Travel Theme: Secret Places

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 Cemeteries are incredible historical reference resources.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!

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36 Responses to Travel Theme: Secret Places

  1. I don’t think it is ghoulish, but a way to connect with our history. I have been to a few older cemeteries and find it interesting. Hey in Paris there is a whole tour to find celebrity sites like Morrison. Reminds me of the time I was walking with a class by a cemetery and the children had so many questions. I took them in and we looked around and talked about respect and what the place meant. Some of my coworkers thought it was morbid, but I found it a great chance to educate because they were curious. I just answered their questions it wasn’t forced. Treating it as forbidden ends up causing more problems, I think.

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  2. I love to wander in a cemetery. It is so interesting to read the tombstones and imagine the stories behind them, and the secrets that might have been buried with them. What a perfect choice for the theme!

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  3. Penny says:

    Ah another cemetery lover. You might enjoy my weekly photo challenge post. If you have a moment check it out. Nice post by the way!

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  4. gingerbreadcafe says:

    I love the stories in cemeteries, I remember doing rubbings whilst I was at school. I see you have the versatile blogger award already but I have nominated you again as I enjoy your posts.

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  5. Even as adults, we should never loose that child-like adventurous spirit in us. Secret places are those that lead us to something beautiful. Of a place where we can be truly happy and lost in a generous laughter and wonder. Thanks.
    http://thismansjourney.net/2012/06/18/secret-places-of-childhood/

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  6. It’s a helpful post for geneaology hunters. Thank you.

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  7. whitt88 says:

    I guess we’ll all ‘sort of retire,’ but you make it look so peaceful. Someone at AdChoices plunked down an ad (surprising, considering the subject), but it didn’t detract too much from your fine work. Glad to have discovered you ( from a comment you made elsewhere.)

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  8. Pingback: Secret Places Of Childhood | this man's journey

  9. ailsapm says:

    Really wonderful post, I’ve been to that cemetery in Edinburgh, and even found the statue of dear, sweet Greyfriars Bobby. His story broke my heart.

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    • Disney made a movie about Bobby when I was a child. Across the street from the statue, behind the tavern, is the little Greyfriars church and graveyard where dog and master are buried. It is a touching story!

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  10. Pingback: Travel theme: Secret Places: CASTLE « Pictures in living color

  11. Madhu says:

    Another lover of cemetaries 🙂 Looks like a lovely serene place to hide out!

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  12. Collection of photographs which are full of stories of history my friend, I enjoy it. Fantastic

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  13. Old cemeteries have an appeal all of their own and are fascinating to visit

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  14. Madoqua says:

    Cemeteries always leave me wondering about the lives of those buried there. The oldest ones are the most intriguing, I think.

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  15. adinparadise says:

    Wonderful post. I also find old cemeteries very interesting and soothing to wander around.

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  16. TBM says:

    Great entry. I love wandering through cemeteries, reading the names and learning about the residents. And the peace and quiet. It is always moving. Thanks for sharing.

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  17. coastalcrone says:

    I love visiting old cemeteries when I travel. Nice post.

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