I woke up to a beautiful, bright sunny day and headed straight for Munich’s northern cemetery, the Nordfriedhof, as the first of three cemeteries I would visit this day (the other two being the Alter Sudfriedhof and the Ostfriedhof). I was excited as I got off the U-Bahn train at, not surprisingly, Nordfriedhof station, and saw a big, beautiful cemetery in front of me. I wasn’t sure what German cemeteries would be like, but this one looked to be in the same vein as other great cemeteries I have visited, such as the Vienna’s Central Cemetery and multiple cemeteries in Italy.
Of course, unlike the Italian cemeteries, there were no nude statues here, or grand monuments with multiple statues. However, I found that the statues here were really well made, often with marble or other high quality stone, and that there was a mix of old and new. I didn’t get a chance to explore the entire cemetery, but I did that by choice. It looked like the southern end of the cemetery was much newer, with more modern, modest headstones, which usually is of little interest to me. So I spent most of the morning exploring the the more northern section.
Bogenhausen had prepared me somewhat for the flower beds that I would see here, but I was still overwhelmed not only by how many there were (it seems like 99% of the graves had a flower bed of some sort), but how well kept they were. Many had large Christmas/ winter type wreaths on them, or hardy little plants/shrubs that could survive the winter, but it was clear that with the warm spring weather, that it was time to replace these with more seasonal offerings. So bright pink, yellow, and purple flowers reigned everywhere, from tulips, hyacinths, crocuses, and more. I also noticed that many of the sites had a small plaque at the end of the flower garden that gave the name of the company that cared for that site. I didn’t realise that this type of business would exist, but clearly this is something that Germans care about, as I noticed numerous companies listed on various cards, and of course, while I was there, there were gardening trucks full of flats of flowers waiting to be planted across the cemetery. It definitely made this cemetery feel alive and vibrant.
Of course, with all that activity, not only from the grave/garden tending companies and the cemetery groundspeople, but also from regular people tending to their family graves, it made it a bit awkward for me to pull out my camera or phone to take pictures. I was more self-conscious here than any other cemetery, as I was the only one there not doing something productive. Since I didn’t want to disturb people, I often went on to the next section, but it meant a lot of backtracking to go back to photograph the more memorable monuments.
Quality of Monuments: Excellent. A nice wide range of statues were here, not surprisingly, angels featured quite a lot. There were some interesting newer monuments as well.
Cemetery Grounds: This is a very large cemetery with extensive grounds (over 34,000 burials). At minimum, it would take half a day to cover the entire cemetery as a reasonable pace, more if you really wanted to spend time and wanted to see every grave. The grounds are flat and the paths are well-maintained, so it’s easy to get around. There were quite a number of crocuses and water-drops in bloom all over the cemetery.
Visitors: This is definitely a working cemetery and there were many, many people there tending graves – a combination of family members and cemetery workers. I think I was the only tourist there, so I tried to be respectful as possible and did not have my cameras out if other people were present.
Photographer Notes: Even though I came here on a weekday, it was very busy with people and hired gardeners tending the graves – mostly clearing away the winter plants and wreaths, and replacing them with spring flowers. As such, I felt more conspicuous with a camera and did my best to be as unobtrusive as possible. Since I went here in mid-March, the sun was still kind of low in the sky, so it was hard to get a good angle on certain statues without strong backlight.
Cemetery: Nordfriedhof (Munich)
Location: Ungererstraße 130, 80805 München, Germany. The U-Bahn has a station called “Nordfriedhof.” As you go up the stairs and exit the station, the cemetery will be right in front of you.
Notable Internments: Sammy Drechsel and his wife Irene Koss, Franz von Defregger, Marie Amelie von Godin, Ernst Mach
Hours: Open daily from 08:00, closes at 17:00 (Nov-Feb), 18:00 (March), 20:00 (Apr-Aug), 19:00 (Sept-Oct)