I never ever thought that I would be writing a review of a visit to a cemetery! The experience of a visit to the Zentralfriedhof is, however, well worth sharing so here goes.
Getting there is very easy indeed. The quickest way is to take the U Bahn to Simmering and then the #6 or #71 tram to Tor 2. Alternatively the #71 can be used for the whole journey but takes longer. Tor 2 is the most convenient stop if the intention is to visit the Ehrengraber (Tombs of Honour) which is where the rich and famous are buried. Group 32a contains the graves of Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Schoenberg and many of the Strauss family. There is a statue for Mozart but I understand he is actually buried in the St Marxer Friedhof where he was given a pauper’s burial in an unmarked mass grave.
It is only a short walk from Tor 2 to Group 32a and on the way the path goes between two semicircular buildings which contain some very elaborate graves. If it is possible to have a favourite grave mine would be that of August Zang who was a wealthy mine owner. His grave is like a mine entrance which is guarded by dwarves holding lanterns. Quite amazing. I half expected a dragon to appear!
I understand that over 2.5 million people are buried in the cemetery and it has it’s own bus service. Given the size of the place it is possible to spend quite some time there. I have been twice as I didn’t have time to find all the graves I wanted to see on my first trip.
Naturally, I had my photo taken by the graves of Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms. Not any of the Strauss family though as I can’t stand their music. Sorry. The big dilemma I had was whether to smile or not. I am not quite sure of the etiquette for having a graveside photo taken. When I visited Jack Kerouac’s grave in Lowell, MA I adopted a reasonably cheerful expression. After all I had travelled almost 4,000 miles to see it and I should be happy that I had made it! For Beethoven I decided to look a bit more pensive as I felt he merited it. I also hummed the funeral march from the Eroica Symphony to give the occasion more gravitas.
On a more serious note, for those interested in the graves of dead composers in the Vienna area I can thoroughly recommend a visit to Mahler’s grave in Grinzing. Take the U Bahn to Heiligenstadt and than the 38a bus to Grinzing. Rather optimistically I expected to see a sign pointing me in the direction of Mahler’s grave but alas there was none. The Friedhof can be found by following the tramlines out of the village. Only a short walk but it is a big cemetery and I suggest that a gardener be asked for directions to the grave.
Overall, I can thoroughly recommend a visit to the Zentralfriedhof. Even if you are not interested in seeing the graves of dead composers and singers, the sheer size of the place is worth seeing as are many of the elaborate gravestones and tombs.
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