by Lucas Aresin
Halloween is approaching soon, and while it is celebrated in many Western countries, Hungary does not have a strong Halloween culture. Instead, on October 31 and November 1, Hungarians like to visit graves in a search for the melancholic, not the scary and frightening.
Today, we want to highlight two cemeteries in Budapest that are definitely worth visiting at any time of the year. They are not the only ones to visit, but they are unique in their own ways—and one big advantage for cemetery enthusiasts is that they are located right next to each other, so you'll save yourself the long walk and can use the energy inside the stone walls instead.
Kerepesi Cemetery on Fiúmei street
Kerepesi Cemetery is Budapest's largest resting place for the dearly departed, and at the same time it is also one of the oldest. Here, famous as well as infamous national icons and historical figures since 1847 were buried here, and every November, Hungarians of all ages gather here to celebrate the All Saints Day.
The cemetery itself presents its mossy, aging beauty, in dark green and stone grey. Sturdy, thick-barked trees line the walkways, and on a cold autumn day, the sun shining through the foliage and only birds can be heard chirping, the cemetery becomes a mystical garden. Contrasting the tall trees and their long shadows are lots of open spaces, where large fields of neatly trimmed grass invite for a leisurely stroll.
The other side of the cemetery is the impressive statues, headstones, and even mausoleums that reside here. During your stay, you will see everything from simple, elegant headstones to cottage-sized monuments of stone and copper, surrounded by intricately curved iron guardrails. Many famous Hungarians were laid to rest here, and some of them with items so valuable, grave robbers try their luck every now and then.
There's many things you can say about this cemetery. We can talk about the notable individuals who reside here, like Mihaly Vorosmarty, the Poet, Miklos Ybl, architect of Budapest's opera house, or Janos Kadar, infamous ex-leader of the Communist party during the times of the Iron Curtain. We could mention that the cemetery is 55 hectare in size, or that it is only a few minutes from the busy Keleti metro station, but all that fades away like the sounds of the city once you step through the gates and walk down the tree-lined paths.
There will be silence, calm, peace. Fallen leaves will make audible sounds under your boots, and a shiver may run down your spine once in a while, either from marveling at the striking architecture, or from an autumn breeze. In essence, Kerepesi Cemetery is exactly what a cemetery should be: peaceful and beautiful.
Jewish Cemetery on Salgótarjáni Street
When a person is buried, it's like the Earth is slowly reclaiming the body. The same happened to the Jewish Cemetery at Salgotarjani Street after it was abandoned for decades. In that time, nature took over the stone walls and graves, creating something that reminds the passing traveler more of a lost city in South America. Towering stone monuments are now covered in ivy and moss, their shape still visible under the blanket of green and brown; here, time has married man-made structures with natures growths, and it is a sight to behold. Of course, the cemetery was reopened, and restorations have begun, so now is the time to go and check it out before all the beautiful overgrowth has been cut away.
The cemetery was founded in 1874, sitting right next to Kerepesi Cemetery. For decades, this was the final destination for many of Hungary's Jewish elite and everyday people alike. You enter the place through an iron gate in the brick-reinforced wall and step right into what feels more like a forgotten cemetery. Some of the tombs are crumbling from neglect, others have been opened with force. The restoration is underway, but what makes the cemetery quite unique in Budapest and in general is how it has been on the verge of decay for decades.
It's an experience to stroll through the ruins, and for those who are looking for a place to get lost in, this cemetery is just the place. Come on our cemetery tour if you'd like to find out more..
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