In a remote corner of Austria, not too far from the Danube River, lies a small cemetery known as Friedhof der Namenlosen, the Cemetery of the Nameless. If you’ve seen the film Before Sunrise, you know this place–Celine and Jesse visit it during their romantic tour of Vienna. And you may have heard that it’s supposed to be haunted.
The cemetery was established by the locals over one hundred years ago so that there would be a proper burial site for those who had drowned in the Danube. Oftentimes the identities of the deceased were unknown, as were the reasons behind the deaths. Nevertheless, the locals did their best to honor the dead, laying out gravestones without names, tending the graves, and even bringing water and bread for the restless spirits who dwell there.
Today, the cemetery is said to be one of the most haunted places in Austria. Some of the buried have been identified, but of the 101 people buried there, 61 are still nameless. There are no more burials and no one to tend to the graves. There are no candles, no fresh flowers. The cemetery is overgrown and shadowy, like some eerie scene straight out of a gothic novel.
And yet, people are drawn to this place.
It’s been a little while since I’ve done a Project Haunted House post, unfortunately. It’s hard to find a really good, creepy place when you can’t travel much. If I didn’t have a regular 9-5 job, I’d be skipping all over Texas, documenting all the crickety hotels and spooky houses with glee. And then on to other states, other countries! There are so many haunted places to explore!Fortunately for me, my lovely sister, Sarah, travels constantly. Having developed a bad case of wanderlust at birth, Sarah has traveled to France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and Germany. She has plans to travel to Chile and China soon. Currently she’s studying abroad in Austria.
I’m not jealous. I’m not jealous at all.
Because she gets to visit amazing places, I asked her to do a guest blog post on a haunted location in Vienna. Since she is awesome, she agreed to help her not-as-well-traveled sister by visiting the Cemetery of the Nameless in Vienna. Below is her account of the cemetery, along with some beautiful scenes she captured. Enjoy!
Before Sunrise is an exceptional film through which to explore many of the best-known and best-kept secrets of Vienna. In the clip above, the couple (played by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke) enter a small cemetery of the “no names” or nameless. In German it is called “Friedhof der Namenlosen” and is the site of over 100 burial plots of both people who were never identified and a number of those who were identified by their families after their death.The cemetery was created as a final resting place for dead bodies that washed ashore from the Danube River, many of them without identification. The cemetery was only open for burials from 1900 to 1935 and therefore has become less of a site of mourning or remembrance for its inhabitants and instead has taken on the feeling of a pilgrimage site.
Due to the cemetery’s remote location (from the city center it requires a ride on Vienna’s U3 metro line to the second-to-last stop, a 25-minute bus ride and a 10-minute walk) it is far off of the tourist track in an industrial sector of outer Vienna. Many of the visitors are German-speaking or fans of the film.
In many films and stories, cemeteries are often seen as the focal point of all things creepy and scary. Other times cemeteries come off as desolate, sad places where we go to mourn or to visit the grave of loved ones.But Friedhof der Namenlosen brought up none of these feelings for me. Instead, I felt an incredible sense peace. I visited on a beautiful day with clear skies and a cool breeze, and, despite the industrial setting (which was empty on this Sunday morning), I had a wonderful view of the Danube River from the entry point of the cemetery.
Unlike graves in the USA, many graves at cemeteries in Vienna have an unusual, if not beautiful, component: plants and flowers grow on top of the plots. This practice creates a kind of surreal landscape, almost like a garden, that invites visitors to walk between the plots and smell the orange lilies that are currently in bloom. I found myself stopping to take in the beauty of nature, while also reading the various inscriptions on the crosses.
Near the graves were benches and a large tombstone with a quasi-alter–someone or some people had obviously taken care to place objects around it.