Visit to Santiago’s General Cemetery [YQrtw Day 82 Jun 30]

santiago general cemetery

Location: Santiago, Chile

Despite sleeping at 3:00am in the morning, I woke up at 8:00am. I couldn’t fall back to sleep so I headed to the hostel basement for breakfast.

To my horror, the scrambled eggs were not there. I was hoping eggs would be refilled soon and I even hung around after finishing my bowl of cereal. Unfortunately, there was still no eggs no matter how long I waited.

I head back to my room and got ready for the day out. I wanted today to be museum visiting day since I had not been to any museums in Santiago yet. Plus, most museums close on Monday so I had better get my fill of museums on Sunday.

The first museum on my list was the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. I bought a transport card–adorably called “Bip”–and loaded it with some money. A ride on the subway is 600 peso (S$1.50).

When I got to the entrance of the museum inside the subway, I found out that it was closed I then remembered that today was elections day. I went out of the subway to take a look at the museum.

Near the museum, there were several TV cars and a few policepeople standing guard. I wondered if the building next to the museum was where voting happened.

Heavily guarded building
Heavily guarded building

I took a peek at my Tripadvisor app to see where to have lunch. I walked down the street, hoping to find the elusive restaurant but failed. Instead, I captured a few photos:

Santiago building
Santiago building
Santiago, Chile
Santiago, Chile
Museum of Education
Museum of Education

I headed back to the subway station and looked at the map. I saw a subway station called Cementerio. I remembered reading about how the cemetery here in Santiago is worth a visit.

I hopped back onto the subway and switched a line to reach the cemetery.

When I got there, I wanted to see if there were any restaurants around. Since I did not have a good breakfast, my energy was quickly sapped away. I needed food.

While I was waiting for the traffic lights, a young man in a small old car turned into my street, grinned and yelled, “CHINO!”

I didn’t know if that was supposed to be racist or just for fun. I should learn the word for “asshole” so I can use it in situations like these.

There were no restaurants around the entrance of the cemetery. Instead, there were stalls and stalls of florists, all selling blooming flowers.

Santiago General Cemetery

Without lunch, I walked into the cemetery.At first, the building on the left looked like an administration office.

Santiago General Cemetery
Santiago General Cemetery

Looking closer, I realized that the floors had shelves with plaques. This wasn’t an office. It was places to put urns.

There were many of such constructions in the cemetery–rectangular boxes with inscription in the front and presumably urns in the back.

Unlike Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires where only the “elite” were kept. The Santiago General Cemetery seemed to have a mix of rich and middle class.

The rich had elaborate mausoleums or underground tombs while the middle class were kept in rectangular space. It’s a little like real life where the rich could afford bungalows while the middle class stayed in flats.

Landed property for the dead
Landed property for the dead
HDB for the dead
HDB for the dead

The cemetery was huge! I didn’t walk from one end to another since the other end looked really far.

Interestingly, the cemetery had a few large buildings housing many different people. One of these was the “Circle of Reporters” where I assumed the remains of famous reporters were kept.

Circle of Reporters in Santiago General Cemetery
Circle of Reporters in Santiago General Cemetery
What's inside the Circle of Reporters?
What’s inside the Circle of Reporters?

This concept of keeping related people in the same place after life is quite fascinating. I had always assumed that people want to be “kept” near their families after they die.

I discovered one grave that was decorated with a lot of flowers and children’s toy. There were many notes printed on marble, thanking Carmenita for something. At first I thought this was where people came to pray for love.

After poking around my Spanish translation app, I deciphered that women who want children would come and pray for one (or two).

Carmencita's grave in Santiago
Carmencita’s grave in Santiago
Carmencita is able to bless you with babies
Carmencita is able to bless you with babies

Soon, it was time to head back. I took the subway back to the hostel. I walked around and discovered a large supermarket. I bought a large pack of green apples before heading to lunch at a restaurant.

Then I got back to the hostel and had a refreshing siesta.

A walk among the dead in Montparnasse cemetery

Montparnasse cemetery, cross against a blue sky

[To increase the level of spook, check out My visit to the Empire of Death before this post.]

I didn’t plan for my third day in Paris to be full of death.

In the morning, I visited the Catacombs. When I was doing my travel research, one guidebook or another recommended Montparnasse cemetery where among the dead laid Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre.

I do not know much about de Beauvoir, apart from her being a famous feminist and a on-and-off partner of Sartre. I learned fake existentialism from a French-teaching armadillo on the University of Austin Texas’s Web site.

I do not remember how I got to the cemetery. I might have taken the train to Rapsail stop, since Google Maps is telling me that it’s a 1.5km walk from the exit of the Catacombs.

Following my trusty portable map and some road signs, I reached the Montparnasse cemetery area. There was a high wall separating the dead and the living. I wish it was a short gate so I could have jumped over it and get finished with my itinerary.

Secret door of Montparnasse cemetery
Secret door of Montparnasse cemetery

There was a high wall separating the dead and the living. I wish it was a short gate so I could have jumped over it and get finished with my itinerary.

I walked the a long stretch of road to the gates. For someone who do not know what is behind the walls, the vine-covered bricks might mean a private garden lay behind. A garden of the dead.

Plaque about Cemetiere de Montparnasse
Plaque about Cemetiere de Montparnasse

When I did reach the gates, I studied the map of the cemetery. The map was too high up for me to take a good picture to use as a walking guide. Instead, I studied where de Beauvoir and Sartre laid and mentally mapped my way there.

Map of Montparnasse cemetery
Map of Montparnasse cemetery

Looking for de Beauvoir

It wasn’t that easy finding their graves. I was expecting something grand with wreaths decoration which was why I missed out the grave when I walked past it a few times.

The tombsone was a pale marble, hidden among the other gray grave markers. Craved on the tombstone in gold were the names of de Beauvoir and Sartre and their birth year and death year. (Is there such a thing as a “deathday”?)

Grave of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre
Grave of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre

Grave of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre
The tombstone was small, I had expected something flashier given how big they were when they were alive. There were a lot of souvenirs on the tombstone. If it weren’t for the seriousness of being in a graveyard, I might have laughed out loud at the gifts.
Souvenirs from fans of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre
Souvenirs from fans of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre

Souvenirs from fans of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre Love the family portrait
Souvenirs from fans of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre
Love the family portrait

I particularly like the drawing of de Beauvoir and Sartre. A few lines from a de Beauvoir admire were scribbled on a piece of paper, probably torn out of a journal bought especially for the trip to Paris. A train ticket stub. A withering flower.

I regret not buying a bunch of flowers near the gates of the catacombs although it’s a little silly since the dead would not be able to smell them.

I didn’t expect de Beauvoir and Sarte to share one grave, like they aresharing an apartment. I thought that they each had their own plot of land, instead, they laid next to (or even on top) of each other.

Knowing what had passed between them during their final years, I wonder if the people who buried them were too romantic and decided that they must be together even in death.

While looking at the grave, I was overcome by sadness and wiped a few tears. What does it mean to live and be famous when in the end, we all would die and end up buried in the ground.

A walk in the park

Road sign in the middle of Montparnasse cemetery
Road sign in the middle of Montparnasse cemetery

After contemplating life at the grave of de Beauvoir, I decided to walk about in the graveyard.
Cross in the sky
Cross in the sky

The graveyard was shady, and very much like a park or a garden. I sat down at one of the benches and regretted not buying a picnic. Come to think of it, I might have lost my journal in the graveyard. I guess that’s much more poetic than losing it in the public toilet.

There was a grave marker in Chinese but I do not know the history of the two people who laid inside.

Chinese grave at Montparnasse cemetery
Chinese grave

There was another lady in the graveyard that day. She was refilling her bottle at one of the taps. I was worried that she might be drinking non-potable water.

The cemetery ground was large. I didn’t find other famous people’s graves even though there are supposed to be more.

I did find some lovely graves.

Tombstones in Montparnasse
Tombstones in Montparnasse
Familles Daniel Meyer et Ernest SAMUEL
Familles Daniel Meyer et Ernest SAMUEL

Graves in Montparnasse
Graves in Montparnasse

Yes, really large.
Cordoned tower of Montparnasse cemetery
Cordoned tower

Family grave
Family grave at Montparnasse cemetery
Grave with leaves
Grave with leaves
Statue of sad lovers
Statue of sad lovers at Montparnasse cemetery
Obelisk
Obelisk at Montparnasse cemetery
Fresh flowers
Fresh flowers at Montparnasse cemetery
Tombstones at Montparnasse cemetery
Tombstones at Montparnasse cemetery

I was surprised to see an apartment next to the graveyard. Being raised in a Chinese culture, any accommodation next to a graveyard means “bad things will happen”.

But Montparnasse didn’t look that much like a graveyard, so I suppose not much bad things will happen.

Bad feng shui?
Bad feng shui?

Do you have a favorite cemetery?

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