I like cemeteries. They make me feel calm and relaxed, and sometimes they make me think about life and death and everything between life and death. One cemetery where you can wander for hours and hours is Skogskyrkogården (the Wooden Cemetery) in Stockholm, Sweden, a World Heritage site since 1994.
The main reason to visit Skogskyrkogården, 102 acres big with 100,000 graves, isn’t necessarily to see the graves and tombstones. Many people from all over the world (many of them from Japan) come to Skogskyrkogården to experience the wonderful architecture and nature. The granite cross casting huge shadows in the green grass, the meditation grove Almhöjden (a hill with elms), the pond, the wall, the visitors center and the chapel of resurrection are just a few of all buildings and places that makes Skogskyrkogården worth visiting.
My unfinished business with death
I have only been to one funeral, my godfather’s. But what about the tombstone in the picture above? It has my father’s name (my father is buried in Nora, a small village 200-250 kilometres west of Stockholm). Didn’t I attend at his funeral? The sad answer is no, I did not. I guess I wanted to, but the grown ups told me I was too young to attend the funeral. It’s true I was only six years old when my father died in an accident, but I believe that children know far more about life and death than you might think. Maybe that has changed in recent years, I don’t know, but I hope that everyone, no matter how young or old they are, are allowed to be at their parents’ funeral.
Anyway, the fact that I was not allowed to witness my father’s funeral makes me feel that my relationship with my father is an unfinished business with death. I never got the chance to say goodbye to him. Often when I visit a cemetery, whenever I wander among the graves, a thought that always pop up in my head is: who was and who was NOT allowed to witness his or her funeral? Now, that may sound sad and perhaps a little bitter, but it’s just a quick reflection, no worries.
Back to Skogskyrkogården
Skogskyrkogården was founded in the beginning of the 1900s. Two architects, Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz designed Skogskyrkogården. Gunnar Asplund is considered to be one of the most importent architects of that time. The same is said about Sigurd Lewerentz, although he never got the fame he deserves.
Autumn at Skogskyrkogården
I doesn’t matter when you visit Skogskyrkogården – it’s always a magical place. This time (I have been to Skogskyrkogården many times) we decided to visit Skogskyrkogården in the autumn (when the nature explode in beautiful colors) and the day before all saints day (when the Swedish darkness is lit up by candles).
Cool cemeteries and churches
There are cemeteries and there are churches, and there are “cool” cemeteries and there are “cool” churches, if you know what I mean. Skogskyrkogården is a beautiful cemetery, but is it cool? No, I love the mysterious gothic style, and cemeteries and churches with a long history. Skogskyrkogården is too young to be a mysterious place with a long history. But I still love Skogskyrkogården!
One of my favorite “cool” cemeteries is the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France, where many famous people like Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf and Fryderyk Chopin are buried. Look at the picture below and imagine the same place a cold misty autumn evening when the ravens croak in the trees!
A church of which I am particularly fond of is another World Heritage site, namely Westminster Abbey in London, England. Imagine a place where people who influenced the world (at least in the Western world) so much are buried: Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin and many, many other significant scientists, writers, architects, kings, queens…
Yes, I have visited Westminister Abbey, but that’s one part in coming post with six World Heritage sites visited in five days: Westminister Abbey, Kew Garden, Tower of London, Greenwitch, Bath and Stonehenge.
Verdict and links
Skogskyrkogården is a unique place, the largest cemetery in Sweden, and a cemetery that attracts people who want to see the architecture and nature, as well as visiting the graves.
Number of globes? Four out of five, definitely!