There comes a time in every child’s life where he/she will question death. “Mommy, where did Grandma go?” How would you respond?
- “Ah sweetie, <kneeling beside the child> Grandma’s in a beautiful place called heaven.”
- <With a hug>“She’s no longer with us but will always be in our hearts.”
- “Your father forgot to renew the plot tax so they dug her up to make room for Frau Schmitt.”
Answer #3 can be a true if you live in Vienna. You see, when a loved one passes away, your options for a final resting place can be limited. Since 78% of Austrians are Roman Catholic they still believe in a burial rather than a cremation and living in a highly populated European city = a lot of bodies to bury. The question remains, when real estate is at such a premium, can cemeteries accommodate everyone? Not exactly. Here families do not buy plots to lay their loved ones to rest, rather, they rent them out for 10-20 years instead. If they wish not or forget to renew the plot agreement and do not pay the tax the likelihood that the plot will be rented to a new family will be inevitable.
Where do they put the remains of an exhumed grave? Dunno?
Zentralfriedhof (German for Central Cemetery), which is located on the outskirts of Vienna has a total of 2.5 square kilometres and contains about 330 000 graves today. Over 3 million people have been buried here, which is almost double the population of the city of Vienna. Popular on the tourist attraction list, people from around the world visit Zentralfriedhof which is packed full of famous people.
Just check out just some of the famous people who are buried here:
- Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827), composer
- Johannes Brahms (1833–1897), composer
- Geli Raubal (1908–1931), Hitler’s niece and rumoured lover
- Franz Schubert (1797–1828), composer
- Johann Strauss I (1804–1849), composer
- Johann Strauss II (1825–1899), composer
- Falco civil name Johann (Hans) Hölzel (1957–1998), rock singer (anyone remember “Amadeus?”)
One thing I can vouch for is that Austrians do take pride in their cemeteries. It is the family’s responsibility for the upkeep and most plots are immaculately maintained, however you will see the odd overgrown “forgotten” plot.
Strolling through most cemeteries usually eases my spirit. I don’t know what it is but I always feel a sense of peace and love and I enjoy looking at the tomb stones and wonder what the lives of these people were like.
Whether you are a religious person or not I highly recommend a visit to Zentralfriedhof.