“The cemetery is my home; I want to be a part of it, invisible even to the night. Then I’ll read poetry to the stones. Maybe one day I could be one of them: wise and silent.” – Graveyard Girl by M83.
Today for All Saints’ Day (Mindenszentek) I visited Kerepesi Cemetery (Kerepesi temető), one of the oldest cemeteries in Hungary. This cemetery, founded in 1847, can be found near Keleti Train Station (Keleti pályaudvar). Although tomorrow is the Day of the Dead/All Souls’ Day (Halottak Napja), I couldn’t wait to visit the cemetery. For those of you who know me, you know that I love cemeteries. Several years ago I helped my Aunt Sonja record the names of people who were buried in the cemeteries where I am from. Using the names and dates collected, my aunt would piece together our family tree. Don’t quote me, but I think we had relatives who were musicians for the French court in the 15th century. Because of the frightening rate that humans are exponentially growing, I am personally opposed to being buried due to future space concerns. Whatever the case may be, I cherish the burials of the past. I have been to a fair amount of cemeteries, but dare I say it, Kerespi Cemetery has now claimed the number one spot in my heart.
I knew the general direction of the cemetery, but I didn’t bother checking a map before I left. My mindset was just to follow the crowd – particularly elderly women with flowers. When I arrived, I stopped and purchased a white chrysanthemum for 350Ft ($1.60). As far as I know, I am not related to anyone in that cemetery, but I figured I would pay my respects to someone. Cultural Advice: Do not give chrysanthemums to people in this country. These flowers are reserved for death (funerals and graves).
I quickly befriended a lovely elderly woman. I was taking pictures of a random statue when she approached me asking me questions in Hungarian (mostly about who the statue was of – no idea). I tried to answer them all, but she noticed my accent/grammatical mistakes and asked me where I was from. I have made so many “friends” with people since moving here. I put friends in quotation marks because we, of course, are not lasting. Maybe a pleasant shared experience between strangers would be more accurate. I know far too many people who fear traveling alone (or being alone in general). From my experience, I have better encounters with people when I am by myself (sans the public transportation molestations). The mixture of confidence and vulnerability when alone tends to draw people in – if you let them. Do not hide behind your friends and/or your ridiculous notions of what being alone is like.
Walking about, I saw magnificent structures built in honor of the dead. Kerepesi Cemetery is home to the mausoleums (I kept humming Beirut’s “In the Mausoleum”) of some of Hungary’s leading statesmen: Batthyány Lajos, Deák Ferenc, Kossuth Lajos. Numerous other famous Hungarians – for example: Babits Mihály, Móricz Zsigmond, József Attila, and Blaha Lujza – also can be found here. These names should ring a bell for those familiar with Hungary in any form or fashion – several streets, squares, etc. are named after these people. There are also Arcades, built from 1908 to 1911, that were inspired by those found in Northern Italy.
Kerepesi Cemetery is massive (roughly 56 hectares/138.38 acres/0.56 square km) aka I got lost. Lost has no negative connotation attached, for I did not mind not knowing where I was or where I was going. I felt completely at ease. As I reached what I am going to consider “the back,” I found that nature reigned supreme over the graves that seem to have been forgotten over time. I noticed that I still had the chrysanthemum in my hand at this time, but I still did not feel pulled by any of the graves. It was only when I came across a more recent, decadent section of the cemetery that I knew the flower’s final resting place. I was, at once, surrounded by well-crafted, recent tombstones where flowers and candles populated the grounds. Looking about, I saw one of the most humble (and possibly lonely) markers I have ever seen. While the neighboring markers were elaborate, this one was small, made of wood, and had no embellishments. The grave almost looked out of place. A small child, on his way to fetch water, stopped to stand beside me while I put the flower on the grave. He looked up at me, shared a smile, and told me to have a nice day (Szép napot!). That concluded my trip to the cemetery. I think I ended on a good note.
For the past week I have been staying at my friend Cindy’s while she is visiting family in the United States. I am watching my temporary child (Bobbi McGee) again. I am more familiar with Pest than Buda, so walking Bobbi around in Buda has been a beautiful adventure.
The view right outside of her flat – Parliament in the morning.
Speaking of beautiful adventures, I have one coming up next weekend – I will be in Barcelona, Spain for three days! To top that off, I will be with a friend, James, and my older sister, Maricel! I am elated. Next Tuesday is the Halloween Party at my school. We will all dress up, attend a disco (dance), and trick-or-treat. I love this time of year!
Lastly, I want to take this time to share a video about the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 (also known as the Hungarian Uprising of 1956). On October 23rd, 1956, a nationwide revolt took place against the Soviet powers at the time. This revolt lasted until November 10th of the same year. I could go on, but I urge you to research more about the strength and resilience of the Hungarian people.
A Lesson From Miss Jennifer: Ride solo.
glad for the pictures—Hungary is a beautiful country with a fantastic history.
Thanks! And I couldn’t agree more!
Love your photos, writing and art! And traveling alone for the first time was an awakening for me, and you describe that really incomparable experience so well.
Thank you so much, Dr. Hendry! I often think of your pictures and experiences in Scotland whenever I document my travels!