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Mirogoj Cemetery in Croatia – Day 61
Wednesday 30th September 2009 – Croatia
Today I witnessed one of the most beautiful sights I have ever been lucky enough to have seen, which may seem strange when you realise it was a cemetery, but what an incredible cemetery it is.
I had to leave today, but my train was at 11:35pm, so I knew I had a long, long day today to waste away before finally getting the train. It would be hard to carry my bag with me all day also, so I was in no rush to get up early today. Checkout was at 11am, so I would leave it as close to this time as possible. Indeed that was the time I lugged my bags downstairs to check out. Hearing of my day ahead, the guy told me I could leave my big bag there during the day and pick it up later, which is great, and also told me of the Mirogoj Cemetery I could visit nearby to waste a bit of time. I was extremely grateful and took him up on the offer, so I left my bag in the basement.
I set out and made for the cemetery. It is suppose to be the best in Europe according to the reception guy, so it must be worth a look, if only just to eat up some minutes. The walk was short anyway, and I could also use the hostel as a stop off point on the way back again before going into town for the rest of the day.
I didn’t have a map but found the cemetery without any problems, so I entered through the small gate behind the florist. I took one look into this place and stopped in my tracks. Already, just from one look I could see that this place was huge, and I mean huge. It would eventually take me 3 hours to walk around the entire perimeter of this place, with the occasional stop for a rest and reflection.
I started off around the edge, and up into the great wall that lined one side of one section of the cemetery. All along this wall were plaques and stones, statues and ornaments, crosses and flowers, and candles that burnt silently in small containers, unaffected by the wind. It took a while just to walk this small section, and I found myself at the main gates, and the big archways that opened the door to the peaceful land behind. I stopped to admire the grandeur, and to attempt to read the inscriptions around the walls of the buildings, without any luck obviously.
I ventured further in, hugging the fence as I followed the outer perimeter, and came upon a monument inscribed with many names, and a single flame burned at the front of it. I wish I knew what it was for. Other statues and monuments were scattered about the huge piece of land dedicated to the cemetery, as well as plots of land with identical tomb stones, like shrines. I reached what I though was the other end of the site, and walked over the brow of the hill, only to be faced with a small valley dedicated to the crematorium, and the graves of those cremated. I could not believe the scale of this place.
I found that as I passed people and gave a little smile, nobody returned the gesture, they all looked at me as if I shouldn’t be there. Its possible that this is exactly what they thought, Croatia being hugely religious, and me, just another tourist. I had a huge amount of respect for this place though, and I soon put my camera away and left it in my bag, not feeling right filming everywhere, as people attended to a loved one’s grave.
Going back to the size of the place, they had maps at various points to show you where you were, but not one map, several, for different sections. There was a section for burials, cremated, small shrines, and those bits of land dedicated to mass burials, as well as land for graves not yet filled. They had large golf buggies ferrying people to and from the graves, like a taxi service. There was an army of people working on maintaining the grounds, watering plants etc. They even had road sweepers, people on tractors cutting trees and plants, builders readying certain plots of land. It was just incredible. I have never seen anything like this in my life. You could spend an entire day walking around all the graves, and probably still not see them all.
Having even got lost in the cemetery, I somehow found myself back where I had come in, having successfully whiled away a few hours, and set about going into the city for food. I found the same place as yesterday and managed to drag out my meal, to the annoyance of the staff who wanted the table. I left feeling very bloated, and had to walk slowly to stop myself from popping. The exhalation of wind from my tummy cleared a space and I was free to walk normally again.
Much of the rest of the day was spent sitting here and there, watching the world pass by. I sat for a while by a statue in the main square and found myself at the centre of many photos as a group of Chinese tourists flocked by, snapping away. So I made myself look cool and stylish, which was no effort really and posed for the many pictures aimed my way. I got a smile or two from a couple of the tourists. I made it back to the hostel at around 5pm, and spent a while in the basement, where they have a room with sofas and a TV, guitar and games. The guitar being very basic, missing one string, and being hideously out of tune, so I soon put it down again. I’m missing my guitar.
When it got to 7:30, which it soon did as I tend to get lost in another world when I’m typing on my laptop, I went to the shop before closing time, to get a sandwich for later in the evening before my 8 hour train ride to Venice. I cant believe they only have one train from here to Venice, and during the night also. Still, at least I save a little money on accommodation.
I said my goodbyes to the cool bloke who partly ran the small hostel, and set off on my way to the station. I still had around 3 hours to kill so dallied here and there, passing the time as I had done for much of the day. I arrived at the station in good time and sat out the remainder of the evening, and was relieved to be on the train at last. But now I had the fun of trying to get some sleep in the 8 hours I had on the train. Still, it’s all a new experience for me, and that makes it all worth the while.
Written by Daniel Stevens,
Founder of Roundtheworldtrip.org.
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