All Saints Day is the celebration of the Christian Catholic saints. The date of Nov 1 was chosen in 835 AD to counteract All Hallows Day commemorated in the non-Christian Celtic world. “According to Celtic traditions, on All Hallows Day the barrier between the world of the living and the world of the non-living becomes thinner so that the worlds can communicate with each other.” See (Halloween in Budapest) or (All Saints Day)
Hungarians celebrate All Saints Day by going to the cemetery to remember friends and family who have passed away. We have heard that it is quite amazing to see a cemetery on November 1 in Budapest. This year, November 1 fell on a Saturday. Niall and I were having a lazy Saturday and we had no big plans. We had just finished lunch with some friends and were heading back home when we thought we might go to one of the cemeteries in Budapest. We looked up some information and found that the most famous cemetery in Budapest was Kerepesi Cemetery. It is the largest cemetery in Budapest and one of the oldest cemeteries in Hungary (Kerepesi Cemetery). Burials ceased at the cemetery in 1952.
We started driving to the cemetery. It was not hard to spot once we got close since it was so large. We saw a long stone wall beside the road. We had some difficulty finding the entrance so we had to turn around eventually. As we were coming back we turned down a road that looked like it went along the cemetery wall. This road turned into a small path beside a tram line. Eventually we got to the end of the path/road and stopped. We had noticed a man riding a bike that we had passed a few minutes earlier and we also saw a few people standing next to an entrance that was across the tram line. The man on the bike eventually came up and spoke to the people standing by the entrance and they seemed to start moving into the entrance so we got out of the car and walked over. We found out that this part of the cemetery is not always open to the public but we could get in it right now. We walked in and did not find what we expected, which was all the people and decorated graves that we had heard about. Instead we found an old, somewhat decrepit and broken down cemetery that was very quiet and empty. Many of the graves were broken or falling over. There were also some huge, decorative graves and tombs. Some of the tombs doors had been broken or moved. It was an eerie feeling going inside the cemetery, not a ‘creepy’ cemetery feeling, but rather because it was so old and quiet. It felt like we should respect and remember those who had been buried there so long ago. We had a great opportunity to walk around a little bit and see some of the graves. We did not stay long and when we drove away down the road and turned back on to the main road we passed the main entrance that we were originally looking for. It was much busier with people and looked more like what we would have expected!
Later we were talking to some of our friends about our experiences and we found out that the part of the cemetery we were in was the Jewish section. This section had been neglected for a long time. Here is some more information about it:
KEREPESI: Address: BP. VIII. Salgótarjáni út. (Salgotarjani Street) “The Kerepesi cemetery, opened in 1874, was the Jewish section of the city’s monumental cemetery, where many national heroes, politicians, and cultural figures were buried. The Jewish cemetery is a separate part of the 55 hectares of The New Public Cemetery ( Új Köztemeto) opened in 1847. The Salgótarjáni út entrance was built like the entrance of a castle from designs by the famous architect, Lajta Béla, in 1908. The entrance building includes function rooms and a caretaker’s flat . Until recently, the Kerepesi Jewish cemetery was abandoned and totally overgrown despite its many magnificent tombs. From the entrance was wild vegetation. The former pre-burial house decorated with Oriental-Mesopotamian reliefs is abandoned with a collapsed roof. The last burials were in the 1950s. Recently, part of it has been cleared of brush, freeing some of the most important tombs — tombs of industrial magnates, Jewish noblemen, and other prominent figures, including the poet Jozsef Kis. Bela Lajta, one of Hungary’s most noted architects, who designed more than half a dozen tombs in the Kerepesi cemetery.” source: http://www.jewishroutes.com/topdestinations/features/379.html
Kerepesi ut Jewish Cemetery (Neolog) Address: Budapest, VIIIth district. Salgotarjani ut. Phone: 314-1269/ Attendant: Borbála Baros. The cemetery was founded in 1874. It is eternal home to many representatives of the pre-war banking and industrial aristocracy, as well as to outstanding personalities of the contemporary cultural life of Budapest.
Here are a few pictures we took in the cemetery. Here is also someone else’s blog post on visiting the same section with a more pictures: Old Jewish cemetery in Budapest