3.3 million at last count. All these souls are interred at Vienna’s Central Cemetery (Zentralfriedhof), a vast park-like space on the outskirts of the city.
Visiting the cemetery had been on my bucket list for a long time. Yesterday’s warm sunshine finally motivated me to hop on the number 71 tram and go out there. This tram goes directly to the cemetery gates, which is why the Viennese say “take the 71” as a euphemism for death. It seemed like a pretty ordinary tram to me, though 🙂
The Central Cemetery was opened in 1874, after it became clear that there was no more space for burials inside the city limits. The rather progressive and controversial (at the time) decision was made to allow burials of all faiths. But, this being Austria, order was paramount. All God’s children are neatly divided into sections, separated by walkways and marked with cast-iron signposts. Recently, sections have been added for Muslims, Buddhists, and Mormons.
The Jewish section is especially interesting. It was heavily vandalized during Kristallnacht and inadvertently bombed during WWII. Because Vienna’s Jewish population was nearly eliminated by the Nazis, there are few local descendants left to take care of the graves. So, unlike other sections of the cemetery which are mostly well-manicured, it is quite overgrown and a bit spooky.
More information in the captions. I don’t think I even saw half of the cemetery, and the church was closed for the day. So, I intend to return on a day when it is open, explore some more sections and find some famous graves.