Dead Places

Since I don’t have school on Mondays, I picked up my Mom this morning for our semi-annual pilgrimage to the graves of my grandparents.

First, we visited the Walle Cemetery where my paternal grandparents as well as great-grandparents and other relatives are buried. Walle Cemetery is located on the other side of the city, which means a pretty long drive. Nonetheless, I like it a lot. It’s one of those really beautiful old cemeteries (opened in 1875) with lots of historic headstones. After visiting my grandmother (and grandfather, though I never met him, cause he died before I was born), I made a detour to the grave of an WWI Air Force pilot who died at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, aged 21. I came across his grave by accident years ago and have been visiting him ever since. I think what fascinates me about this particular grave (not the only WWI soldier grave, there are several) is a combination of his youth and imagining how cool it must have been to pilot an airplane (probably one of those tiny biplanes) at a time when most people didn’t even dream of ever getting to be a passenger aboard a plane. I sometimes think of all the great things he might have gone on to do (he came from a city with a long tradition of aerospace industry after all), if he hadn’t died so young.

After the cemetery, we went to the Waterfront, Bremen’s newest and nicest shopping mall, which happens to be located very close to the cemetery.

The building was originally designed to be an indoor amusement park cum science center named Space Park (like I said, we are an aerospace industry center). The amusement park was impressively designed, but the education – entertainment balance was off and the park closed after only a few months. I never even got around to visiting it, but here is a report from someone who did. The building remained empty for several years after – only the multiplex cinema remained open. Eventually, it was resurrected as a shopping mall and renamed into the much blander Waterfront. They got rid of the space-themed attractions, the funky light design and even the full-scale Ariane rocket model. But the building still looks vaguely like a downed spaceship and the wide and high corridors make a very pleasant change from the cluttered environment of most other malls. The maze-like subterranean parking garage is pretty cool, too – and would make a great hiding place in case of a zombie apocalypse.

We took a stroll through the triangular mall and stopped for lunch at the food court. We got a burrito and some nachos from a place called Speedy Taco. Not recommended. We ordered vegetable burritos, yet the lady at the counter gave us beef burritos. My Mom ate hers anyway. I didn’t, because I don’t eat beef. And this was cheap and nasty ground beef, too. My Mom said that her burrito wasn’t very good, even by fast food standards. The nachos weren’t anything to write home about either, though they had some good hot sauces. I then got myself a plate of Asian veggie stir-fry – I didn’t want to try for another burrito.

Afterwards, we went to visit my maternal grandparents at Huckelriede Cemetery, which is on the other side of the city again. Actually, the highway was the quickest way to get there from Walle. Huckelriede is a postwar cemetery, set up on what used to be fields at the edge of the city. I never liked it, because it’s so bland and overly regimented. All the headstones from the 1950s to 1970s look the same, exactly the same. No individuality allowed. My Mom told me that when my biological grandmother (my grandpa remarried and his second wife is the only grandma I knew) died in 1968, they wanted to have the praying hands of Albrecht Dürer engraved on her headstone, but weren’t allowed to do it, because it would disturb the harmonic look of the cemetery. If there ever is a zombie apocalypse, it will start there as a revolt by corpses pissed off at the uniformization of the place.

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