Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Walk to Rivendell - Week 15 Report

With spring now fully in charge, I am out and about much more; thus the weekly numbers are starting to climb. This week saw me reach and surpass the half-way point, an important - for me - milestone. Whoever thought I could walk more than 229 miles in little more than 3 months? Not me, that's for sure. So....
Week 15 STATS
Days walked or cycled: 6
Miles : 23
Kms.: 37
Total distance covered: 235 / 372
Still to go: 222 / 355
In relation to Frodo & Co.
Near the south end of the path. Sam recites part of the Fall of Gil-galad.

"Love is not changed by death
And nothing is lost
And all in the end is harvest."

Dame Edith Sitwell- from "Eurydice"

Last Sunday was Easter, a time when Christians, within whose number I count myself, celebrated the resurrection of Jesus. That this practice pre-dates the Christian era by many millennia is undeniable. The desire of the human animal to rejoice in the return of light and warmth after months of darkness is a reaction so basic, so instinctive as to place it in the company of fundamental human needs.

I am very fortunate that I live near one of the oldest and most historically interesting cemeteries in Estonia - Kudjape kalmistu. Even without knowing the histories of the deceased, the ornamentation of the graves makes this a delightful place to wander.

The high point for the cemetery was in the 18th century when the powerful Von Buxhoeveden family, descendants of the Bishop Albert who, with the crusading Brothers of the Sword, conquered Saaremaa and Christianized Estonia by marching an army across the ice from Riga in 1227, built two mausoleums which are the first things you see when you approach the front gates. This solidified Kudjape cemetery's position as the place to be buried. A mini war ensued for plots near the Von Buxhoeveden family's mausoleums.

A curious feature of the kalmistu are the exit steps. During the funeral, the deceased is carried in his coffin through the open gates. After internment, the mourners walk up and over these sets of steps. Local belief has it that the dead in their coffins will not be able to negotiate this barrier on their own and so must remain within the cemetery grounds. Personally, given the peacefulness and beauty of the grounds, there are days when I would be delighted to remain under the trees and among the ancient crosses myself.

During the occupation period the monuments and grave markers were allowed to deteriorate. Since the return to independence, much work has been done to renew and restore many of the grave sites. Any visitors to Saaremaa could do worse than spend a quiet hour amongst the elaborate crosses and funerary urns. The names and dates tell a silent story of the history of this island. Nearby are also the cemetery for the German war dead as well as the memorial to the islanders deported in 1941 and 1949. But that is a story for another post.




8 comments:

Leatherdykeuk said...

Lovely cemetery pictures!

martha said...

Thank you Rachel.

spacedlaw said...

This looks like a lovely peaceful place indeed.

martha said...

Thank you. It really is wonderful to have it so close - my own local Pere LaChaise.

Mediterranean kiwi said...

cemeteries have never made interesting places in greece - this is quite a different story in other parts of europe

martha said...

Yes, in common with Neil Gaimon, I have a fascination with graveyards. The high point of my first ever trip to Paris was a visit to Pere LaChaise where I put a rose on Chopin's grave. How's that for kitschy?

I agree, Greek cemeteries always seemed so much more work-a-day.

stephanie said...

Oh! I love the post picture. How lovely that is.

martha said...

Thank you so much. Saaremaa graveyards really are quite wonderful.