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  • Writer's pictureTerri Tomoff

A Funeral & European Cemeteries Part 1

Going to a visitation/funeral/burial/luncheon for an extended family member recently, and looking closely at how the cemetery was arranged and taken care of, reminded me of a few cemeteries I visited in Europe this past spring.

When my travels in April/May 2023 took me/us not only to big (touristy) sites but also to enchanted local cemeteries that I walked by and returned to alone, I was wildly intrigued with many "secret garden" formats. Hey, some of these sacred sites have been around for centuries! The trees are enormous! The wildflowers are overgrown, and many big and little headstones are broken, dilapidated, and many covered in well-weathered patina. Hundreds of birds congregate and hold their big meetings in these graveyards; one cemetery I passed through seemed like it was the place to see and be seen, in a weird way, and not just for the birds.

My first foray into the local Brompton Cemetery in London was adjacent to the West Brompton tube station and the EPL Chelsea Stadium towards the back of this iconic site. One morning I got up extra early and headed to it, which also helped my daily steps. There is a lot of walking in any European city, and this cemetery was no different in helping me achieve my walking goals—to, fro, and inside. Crosses in all shapes and sizes darkened through the decades of rain, sleet, snow, and perhaps, some sunshine, were still impressive.

Note: Brompton Cemetery was built in 1840 and since 1852, it is the first London cemetery to be Crown property, managed by The Royal Parks, in West Brompton in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It is one of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries. Over 205,000 people from all walks of life are buried here – from the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst to Chelsea Pensioners, from artists and actors to the founders of Chelsea Football Club!

Once past the large old black metal gate to gain entrance, I was surprised there was a coffee shop/bakery right inside the gate. A beat-up asphalt "driveway" with various loops encircling the entire cemetery was filled with walkers, walkers with dogs (leashes are a must), runners, and cyclists. I walked around the whole thing and was back at our flat in under an hour. With every few steps and rounding turns to see something different, or so I thought; I could not help thinking this place was a secret garden. I love secret gardens!

I thought I had done a blog post on this topic in London, but when I checked, nada. What I was doing on that chilly morning walk was writing the post in my head, though now I realize it never got on "paper," frankly, I was onto the next thing once back to my travel mates.

The photos below are of the Brompton Cemetary London, and I'll continue tomorrow with more cemetery thoughts and musings about the uniqueness of the ones visited.



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