Spring showers bring, uh, March flowers? You bet. Nordfriedhof had quite a lot, but I was unprepared for the Alter Südfriedhof (the old south cemetery). It was a field of crocuses everywhere you looked. Deep purple ones, yellow ones, and colours in between. Oh, and snow drops too. Who knew that cemeteries could be so lovely in the spring?
I hadn’t expected much of the cemetery when I first approached it and saw it’s graffiti-covered wall, but I was in for a pleasant surprise. This is an old cemetery that is no longer used for burials, so locals use it as a park. There are plenty of very old monuments throughout the cemetery, some in good condition, others less so. I have to admit, I was as much enraptured with the cemetery as I was with all the pointy-eared red squirrels frolicking through the crocuses. Most of the interesting monuments lie next to the many paths that run through the cemetery, so it was not necessary to venture in and trample all the flowers.
I have to admit, when I first arrived I was more interested in the crocuses and the squirrels frolicking through them, than I was with the old worn monuments themselves. But that quickly changed, as the further I went in, the more interesting the monuments got. Of course, most of them were made with lesser quality stone, so they have worn down somewhat over the years.That said, it’s that very wabi-sabi aesthetic that I love. In many cases, while the statues have kept their shape, the lettering on many of the stones have disappeared entirely. I find that both sad and comforting at the same time, it’s a very poignant reminder that things (and people) pass on and in most cases, are forgotten. That’s okay though, because if we had to remember every event and every person ever, the weight of the past would be a very heavy burden for the present. Life moves on.
Anyway, when I first entered this cemetery, I did what I usually do, which is turn left, walk the length of the outer wall, and slowly work my way to the centre. For some reason, the way I did this (partly going off path to shoot photos of crocuses) I did not realise there was a much bigger section in front of me. By the time I discovered this huge gate separating the two sections, I had planned to go on to the next cemetery on the list. So, change of plans. What the gate had hidden from me was a large colonnade, Italian style, filled with statues. To be fair, it was fairly dilapilated, but still interesting nonetheless. The statues against the wall and in the grounds were much more interesting as well. However, in the couple hours I was here, the day went from blue sunny skies to overcast and drizzly, and I knew if I wanted to squeeze in another cemetery, I would have to leave.
In the end, this ended up being my favourite cemetery in Munich, although I only got to scratch the surface of what was available in that city.
Quality of Monuments: There’s a variety of headstones, reliefs, and statues here, all in various stages of decay, as this cemetery is quite old. This cemetery was Munich’s main burial ground from 1788-1867 so a lot of prominent people are buried here.
Cemetery Grounds: A bit larger than expected, but the terrain is flat and there are clear and easy paths everywhere. As it also functions as a park, it also has some benches here and there, which are quite welcome. And, as noted, in the spring it is a riot of colour, as various shades of purple, white, and yellow crocuses erupt in bloom.
Visitors: Quite a few locals and tourists here, but the numbers were fairly low.
Photographer Notes: This cemetery isn’t in use anymore (other than a park), but the various monument are not tightly packed, which makes it easy to walk around and photograph them. Due to the worn nature of a lot of the monuments, finding ways to add more contrast (film, filters, or post-processing) will help make some of the features stand out more.
Cemetery: Alter Südfriedhof (Old South Cemetery), also known as Alter Südlicher Friedhof.
Location: Thalkirchner Str. 17, 80337 München, Germany. It’s about 1/2 km south of Sendlinger Tor, an easy walk from the metro station.
Established: 1563 (as a plague cemetery). Burials ended here in 1944.
Notable Internments: Sophie Diez, Max Joseph Pettenkofer, Georg Friedrich von Reichenbach, Helene Kreszenz Sedlmayr, Johann Alois Senefelder
Hours: Open daily from 08:00-18:00.
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