We had a few vague ideas about what we’d like to see and do in Vienna, but no firm plans, so when our lovely Dutch friend Mickey asked if we were planning on visiting Zentralfriedhof, the Central Cemetery, we thought that was a great suggestion! We like cemeteries – we visited the Pere Lachaise cemetery when we were in Paris a few years ago and paid our respects to Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Gertrude Stein & Alice B Toklas and Jim Morrison and others I’ve forgotten now, and Arlington in Washington DC, then when we were in St Petersburg we visited the incredible Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery.
Some of Mickey’s family members have a grave at Zentralfriedhof, and quite a few famous composers are also buried there, conveniently all located in the same section quite close to one of the main entrances. The cemetery is on the outskirts of the city and it’s huge! It occupies over 600 acres of land and its dead population is nearly double Vienna’s current living population. We drove there as it’s a bit of a long haul on public transport; parked outside and we must really have acquired the mindset that we have to pay for parking everywhere, because we were very careful to check with the local Wurst stand seller that we could park there for free.
The composers’ graves are all in a very well-tended section, with nicely mown lawns, flowers and a plan to show who is where. We visited Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, the senior and junior Strausses, and a cenotaph honouring Mozart, who is buried in another cemetery. We followed Mickey’s excellent directions and found her family’s grave. We took a yellow flowering succulent in a pot and placed it on the headstone, took a few photos and walked back to the entrance along a different path so we could see a bit more of the cemetery. It’s feeling like early autumn here, although the weather is still warm, lots of leaves starting to change colour and starting to fall.
Then we drove to see the Danube River just outside the city limits and to visit another, smaller cemetery, Friedhof der Namenlosen, Cemetery of the Nameless, for people who drowned in the river. And then to the Gasometers, 4 huge cylindrical gas storage tanks which have now been ‘repurposed’ into shops, residential & commercial use and entertainment venues. The buildings themselves are interesting enough, but to then see what they have become is really something!
Today we caught the metro into the city centre, walked along the mall, visited St Stephen’s Cathedral, ate strudel & cake at Gerstner Cafe (established 1847) and strolled around the fascinating Naschmarkt. Bought a couple of things – corn on the cob for dinner, an interesting-looking Turkish cheese, zopfkase, which looks like a bundle of string tied into a ball. I’ve just tried it and it’s very salty – I’ll soak it in water for a while.