Fotoeins Fotografie

faces of home & place-story

Posts tagged ‘cemetery’

My Prague: looking for Kafka & Palach in Olšany

Above/featured: A quiet leafy avenue in Prague’s Olšany Cemetery.

I can’t spend all this time in the Czech capital city, and leave without paying any respects to two 20th-century personalities of Prague. Franz Kafka was an early 20th-century German-Czech writer (e.g., 1912 Die Verwandlung/Metamorphosis), whose writings became known to the world posthumously, thanks to friend and fellow writer Max Brod. In the 1960s, Jan Palach was an important historical figure of opposition who died in protest against the Communist regime.

I’m in the underground metro, heading east from the city centre towards Vinohrady and beyond to Olšany. The sun’s out on a crisp mid-autumn day, and while deciduous trees are left wanting for leaves, the latter have piled like carpets of colour on the cemetery grounds. I’m looking for the graves of Palach and Kafka who are buried in Olšanské hřbitovy (Olšany Cemetery) and Nový židovský hřbitov (New Jewish Cemetery), respectively.


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My Seattle: Bruce & Brandon Lee, father & son

Honouring the surname

In the mid- to late-1970s, our parents took us to single-screen movie theatres with names like Olympia, Golden Harvest, and Shaw for cinema night to watch movies made in Hong Kong. There were dramas; some high on the melodrama and low on character. Some were historic-period pieces, and there were kung-fu movies for which Dad passed his love to me.

There’s nothing quite like seeing a kung-fu action sequence on a big screen. I was mesmerized the first time I laid eyes on a memorable fight scene set in Rome’s Colosseum, that epic scene observed by little stone dragons between “Little Dragon” himself, Bruce Lee, and Chuck Norris’ character in the 1972 film “The Way of the Dragon“. As a kid, I was proud to have had the same surname as this Bruce fellow, and memories of seeing his on-screen characters prevailing in fights have stuck over time (e.g., “Boards don’t hit back.”)

Tragically, Bruce and his son, Brandon, died too young. I’m certain when I was a teen that I asked where Bruce Lee was buried; my parents didn’t know and in pre-internet days, it was more of a challenge to find those answers. But the mystery has long been solved: Bruce Lee and his son, Brandon, lay side by side in Lake View Cemetery in Seattle’s Capitol Hill.

Despite multiple visits to the city in years past, this particular return trip to Seattle has been decades in the making for a chance to honour a part of my childhood and a part of my heritage. When I find the Lees, my arrival means another answer has been quietly realized. On a crisp bright autumn morning under blue skies, I feel my father’s spirit with me; he never had the chance to come to this cemetery. My lips move without voice, a prayer I utter into the ether, pushing for hope to reach him. Because I know now that this, is also for my Dad.


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Friedhof Hietzing, Hietzing Cemetery, Friedhoefe Wien, Hietzing, Wien, Vienna, Austria, Oesterreich, fotoeins.com

My Vienna: Klimt, Moser, & Wagner in Hietzing Cemetery

Previously, I provided short biographies for artist Gustav Klimt, artist and designer Koloman Moser, and architect Otto Wagner, and why they are important figures to the arts and culture scene in early 20th-century Vienna. These three figures are buried in Hietzing Cemetery in the 13th district of Hietzing at the city’s western periphery.

Located to the southwest of the former imperial summer residence Schönbrunner Schlosspark, Hietzing Cemetery is modest in size with an area of over 9.7 hectares (24 acres) and containing over 11-thousand graves. With the present site inaugurated in 1787, the cemetery has seen several expansion phases and survived damage from the Second World War.

It’s an easy ride on the city’s U4 subway, formerly Otto Wagner’s municipal railway (Wiener Stadtbahn), to one of its stations at Hietzing. From Hietzing station, it’s a quick hop on a bus to the cemetery’s main gate.

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My Vienna: Zentralfriedhof (central cemetery)

Above/featured: The cemetery’s Gate 2 (2. Tor) designed by Max Hegele, who was Otto Wagner’s student and also responsible for the construction of the Fillgraderstiege steps in Mariahilf.

Where: Vienna Central Cemetery (Wiener Zentralfriedhof).
Who: Beethoven, Boltzmann, Falco, Lamarr, Schütte-Lihotzky, Strauss I and II.
Why: Cross-section of cultural and economic history for capital city and nation.

In Vienna, tram 71 begins in the Old Town; goes around the western half of the inner ring past City Hall, national Parliament, and the Opera House; and heads southeast to the city’s main cemetery or the Zentralfriedhof. There’s a saying particular to the city’s residents, a phrase which means they’ve died by “going to the end of the line.”

Sie haben den 71er genommen.
(“They took the 71.”)

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Worms: Holy Sand, Europe’s oldest surviving Jewish cemetery

I’m looking for a “thousand-year history” in the city of Worms located in southwest Germany. This has nothing to do helminthology or nematology, as the town’s name is derived from “Warmaisa”, the former Jewish name of the city. This is about an important part of Jewish-German history and peaceful coexistence of the Judeo-Christian communities within Europe. The town’s fame and reputation is also partly derived from Martin Luther; I’ve already visited the site where Luther was on trial to answer charges of heresy, as well as the world’s largest Reformation monument.

This part of the Rhein river area is considered the “cradle of European Jewry”, known also as “little Jerusalem on the Rhine.” In medieval times, flourishing Jewish communities in the cathedral cities of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz facilitated the creation of a common Jewish league with the name ShUM (SchUM), spelled out by the first letters of the Hebrew names for the three cities. As emphasis on the influence of Jewish heritage in Europe and the ongoing process of preservation and education, the Holy Sand cemetery is one of four constituents in the newly inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Site (2021).

On a breezy late-autumn afternoon, light fades quick, casting solemn shadows on this ground. In the town’s old Jewish cemetery, I’m the only person present, and I’ve placed a small stone on top of a number of gravestones. I’m surrounded by apparitions over an millennium’s age and by the remaining physical traces in various shapes, stones, and size.

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