It was still early on that New Year morning when we got off an empty train at Vyšehrad station, and walked to Vyšehrad under a grey sky. It is here that the city of Prague was once born: a castle was constructed on its steep and high hill, probably starting in the 9th century. While Vyšehrad now definitely lies outside the focal point of Prague, it still very much merits a visit, as it holds one of the main cemeteries of the country. After passing one of the old gates, we entered the old area of Vyšehrad, and entered the cemetery proper through the east gate. Even though we were in no way experts in Czech arts, we quickly identified the grave of Smetana, one of the famous composers buried here.
We found ourselves close to the Slavín, a pantheon for over fifty noteworthy Czechs designed by Antonín Wiehl; poets, scientists, painters, musicians, actors, and others. Steps lead up to a stele on which a winged woman, representing Genius, is positioned on a sarcophagus; on the face of the stele, and on the wall behind it, names of Czech heroes in gold letters. Right in front of the pedestal, a small green cross; on the stairs, we saw a makeshift memorial with flowers and burning candles for the recently deceased Czech writer, dissident, and former president, Václav Havel. We ventured into the lanes of the compact cemetery, where we found many convincing and original sculptures, statues, and other works of art to commemorate a valuable person. Some of the grey stone statues were covered in a moss that somehow underlined the fact that nothing lasts forever. Overall, the cemetery breathed peace, dignity, and respect for those lying here.
An old lady walked past, kneeled at a grave, softly caressing the marble tombstone; I would never know who she was mourning. I moved to the outside: on the western and northern side of the cemetery, arcades have been constructed, in which prominent tombs can be found, mosaics on the walls, and more statues heralding the dead. Here, I also found the tomb of Dvořák, the well known Czech composer. Following the walls, I arrived at the main entrance, where I found the church of St. Peter and Paul. Its darkish bell towers add to the atmosphere of the cemetery of Vyšehrad; inside, its stained glass windows have a remarkably bright shine. We walked through the cemetery once more, on our way out to the wall right above the cliffs; from here, we enjoyed the views over the Vltava river, Prague Castle in the distance. Descending the stairs, we reached the riverfront; it proved to be a good decision to walk back to the city centre, from the resting place of the dead to the playground of the living.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Vyšehrad cemetery (Czech Republic). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Vyšehrad cemetery.
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