Stahnsdorf cemetery: the hidden city of the dead

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Located at the gates of Berlin, Südwestkirchhof Stahnsdorf is one of the largest cemeteries in Europe. Half fairy tale Wald, half an otherworldly cemetery, it’s a delightfully spooky destination for the most haunted month of the year.

At the arrival It might seem odd to call a cemetery “welcoming”, but that’s the general feeling when you walk through the main entrance to Südwestkirchhof Stahnsdorf. Other cemetery enthusiasts and staff will be happy to point out their favorite spots and encourage you to cycle along the wide, tree-lined avenue that circles the grounds, providing easy access to the various sections. . This is also a good thing, as the site is huge, spanning 206 hectares in total. It’s easy to get intimidated by the size, but as always, there’s an app for it. The cemetery app you didn’t know you needed, Wo Sie Ruhen (“Where They Rest”), can serve as your personal audio guide to important tombstones in the park.

First cinematic impressions Südwestkirchhof Stahnsdorf not only accommodates day trippers prone to morbidity, it also accommodates several film crews. Netflix show fans Dark can recognize one of the most iconic rooms in the cemetery, a dark wooden mourning chapel and pastel accents in the Norwegian style. I was surprised to find something interesting in my own German TV frenzy: the grave of Ernst Gennat, the founder of the Heart Murder Investigation Unit. Babylon Berlin. This tomb and the strange statue of a weeping angel can be found right next to the main entrance, before reaching the chapel.

In the cemetery You can continue along the main avenue, bordered on the right by the densely overgrown Schwedischer Friedhof section. Go down one of the small tracks starting from the main path and you will be in the depths of the woods in a few minutes. It could be any German forest without the gravestones placed seemingly haphazardly along the trails, half hidden in the undergrowth and phosphorescent with decades of green algae. Beyond this section, at the western end of the main path, you will discover the Memorial to the Italian and English prisoners of the First World War, a set of tidy and unobstructed plots where you can sunbathe while walking through the strangely old-fashioned names of buried soldiers.

You will then turn around and walk through the left side of the park, which looks more like a cemetery than the right. Neat rows of well-maintained gravestones line narrow paths covered in soft, shiny green moss. Stroll a little deeper into the most neglected areas and you’ll get a feel for the weird chance that makes the cemetery so unique: palm-sized gravestones, the carvings of which have been smoothed out by the elements , are scattered among immense vines. covered mausoleums that are larger than most Berlin studios; and long-forgotten marble tombstones buried back to back in the blanket of fallen leaves.

It is highly recommended to visit near dusk. The fading light and creeping nighttime cold combine to give the air a hazy quality, sending a chill down your spine that will make you seek refuge in the surroundings. Beer garden as soon as you have refueled. (Tick-Tack, a kitschy little spot opposite the entrance to the cemetery, is covered head to toe in old clocks, which may not really calm your nerves.) Whether you find the Südwestkirchhof creepy or beautiful (or both), you’ll probably end up sharing the sentiment expressed aloud by my friend upon seeing him for the first time: “Dude, I should have had a goth phase.”

Plan your trip The cemetery is open all year round with varying seasonal hours. In October, you can access the park between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. To get there, take the RE7 to Potsdam Medienstadt Babelsberg and cycle or bus the rest of the way. Free tours are available on the first Saturday of each month.


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