I didn’t notice the crowds outside the entrance to Olšanský Hřbitovy, the sprawling, ivy-covered cemetery complex that I pass when walking home. I was feeling lazy about then, and thought I’d take the tram the rest of the way. As I passed the next tram stop I looked back and — what luck! — tram 11 was pulling in just then.
Oddly for a Sunday, it was packed to the gills. I kept walking. It was when I passed the next, smaller but more neatly-kept cemetery, that I noticed the crowds. There were more people than I had ever seen there before, and the road was lined with illegally-parked škodas. The people were in general dressed nicely, but not in a funerary fashion.
I peeked in the gates and one of the central monuments was surrounded by hundreds of candles, while people wandered the pathways bearing pine boughs and wreaths. Even the run-down little graveyard close to my house was jumping. Tram 11, tram of the dead, was filled with folks coming and going from the graveyards and the crematorium.
If this is the day to pay respect to those that have gone before, I’m surprised that here in Strašnice, Haunted City, my neighborhood, there is not a city-wide celebration of this day. There should be a wiener-dog parade and children’s pageants. Some of the supermodel wannabes from the center of town would come out for the look-like-a-skeleton contest. Tourists would mistake it for a Haloween celebration, but the locals would know that this is just Strašnice’s one chance each year to celebrate it’s own unique character.
It’s a silly thought, probably. While other parts of town are doing their best to establish a reputation and a marketable local vibe, sleepy Strašnice has no such ambition. It is here, just getting along, minding its own business, and just being Czech.