Cemetery Review #1 – De Nieuwe Ooster – Amsterdam – The Netherlands
I’m sure you’ve heard of the type of people who hang out at cemeteries with a bottle of wine and kiss amidst the headstones. That’s me and my man. We love taking walks at graveyards and revel in the peace and beauty they emit. Therefor I am starting this series of cemetery reviews; to show you all the good ones.
De Nieuwe Ooster is the largest cemetery in Amsterdam. It replaced the older Oosterbegraafplaats in 1894 and a crematory was added in 1994, which upped its title to “Nieuwe” (Dutch for new.) Initially designed by landscape architect Leonard Springer, it covers almost 75 acres and accommodates a wide variety of old and modern graves, as well as a funeral museum and a gorgeous arboretum.
The very first grave that caught my eyes was a stunning overgrown grave with no name. There are numerous ones of its kind to be found here. Although the cemetery is overall very well maintained, I like the fact that some graves have a bit of a wild, decayed look to them because of weeds and general deterioration.
De Nieuwe Ooster holds some very fine monuments, like the grave tomb of Joannes Benedictus van Heutsz.
Van Heutsz was a Dutch military officer who had become famous by bringing to an end to the long Aceh War. The grave is made of granite and shows two warriors who guard its entrance.
Because of Amsterdam’s multi-cultural population, de Nieuwe Ooster houses graves from all kinds of different cultural and religious backgrounds. For example, there are areas with huge Romanian style monuments that show impressive engravings of the deceased person with their material achievements (especially cars), to reflect their wealth and status.
The cemetery is simultaneously an arboretum and holds a lush collections of trees. Because of this, visiting de Nieuwe Ooster feels like being in a beautiful park, which shows itself in a different color palette each season. Visitors can even adopt a tree, which I think is pretty romantic. You could dedicate your favorite tree to a lover, dead or alive. For a small fee, a name plate will be mounted onto the tree of your choice, which will read the Latin name of the tree, and a short additional text you wish to include. The arboretum also organizes various events, like guided tours and educational courses, both for adults and children.
One of my favorite graves here is of Gerardus Frederik Westerman, who was one of the founders of Artis, the Amsterdam zoo. On top of the grave is a dog cast in bronze, forever guarding its owner. The sculpture was inspired by a design by the son in law of Gerardus, J. J. F. Verdonck.
De Nieuwe Ooster is so big and diverse that you can easily spend a whole afternoon wandering the grounds. If you do so, make sure to check out museum Tot Zover (Dutch Funeral Museum So Far). Besides their own collection they have changing exhibitions on various interesting subjects, and you can enjoy a cup of tea in their cafe. It’s a cosy place to hang out, both for the living and the dead.