Ten Cemeteries In The World To Visit Before You Die

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Ten Cemeteries In The World To Visit Before You Die

“Why’s that cemetery so popular? Everybody’s dying to get in!” unknown

Visiting a cemetery is a lot more interesting when you are alive. It is always a sometimes spooky, sometimes beautiful history lesson. Some of them are a resting place of famous people, some have really unusual memorials and others simply provide a surprisingly nice and tranquil walk. Here are some cemeteries to visit before you die.

Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Recoleta Cemetery is the final resting place of the good, the bad, the beautiful and the rich people of Argentina’s past. It is a remarkable necropolis of tombs and mausoleums.  It is proportioned like a miniature village with its stately Greco-Roman crypts lining the narrow walkways. They believed “the bigger the mausoleum, the closer to God.“

It is less expensive to live your whole life in Buenos Aires than it is to be buried in Recoleta.When you enter the cemetery through the neoclassical gates (designed by  the Italian architect Juan Antonio Buschiazzo.)  There are two messages in Latin. The message on this inside is from the living to the dead and says rest in peace. On the outside, it is from the dead to the living and says Wait for God.

You have found Eva Peron’s flower strewn monument when you see people. She is buried among the rich people who did not like her.

There are approximately eighty cats who live at the Recoleta cemetery.  They say that they are the guardians/tour guides of  the 4800 tombs and have been taken care of for twenty years.  Everyone including me  takes photos of them.

Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague, Czech Republic

The Old Jewish Cemetery was established in the first half of the fifteenth century.  It is one of the most important historic sites in Prague´s Jewish Town. The oldest tombstone, which marks the grave of the poet and scholar Avigdor Karo, dates from the year 1439. Burials took place in the cemetery until 1787. Today it contains some 12,000 tombstones, al though the number of persons buried here is much greater. It is assumed that the cemetery contains several burial layers placed on top of each other.

Pere La Chaise, Paris, France

Cimetière du Père Lachaise is the most visited cemetery in the world. It is the hub of Paris’s dead rich and famous. The list of famous corpses now buried there includes Jim Morrison, Moiliere, Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde, Frederic Chopin, Marcel Proust, and Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani. Wilde’s tomb is one of the garden cemetery’s most famous and is covered in the lipstick kisses of admirers. It is no accident that all these famous people are buried here. Established in 1804, the cemetery was first used for reburials from other parts of the city. In a macabre (and involuntary) form of celebrity endorsement, officials had high-profile bodies moved in to boost popularity. I hope to go in the spring. (as a visitor).

Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery, Jerusalem,  Israel

The Mount of Olives has been used as a Jewish cemetery for more than 3,000 years.Approximately 150,000 Jewish people are buried there including some of the greatest Jewish leaders, prophets, and rabbis of all time.Among the notable Jews buried here in biblical times were Zechariah, Haggai, Malachi and Absalom, the rebellious son of King David. In the modern era, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the father of modern Hebrew, author Shai Agnon, Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold and prime minister Menachem Begin and his wife Aliza were buried here as well.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, California

This place is the final act of studio founders, writers, directors, and performers in Hollywood history; it’s where the industry’s biggest players went to die like Mickey Rooney, Cecil B. De Mille and of course Toto. Appropriately, the scene here is full of gaudy tombstones, mausoleums, peacocks, palm trees, and reflecting pools. Live concerts and movie screenings aren’t uncommon on the cemetery’s manicured lawns.

Merry Cemetery, Sapanta, Romania

The “merry” cemetery features over 600 ornately carved, colorful wooden crosses, often with a dark or extremely literal take on the life of the body that lies beneath it. Each grave is adorned with a blue cross and a scene from the departed’s life – both good and bad. There is also a poem. The carpenter who carves the markers and composes the poems doesn’t hold back. There are references to drinking and cheating and even some mother-in-law jokes.

Okonoin Cemetery, Koya, Japan

This forested site on the side of Mount Koya is where Kobo Daishi — the founder of Shingon Buddhism — lies in eternal meditation and it’s where many devoted followers want to be buried. So many, in fact, that it’s the largest cemetery in Japan. Grave markers line the path to Daishi’s mausoleum, and each salvation-seeker’s tombstone is more unconventional and weirder than the last.

Two hundred thousand monks are buried there and waiting for the resurrection of the future Buddha. Look for the memorial dedicated by a local pesticide company to termites, and for statues that mimic monks and coffee cups.

St Andrews Cathedral Graveyard, St. Andrews, Scotland

St Andrews Cathedral is a ruined Roman Catholic cathedral in St Andrews, Scotland that was built in 1158. Most of the grave stones are so old and worn that there is no writing left. Many famous pioneers and champions of golf are buried here.The most famous grave of the nineteenth century was the golfer young Tom Morris. Sometimes people leave golf balls on his grave for luck.

Highgate Cemetery, London,  England

Highgate is one of seven garden-like cemeteries that were built in a ring around London in the nineteenth century, when inner-city burial grounds had become overcrowded. Gothic tombs and buildings are now overgrown with ivy. Obelisks tower over its crypt-lined Egyptian Avenue, which leads to the Circle of Lebanon, a set of tombs built around an ancient cedar tree. George Eliot and Karl Marx are buried here a long with a poisoned Russian spy who’s name I don’t know.

Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, USA

As far as cemeteries in America go, there is none more famous or respected as the Arlington National Cemetery, where more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans, and their families have been laid to rest. The sweeping rows of white marble headstones, and the constant guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, are sobering reminders of the ultimate sacrifice that many have made.Tomb
Soldiers who die while on active duty, retired members of the Armed Forces, and certain Veterans and Family members are eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery. So are Presidents.

 

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

 

Traveling Through The Basque Country

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 Traveling Through The Basque Country

“The goal of my life is to tie adventure to my feet, stock memories in my pocket, hold imagination in my palms like fairy dust and sprinkle it on my tales.” Mitali Meelan

The best way to explore the beautiful Basque coastline is by car,  ferry, train and bus. We ride the bus to Hondarribia which is on the Spanish border with France.

It is the first settlement pilgrims will come upon as they follow the Northern Way of the Camino de Santiago from France  on their way to the final destination of Santiago de Compostela.

We walk through the cobblestone streets of the Parte Vieja past medieval stone palaces and traditional Basque wood-beamed houses.

 Later, we take the seven minute ferry ride to Hendaye which is on the French border with Spain.

It is a seaside town.

You know you are on the Basque Coastline when you see huge rocks gushing from the Ocean, a rugged terrain with steep and sharp cliffs and very cold water.

We return for a late lunch in Hondarriba. Throughout Basque Country, pintxo bar chefs strive to outdo one another, and formal pintxo competitions up the ante.

In recent years, Hondarribia bars have competed against San Sebastián’s with favorable results, earning regional and national recognition for their tiny masterpieces.

In fact, demand for quality cuisine at reasonable prices means that some of the best places for are surprisingly low-key. 

 The next day, in a seventeenth century farmhouse,  we see the famous Basque breed floppy eared pigs (Euskal Txerria).  The Basque pigs unlike many of their pink cousins have a good life.

Afterward we had a not light lunch at the farmhouse and got to try some of their delicious cured ham.

I am usually disconnected from the process of where my food comes from.  Being brought up in a supermarket, It is hard to understand that death is part of a process of food production.

  I try now, as best I can to make ethical food choices. It helps to know where the animal comes from and how it was raised.  

 The Wednesday market in the town of Ordizia has been happening for over five hundred years.

The market takes over the town plaza centre which is a Roman or Greek looking Parthenon type structure.

We are lucky to be here on a Wednesday for this  authentic market with a great selection of local produce and products.

The most popular food item that you will find in Ordizia is the Idiazabal cheese, a hard white cheese, strong in flavor and high in acidity, made according to centuries-old family recipes (available in both smoked and un-smoked varieties.)

You can still buy the cheese directly from the shepherds who make it from the milk.

We have a lunch on our last day in Basque country at Komentu Maitea a converted monastery in Gordexola. It is Spanish Independence Day and  the restaurant is filled with local families having a large midday meal.

The food is fresh and delicious.

Nearby is the city of Guernica (Gernika in Basque). We stop at the  Assembly House and the Tree of Gernika. For centuries the Lords of Biscay met under an oak tree in this very spot to discuss the issues of the day, eventually building a more solid shelter (for those wetter days) in the form of The Assembly House.

The tree is one of the best known symbols of freedom for the Basque people.  Gernika was devastated by the Nazi Germany bombings in1937 with unprecedented consequences (made famous by the Picasso painting). Both the Assembly House and the traditional oak survived. This strengthened the tree’s already symbolic value to the Basque people.

The scenery in the Basque country is breathtaking.

The cities are picturesque and the food is  amazing and there will always be some rain – even in the summer. 

I appreciate the efforts of  the  Basque people to protect their culture, identity and language.

It is a wonderful place to visit  especially if you like food. I have to thank to Jim Kane  and Cultural Xplorers for another excellent trip.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Twelve Hours In Paris With A Wedding Dress

Twelve Hours In Paris With A Wedding Dress

“Paris is always a good idea.” Audrey Hepburn

Check into a hotel so you do not leave the wedding dress in a taxi. Put the wedding dress in the closet.

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See Syrian refugees begging for money and militia on the streets. Give away my Euros from Amsterdam. Big reality check.

Drive past Eiffel Tower and Arc Du Triomphe. Take bad photos from moving car.

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Stop for lunch at La Carette.

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Eat croissants, omelet, nicoise salad and cafe au lait. Have everything French in one meal.

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Buy fabulous French pharmacy beauty products.

Go to Versailles.

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Walk around the gardens and Petite Trianon.

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A little Louis XlV and a bit of Marie Antoinette go a long way.

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Drive to the Louis Vuitton Foundation by Frank Gehry. Get out and take a photo so it looks like I was there.

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Crowd five people into a tiny French hotel room with the wedding dress. Two are napping. One is in the shower. Another is fixing her carry on luggage.The fifth one goes downstairs and has tea. The one fixing her carry on luggage left her favorite bracelet from Cambodia in that hotel. They called to tell her.

After much restaurant deliberation, the not sleeping people have appetizers at the hotel. The not sleeping people are the women.

Go back to the airport with the wedding dress. Have macarons at airport Laduree.

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Fly safe to Africa,
JAZ

Pray For Paris, Pray For The World

Pray For Paris, Pray For The World

“It was very sad, he thought. The things men carried inside. The things men did or felt they had to do.” Tim O Brian

The justification for terrorist killings is that there are no civilians. The people in a country pay taxes and fund anti terrorism. According to the terrorists, we are all at war. Terrorism is an abstract noun. It is hard to be at war with an abstract noun.

Terrorism happens when one group faces a much more powerful group where they have no chance of winning. Instead they attack other targets in the hopes that will put pressure on the governments. They attack the powerless. They create fear and chaos. They go after people on planes returning from a holiday, people in restaurants, watching a concert, at work or at a soccer match  –  all different ages, races, nationalities and in all different cities. The terrorists convince themselves that their targets are less than human. They use religion, history, past offenses, current offenses and always the bottom line is the pursuit of a more important goal than human life. Is it easier to kill when you don’t call it murder?

The truth is that killing innocent people is always wrong. There is no argument and no excuse that can ever make it right. Terrorism is not part of faith.

We need to stop supporting the countries who fund terrorism. We need to stop our own  secret torturing, killing and cover ups. They don’t seem to be doing any good and give reason to the creation of more terrorists. We do need to defend ourselves.

Turning away refugees, xenophobia and fear of immigration is not an answer either. Didn’t we once return the persecuted back to Germany and Europe? Did we learn anything from closing our borders or putting the Japanese in camps  during World War II? We need to find a way to deal with the threats while honoring our ethical and moral obligations.

There was a surreal feeling in watching the footage of the events in Paris. It wasn’t a movie. People were dying who were just going about the business of life. The blood was not fake. The pregnant woman hanging on the wall saying she couldn’t hold on anymore was not acting. The guy hopping down the street was really shot in the leg.

I have always been fearful. I have the kind of brain that could put together hundreds of worst case scenarios on the way to anywhere. I mourn with the people of France. But fears in hand, I’m still going to Paris in the Spring. I realize that it is important to be aware, but to give in to the fears that random acts of violence create, is to let the terrorists win. #Dontbeterrorized.

Fly safe,
JAZ