...As I stepped into the old cemetery.

 

Everyone I know in Krakow kept telling me that I HAD to go check out at least one cemetery in the city on November 1st, which is All Souls' Day, a day to remember passed loved ones. I had already heard that it was a big holiday in Poland and that cemeteries get decorated on that day, but my friends had convinced me that it wasn't to be missed for anything. So, I planned to go to the largest cemetery in town (also a recommendation) to make sure I got to see everything in full effect. 

As I walked over a bridge that led into the neighborhood where the cemetery, Cmentarz Rakowicki, is located, I instantly could understand what all the hype was about. Down below and through some large trees, thousands of colorful candles glowed in the night - a sight like nothing I had ever witnessed before. I'd imagine that most Poles are wowed by this breathtaking scene each year, but as a newbie I was completely blown away.

This photo is thanks to Wikimedia Commons user Ludek:

 

Stepping through the wrought iron entrance gate, I could then see how large the place really was. Or not...because the flickering little lights went on for as far as I could see in three directions. I was glad that this would allow for plenty of meandering around though, since that's exactly what I wanted to do. And that I did. At first I just walked towards the sound of some eerie chanting and bell bonging to see what it was, although I never figured it out. Perhaps just part of the holiday. Or a ghost...

This photo is thanks to Wikimedia Commons user Przykuta:

 

As you can see from the photos, the graves are mostly above ground in Poland, so you get a much more crowded feel when in a cemetery here, compared to in the northern US. They are pretty though and marble, and they make for a perfect place to set candles, lanterns and plants on All Saints' Day.

Fall-colored mums seem to be the flower of choice for the season, which is actually the same as in Minnesota. One of the many similarities I've noticed already, but more on that another time.

This photo is thanks to Wikimedia Commons user Silar:

 

People were everywhere when I was at Rakowicki, but at the same time it was still very peaceful and orderly. And as I ventured to the farther reaches of the grounds and then into the neighboring, smaller cemetery, less people were around and it was extremely quiet - and spooky. But it is a cemetery, after all. I kept thinking how extra creepy it would be if all of a sudden it got really windy and all the candles blew out, because it was pitch dark out. I guess I was still in a Halloween mindset from the day before, haha.

When up close to them the small lanterns actually give off a fair amount of heat, and combined with their comforting smell and rosy-colored glass they make for pleasant company on a chilly autumn evening. The glass containers are also usually very intricately decorated with flowers and foliage, crosses, religious figures and other designs.

The same November 1st traditions are also practiced in Hungary. This photo was taken in Budapest and is thanks to Wikimedia Commons user Karoly Czifra:

 

You'll notice that in this post I do not have any of my own photos up...so I'd better come clean and say that it's because I'm a total klutz and dropped my camera THREE times in ONE day earlier this week!! Yikes!!! Well, it didn't like that very much (understandably so) and the lens broke. I'm taking it to the repair shop on Monday, so hopefully it'll be fine again soon! In the meantime, I've decided to raid good ol' dependable Wikipedia Commons to see what I could find, and they came through for me as always. The photos I've used here are pretty much exactly what I saw, so I'm happy about that! Enjoy!!

This photo is thanks to Wikimedia Commons user John Thaxter:

 

This photo is thanks to Wikimedia Commons user Silar:

 

If you ever come to Poland around early November, you'll be in for a great cultural experience if you stop by a cemetery!

Well, it's time to head off to two flea markets now! I'll get to those in my next post!

Until next time,

Sara :-)

 

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