Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Olšanské hřbitovy (Olšany Cemetery)

Several months ago, I went on a class trip to the Olšany Cemetery in Prague, Czech Republic. It is the largest cemetery in Prague; it consists of twelve expansive sections. There are a lot of notable people buried in the cemetery and, as a result, there is significant history throughout the area. 

The cemetery was established in 1680. It was created as a place to bury the large number of plague victims at the time. With another outbreak of the plague in 1787, it became illegal to bury bodies within the city limits of Prague; this was done to help prevent the further spread of the disease. This allowed for Olšany Cemetery to be declared the central burial ground for Prague. As a result, the most notable citizens of Prague have been buried in this cemetery over the last 200 years.

Since I went with our Czech language course, we each had an assignment to write a bit about someone who was buried in the cemetery. The assignment allowed for each of us to learn a bit more about the famous people who were buried in this cemetery and their different contributions. 

I wrote my assignment on Jan Palach, whose grave is pictured above. Jan was a student at Charles University in the late 1960s. In January of 1969, he committed suicide by self-immolation as a form of political protest in Václavské náměstí (Wenceslas Square) in Prague. He was protesting the invasion of Warsaw Pact members troops.

There were many ornate headstones in the cemetery. Throughout history, it was common to depict one's profession or interests on their headstone. I found many featuring very large bears. 

Later we crossed the street to the New Jewish Cemetery. It was opened in 1891 to curb the overcrowding problem in the Old Jewish Cemetery. It is still in use to today.

Among the notable graves is Franz Kafka. Kafka is a well-known author and who spent most of his life in Prague.  Many people visit his grave each year to honor his legacy.

Overall, it was worth seeing and I would recommend it to any Prague vacationers!

<3 Amy

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