Autumn is definitely my favorite season. And with the trees turning golden yellow and red, the best time to visit a cemetery. This time I went to one in Nijmegen: begraafplaats Daalseweg, simply named after the street it’s on. Although it’s not a very large cemetery, there is a huge number of beautiful old graves that not only reflect the history, but also resemble the elegance of the city Nijmegen is today. I took a thousand photos, so get ready for a photo overload beaming with Halloween vibes!
Once you enter the gates, a path lined with trees divides the cemetery in two. The first grave is of J. R. van der Lans, a Catholic teacher and writer who died in 1928. The grave features a list with some of the works that he has published – out of curiosity I actually ordered on of them today while writing this blog post.
Begraafplaats Daalseweg was established in 1884. It was initially founded as a Roman Catholic cemetery and holds many prominent former residents of Nijmegen. In 1940 the cemetery closed for new burials, until its reopening in 1997. Since 1997 it’s not strictly Catholic anymore and is now open for burials of all people, regardless of their religious background. Due to it being closed for some time the older graves dominate the sight of the graveyard.
My friend Aisha joined me on my cemetery stroll. She lives nearby in a former nunnery that has a tiny cemetery of which I did another cemetery review last year. She showed me her favorite graves and even discovered a couple new ones with me.
Like this one for example – two graves right next to each other with a badly positioned tree in their midst. Over the years, the tree has grown so much that it has destroyed both graves. The corpses must literally be entwined with the roots, which is actually quite a beautiful thing I believe. Wondering how to become a tree? This is one way to do that.
Exploring the graves, a recurrent symbol that caught my attention was that of A and Ω, or Alpha and Omega. These symbols are the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet and are mentioned in the Book of Revelation: “I am the Alpha and the Omega” as a reference to Jesus, as according to Christian beliefs he always existed and always will exist.
The main path leads to this giant crucifix with a memento mori skull underneath it. The cemetery has around 25000 graves. One of the old graves is of Emile Selbach, a famous heavy weight hotelkeeper who gained notoriety by eating large amounts of food at his hotels, through which he would attract visitors. He weighed over 200 kilo’s when he died in 1914. Good story, right? Unfortunately I only read about him after my visit so I didn’t have the chance to find his grave and photograph it.
I did find this epic synonym for an exit:
“Until we meet again in heaven” ♡
Many of the graves have been partially deteriorated and allow for a glimpse inside. Back when I had not visited so many cemeteries yet I remember always getting this eerie feeling whenever I would see a partially opened tombstone. But there’s no need to feel scared – no human remains are to be seen, only new plant life.
While doing my research on this graveyard, I found an audio tour by Bert Jansen, a man who gives guided tours at Begraafplaats Daalseweg. He says, “You’re only dead when people stop mentioning your name.” I can agree with that sentiment in the sense that I am interested in the dead I encounter and often want to learn more about them.
Learning about the dead connects you with them again and revives them in a way, just like listening to a song by a musician who has passed away, or reading a book of a great Russian novelist who has been dead for over a century. Time really does not exist, except in our perception of it.
Begraafplaats Daalseweg is a gorgeous cemetery, well worth a visit if you’re in Nijmegen.