Remember That Time…We Visited The Dead?

25.January 2011

Argentina, Remember That Time

Now that we’ve returned home and have settled back into our routine lives again we find it funny how our travel stories keep coming up. Invariably one of us will look at the other and say ‘Remember That Time…’ I thought it would make a good series; a way to tell these small stories that take us back in the blink of an eye.

I’m not one to believe in ghost stories, or think that my ancestors are looking down on me. I have a pretty pragmatic view of death and will be utterly surprised if I ‘wake up’ on the other side. I am fascinated, though, by cemeteries and the lengths to which people will go to honor and remember their loved ones.

La Cementerio de la Recoleta in Buenos Aires is a grand display of love, and worship, and wealth.

Ensconced within the tony Recoleta neighborhood, hidden behind high walls, it is a city within the city. City blocks, stone streets, narrow alleys and plazas mark the landscape and live up to the name City of the Dead.

In this city the streets are not lined with houses, and driveways, and green lawns; but with mausoleums, and tombstones, and statues honoring those that rest here.

It is truly a sight to behold. We wandered for hours, checking out all the nooks and crannies, reading the inscriptions and poking our heads into open mausoleums to see stacks of coffins inside! It was, at times, a little creepy but more-so it was fascinating to think of the time, and energy, and money that went into these final resting places.

There is a reminder of this grand cemetery here at home. From the window near the front door of our apartment I can look out to the biggest cemetery here in Victoria, the Ross Bay Cemetery. It is a beautiful, parkland-like setting on the edge of the ocean; in fact, local lore says that high tides and storms have been responsible for sucking caskets out to sea…that was until they shored it all up a few years ago and wrecked the ghost story-telling potential.

Housing many local founding fathers (such as Sir James Douglas and John Dunsmuir), Canadian icons (Emily Carr and Billy Barker) and historical figures (Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie and Nellie Chapman), it is the perfect place to take a walk..and we do often as we cut through on our way to the grocery store.

It is old; just as old as La Cementerio de la Recoleta; opened in 1873, and is showing it’s age with many of the tombs covered in moss, or caved in but it is no match for the grandest cemetery in Argentina. Don’t tell those resting there though…they have an ocean view and are proud of it!

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15 Responses to “Remember That Time…We Visited The Dead?”

  1. Dalene Says:

    I personally find it kinda creepy that cemetery’s have become tourist attractions, but that still didn’t stop me from visiting them in Buenos Aires and Medellin. Perhaps because I had a summer job in northern Alberta where I had to cut grass in a cemetery and ended up knocking over headstones with my riding lawn mower – oops!
    Dalene recently posted..Marching Powder by Rusty Young

  2. Keith Says:

    I loved touring the Recoleta Cemetery in BA. It was one of my favorite parts of the city. Not sure if you were there on the weekend, but there is a huge markets that sets up outside the main entrance on the weekends. It just adds to the overall carnival feel of what is a pretty creepy place if you start thinking about it.

    We have some pretty old cemeteries here in Philly, so when you guys come to visit (hint..hint) we can take you to see Benjamin Franklin’s grave as well as lots of other from the 1600 and 1700′s.

  3. Mike Lenzen Says:

    I never thought much about it, but cemeteries certainly are tourist attractions. It gets the imagination going a bit, thinking about what life was like in a forgone time.

    Even in Saskatchewan here, when I go out walking through the prairies, I have to stop in at each abandoned cemetery and take a look. It’s kind of neat recognizing names, and figuring out what dates the cemetery got started, and when it was last used.

    Even on our river trip down the Yukon River, we stopped in at 3 different grave yards full of strange looking cribs and spirit houses.

  4. Theresa Says:

    I’ve always liked cemeteries. Maybe it’s a Southern thing, but as kids, we’d often go “visit” family at the cemetery, making the rounds from gravesite to gravesite to leave flowers or just say hello. As an adult, I think the whole idea of burying people is a bit odd (all that land!), but as a kid I felt completely at home in them. I still love to visit them, because I think they often have great art and landscapes and they tend to reveal a lot about people and their lives and beliefs.
    Theresa recently posted..Antarctica Dream Destination Yes Mine No

  5. Kim Says:

    Great idea for post-trip posts! There are always those little things that come to mind from our trip too! btw, in true American fashion, I’ve never heard of the Canadians you listed as buried near your house. I need to learn more about my neighbors!
    Kim recently posted..La Merced – Antigua- Guatemala Flickr

  6. Zablon Mukuba Says:

    i love the way guys give respect to the dead, through beautiful cemetaries and tombstones

  7. Iran Travel Guide Says:

    Yes, the show must go on …

    What a clean city of dead! Some of the pictures show such beautiful scenes that I prefer them to some of the so-called living communities :)

    Rahman Mehraby
    Destination Iran Travel & Tours
    Iran Travel Guide recently posted..Best Skiing Opportunity in The Middle East

  8. Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World Says:

    What an interesting and eery experience it must have been. I should remember to check this out when we’re in Argentina sometime this year.
    Jill – Jack and Jill Travel The World recently posted..Sleeping On A Bed of Straw in Switzerland and the story of a big pizza

  9. Adam Says:

    Ahhh, I love Recoleta Cemetery. Such a cool place. We have visited cemeteries in New Orleans as well, and those were pretty impressive, too. We also stumbled upon one during a hike outside of El Bolson in Argentina which was also cool. I don’t know what it is about them, maybe the uniqueness of ones like these, but I really enjoy visiting them, however morbid that sounds.

    Great recap and awesome pictures!!
    Adam recently posted..5 Reasons Why Hostel Pudu is the Best

  10. Kim Says:

    Wow, I’m always intrigued by cemeteries and memorials. I think I’ll have to see this City of the Dead with my own two eyes. It looks eery and beautiful.
    Kim recently posted..RTWsomanyplaces- I am SO doing one of these on my RTW RT @almostfearless Notes on a Silent Meditation Retreat AlmostFearlesscom http-supr-52JyXW

  11. Jason Says:

    I remember visiting this cemetery almost 20 years ago and you post brings back memories of the afternoon I had exploring it with another fellow traveler. If your ever in Manila go and check out the Chinese cemetery, as they have some tombs that have to be seen to be believed. Some are air-conditioned and have sinks and basins for the mourners. There’s even a couple with flushing toilets. It’s quite bizarre. Safe travels….

  12. joshywashington Says:

    Gorgeous photos, I look forward to visiting the dead in Buenos Aires this week. My favorite walk in Seattle takes me to Lake View Cemetary, where the cities founding families are buried…it is so beautiful.
    joshywashington recently posted..The Art of Saying Goodbye

  13. Matt Says:

    When my wife and I were in Bali we were asked if we wanted to visit Trunyan village on the eastern shore of Lake Batur. The Trunyan people do not bury or cremate their dead. They just lay their bodies in bamboo cages on the ground under the trees. Apparently they have 3 cemeteries, one for normal dead, one for children and one for abnormal deaths. As curious as I was about all of this we didn’t take the tour.
    Matt recently posted..Why Stretching is Good

  14. Sofia Says:

    Seems like a pretty crazy place to visit!

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