Tourist guides will tell you about the world famous Infant Jesus but I prefer the Holy Girl only locals know about. Also when it comes to cemeteries, don´t think that only the Old Jewish Cemetery is worth visiting…
End of October might be Halloween time for many but not for us in the Czech Republic. We traditionally celebrate the holiday of „all loyal spirits“ or „rememberance of dead“ on 2nd November. It is time to go to graves of your relatives and friends, time to light a candle and remember them. Cemeteries become very romantic places with candles burning in the already dark afternoon hours. The atmosphere is even stronger when it is foggy or a little rainy. You can virtually feel the spirits around you. The air is humid, people are nostalgic and crave for hot tea with honey. I love cemeteries all year round. Trying to imagine stories behind names on gravestones, watching squirrels and stray cats, listening to birds, cemeteries are simply relaxing.
If you find yourself near Anděl (metro line B), why not become acquintance with our Holy Girl. She dwells at Malostranský hřbitov. Go just one stop by tram to Bertramka (as the place where Mozart was staying). The cemetery is straight by the stop. It is open to public like any other common cemetery. This might be confusing as it sounds like being in Malá Strana (Lesser town). However explanation is simple. The grounds were bought by Dominican monks from Malá strana to provide space for victims of plague in 17th century. The place was quite neglected and frequently used by junkies for a long time until one local iniciative started looking after it. Currently, they have built new walls and are trying to save tombstones and make this place beautiful again. It lost a bit its charm but there is probably no other way to save it.
This group of enthusiasts also organises different events, „dušičky“ (rememeberance of dead, meaning small spirits) being the most legendary. You can listen to stories about people buried there, walk around, light candles on graves of long forgoten people, inhale the astmosphere. And last but not least, visit the Holy Girl. Her tomb is aproximately in the middle, to the right from the main path.
Story behind the grave
Who was she? Supposedly a 3-5 year old girl who died after falling out of the window. Legends say she was not a usual little girl, before she was born an angel accidentaly got into her body. This meant little Annie was very kind to everyone, too good for this world, giving all her toys to poor children, inviting beggars home etc. Earthly world was simply too much suffering for her. Shortly after her dead, children started coming to her grave, bringing wishes writen on pieces of paper. If you believe, you can also make a wish who knows…Until today, her tomb is decorated with lot of candles and paper notes during the „dušičky“ time .
More nostalgy, more graveyards
If you like atmospehere of old graveyards, there are more places to visit in Prague. Apart from „posh“ Slavín on Vyšehrad where famous people are buried, there are several more interesting ones. My favourite are Olšanské hřbitovy near Flóra or Želivského (metro stations line A). These are actually more cemeteries or more departments. There is a new Jewish cemetery, reminding sadly of WWII, resting places of legionaries, pilots, Russian orthodox part…all under old trees. The area is inhabited by stray cats, reminding me of tigers in a sort of European jungle, sitting on tombs and enjoying rays of sun coming through dense branches and ivy. Some parts are newer but most have this gothic feel. If you are lucky, you might even find tasty grapes growing by the department dedicated to WWI soldiers.
If you liked it then you will probably also like Malvazinky in Prague 5. If you are looking for more mystery and creepy feeling, set off direction Bohnice psychiatric clinic. There is a very strange old cemetery once used for deceased patients. There is some gossip about ghosts appearing and negative energy. Try yourself, just remember – November is the best time.