Just take a walk! Take a walk without an aim in Assistens Kirkegård

Just take a walk!
Other | Saturday d. 30. Jul. 2016 | Heden 5, Odense C | Price: 0 Kr. | This week’s guest recommendation is wirtten by: Anders Skovgaard | Translated by: Fabio Trecca

Location: Assistenskirkegården
Organizer: Odense

Yeah just go for a walk. Enjoy the grass between the gravestones and the memory of those who aren't anymore — take a walk in Assistens Kirkegård and take a break. This is maybe a slightly odd recommendation, since there are many beautiful parks and green spots in Odense. But while Munke Mose and Eventyrhaven have become more a place for grills, ghetto blasters, and pokemon go, Assistens Kirkegård offers 32 hectares of peace and mind escape, which can be so important in a hectic everyday, or just as yet another summer free-flowing pastime.

When I first moved to Odense to study at the university, the cemetery was my absolutely favorite place for walking and outdoor-reading. I could walk there for many and long hours, carefully examining the really old gravestones and their messages from forgotten lives and deeds: the headmasters, the factory owners, the lawyers, and the casualties of wars. I walked thriftily and read the headstones for hours. Not because I had a purpose with that, but only for the sake of their stories, ended and untold. On most of the old stones are in fact both place of birth, of death, official title, and a small eulogy or a passage from the Bible. Those few lines tell a lot and give fantasy a great deal to work with.

It might seem macabre to walk and read those texts, but it isn't. That's why they're there to start with. Death is just as natural as life is, and has just so much grief, joy, adventure and humor in store as life does. Many of the graves are also very old, 100 years or more, and are not really a monument to anyone to visit anymore, but rather a screen for our fantasy to reflect upon. Some may have a slightly unreflective and inattentive view of death and graves. That death, in some way, calls for more respect than life. That the grass of a cemetery must be treaded on more quietly than the worms' activity in the coffins. That the headstones, hidden and forgotten behind the cemetery walls, do not really belong to reality and to our everyday. That it is mystically, Cartesianly linked between the physical and the spiritual — between soul and flesh. Fine with me, but a cemetery is also just a place with countless stories and a place for contemplation that goes beyond just grief. It's also a place for life.

Other times I'm only there for the grass, the trees, the wild hares, and not least for my own sake. As a student I would often sit there and study for my exams. It's the perfect place to sit with Kant, Aristotle, and Nietzsche. The grass is softer and the trees older. The hares are wilder, and the air cleaner. The beautiful and well-preserved nature calls for a much needed mind escape. Between the lime and the oak tree, thoughts flow with the leaves and the trunks, or float with the birds up to the untouchable clouds. It's incredibly beautiful, and with the trees — oak, beech, ash, chestnut, birch, pine, lime — growing freely, it's an open-air paradise close to the business of the city center.

But other than just a beautiful place, the cemetery also has a lot of history: it was previously both the city's execution place and waste dump. The cemetery is from 1811.

I'm not going to tell you what you should do there, or whether it makes sense at all for you to walk around without any goal other than the walk itself — among the trees and graves. It's totally up to you. But the grass is there. The hares are there. Life is there. And as Odense Kommune writes about Assistens Kirkegård, this is "... an exciting and diverse cemetery, where there is place for everyone".

Link to the event

Written by Anders Skovgaard

For mig er Odense et forsøg. En åben by, hvor jeg kan skabe mig selv ind i. En mulighed for at gøre noget tingene på en anden måde. Eller det er det hvert fald blevet. Personlig tiltrækkes jeg af f...

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