Each week, our friend Ailsa at Wheresmybackpack posts a Travel Theme challenge to bloggers. This week’s topic is really interesting: Secret Places. She has challenged us to share spots others may not know about, that are special to us for some reason.
At first, I wasn’t sure exactly how to respond to this one. Then I realized that every city or town has an interesting “secret place” (or two or three) in the form of its old cemeteries.
That may sound a little ghoulish to some, but it really isn’t. Cemeteries are quiet places of remembrance, with rich history and poignant stories hidden in every corner. I remember the first time we went to Arlington National Cemetery and I saw the Paderewski grave marker. Why was a Polish musician and statesman buried in a US military site? Read the story. He has since been returned to his beloved Poland.
A few days after visiting Pearl Harbor, my beloved and I drove through the “Punchbowl” Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Each stone marks a life with a story. It’s fascinating and sobering to imagine how each of their lives (and ours) might have been different without the attack on Pearl Harbor.
When my first grandchild was born, I started doing genealogical research. Cemeteries are incredible historical reference resources. Visiting family gravesites for both my husband’s family and my own, we learned about people we hadn’t even known existed, and we saw snippets of their lives in the memorial messages carved on, and style or quality of, their headstones.
There are even genealogists (and others) who make a hobby of taking “rubbings” of memorials. Using a large piece of tracing paper that is not too thick, but sturdy, and a thick wax crayon, they place the paper over the stone or brass and rub the image onto the paper. I have seen some of these artifacts framed in homes, and they can be quite lovely and meaningful. (Of course, this is done respectfully – and modern cemeteries expect certain etiquette to be followed.)
I have never done rubbings myself. My beloved and I prefer to just quietly read the stones or brass markers, imagining the lives of the people remembered through these memorials, and occasionally snapping a quick photo to help us remember. We’ve done this in Boston, at Quaker burial sites in Philadelphia, and in other places as well.
Our favorites, however, are the kirkyards (churchyards) we have visited in Edinburgh. In the US, we may see graves that are 200, or maybe 300 years old at most. In Scotland, there are graves going back a millennia in some places, with the names nearly worn away by time. And families stayed close by, so that there may be five or ten generations of a family buried near one another. Some men buried two or three wives and several children before they died themselves. And some of the memorial messages are quite touching.
One Edinburgh cemetery we have visited in the past is the Greyfriars churchyard. We were originally drawn to it by the story of Greyfriars Bobby, the legendary terrier buried there with his master. On our last trip over, however, we spent most of one drizzly evening in the cemetery of St. Cuthbert’s Parish. Following are some of the images I captured as we quietly meandered through the expansive churchyard with our niece. Click on any photo to enlarge it.
In the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, and from the Castle, looking down on the cemetery.
What “secret” place or places do you know? To see what secret places other bloggers shared, click here!