“In the year 1679 a piece of land owned by a farmer was sold to the town of Prague. That land was located in the village of Olsany, not far from the old town. The reason for the business was the plague which struck and subsequently took the lives of more than 30,000 people that year, generating the need for new burial places and more ground to lodge them. The actual size of this large necropolis is about 50 hectares (150 acres) with a total of 112,000 graves; more then 2,000,000 people have been buried there since it came into existence. It is the burial place of many famous people from Czech history. It is as if time stopped still here; forgotten, while the rest of the city is left to its economic boom and development. At the new shopping center (Flora) which is built at the edge of the cemetery, you can eat at the restaurants on the top floor, and have one of the best views of the cemetery: its crumbling graves and the little old ladies who seem to be continuously tidying them.”
That write up from Wikipedia pretty much defines one of Prague’s largest cemeteries. Olsanske was very near our apartment; a short tram ride or a nice walk.
I walked many times in this lovely spot more like a park than a place of “repose”.
Because it is so large, runners use it for exercise, the general public for short cuts, mothers for taking kiddies on walks, and others like myself, just walking, looking and learning. So much history here!
This building is now a shed with a very old date – sometime in the 1700’s!
Most graves are well tended. Some were very very old and crumbling which only adds to the beauty. Here is an example of one I liked.
Jan Palach is a Czech hero. In January 1969, during communism, he was a young University student. Frustrated at the world and the demeaning of life during that time, he set himself afire (self- immolation) to make a political statement. We found his burial site in Olsanske and joined others in leaving flowers commemorating the day of his death. As a mother, I wondered how painful it must have been for his mother and family.
During the three months we were in Prague I visited Olsanske several times, once after a big snow storm. It was so beautiful and romantic I could almost imagine riding through in a sleigh,wrapped up in furs, horses trotting, bells jingling! For me this cemetery on this particular day was definitely not a sad place but a happy place full of romance and poetry.
Cemeteries have always intrigued me. They are full of history. I enjoyed finding and paying homage to famous people (writers, artists, musicians), seeing the different styles of headstones throughout the ages. Realizing some of the oldest graves were from the plague times when they could not be buried in town, but out here in this village called Olsany! (Now of course, right IN town!) I walked the entire perimeter which is about a mile in total. Most days I walked all over inside, adding more miles. And yet, I did not see it all. I will save that for next time!