My Last Days in Konstanz: Part 2

In case you missed it, go back and read Part 1.

It was a day with beautiful fall weather when I decided to explore the cemetery in Konstanz. I may have mentioned before that I enjoy cemeteries. Something about the feeling of calm serenity mixed with history and a sense of mortality is very appealing to me, not to mention the aesthetic draw of the headstones and flora. (I know; I’m rather strange.)

Entering the cemetery, I first passed around the main building at the end of a few long sidewalks perpendicular to the road. At the back side of the building, you finally reach the actual cemetery.

As always, I was struck by how the German cemeteries are so well cared for. There are some beautiful flowers and curious monuments to see, along with some older, worn headstones that are at least 100 years old. Considering that Germans recycle cemetery plots (as does much of Europe), it’s fascinating to me to see the older graves.

If you’re not sure what I mean by “recycling” plots, here’s the basic idea. People are usually buried in a quite natural state (meaning they aren’t pumped full of chemicals for embalming) in a wooden coffin. Those coffins are not sealed inside concrete or anything, but are rather meant to decompose. You only lease the plot for your relative for 15-30 years, after which you can renew the rental or the plot will be dug up and leased to a new family.

This is why you’ll not find graves older than about 30 years except for graves of those who died in military service (which are usually left indefinitely to my knowledge) and historic cemeteries.

In this particular graveyard, there is something additionally special. After I explored the general Christian and mixed sections, I made my way to the Jewish section in an area towards the front and to the right of the entrance.

There are a few monuments, and a stone from a synagogue which was burned by Nazis in 1938. There were also quite a few older headstones in this part of the cemetery, some were even starting to be overwhelmed by small trees that rooted between the rows.

I followed the Jewish section for quite a while, taking in the mix of Hebrew and Roman script as well as the dates which told their own story about how this part of the graveyard formed.

After a while, I went further towards the back of the cemetery. This is a small gate through which I exited the cemetery and started walking up the hill past the fields of grape vines.

As I followed the path, I spied the hilltop chapel in the distance that I sometimes walked to from my student housing. It was the first time I had seen it from far away like this.

A short walk later, I arrived at the Bismarckturm, or Bismarck Tower (one of many built across Germany to honor Otto von Bismarck who was Germany’s first chancellor). During specific summer days of the year it is possible to climb to the top of the tower, but the season had already passed when I was there and I never did have any luck to go in the previous summers at the right time.

The tower is a very relaxed space to sit down and enjoy the view. From there you can look over the vineyards to see the old and new parts of Konstanz, plus the lake and a separate part of the lake which is connected by the Rhine. I can also recommend to check this place out at sunset to see a beautiful sky.

Approaching the Bismarck Tower from the side
The front of the Bismarck Tower

Eventually, I went further down the hill. With a looming storm, it was best to get home to a cozy cup of tea.

In the next post I’ll tell you all about some indoor activities that are good for when the rain sets in.