Charles Rossignol, a world-renown toy maker. Both statues are works of art. Antique photos found Wikipedia.
7 – Cemeteries are always needed, regardless of where the people are located. If they are on a beach island, the cemetery will be on the beach. If they are in the French Pyrenees, the cemetery will be in the mountains. Each location had its own challenges, be it sand, mountain, or rock. Each cemetery has its own style and beauty. Seen in the pictures below are three cemeteries – first one is in Antigua, the second is in the Caribbean, the third is in the Pyrenees of France.
Next time you visit a new location, consider taking a walk through the local cemetery. You never know what you might discover!
Do you visit cemeteries during your travels? Which is your favorite?