Olšany Cemeteries: Diversity of Burials in History
Walk between numerous tombs does not seem tempting at first sight, but you might be surprised by the diversity of worlds you can find here. The Jewish cemetery is entirely different from the US white crosses and Soviet tombs with weapons. You might be surprised how beautiful and melancholic walk you can experience.
Secrets of Olšany Cemeteries
Olšany cemeteries are a popular spot for daily walks, especially during the autumn, when the paths between the tombs are covered with orange leaves. It’s a calm oasis in the middle of the city where the time had stopped. The cemetery was created in 1680 for plague victims and continued to grow with a second plague wave in 1787. It became the main cemetery for Prague’s city since the emperor banned burials within the historical center.
Today, it’s the biggest necropolis in the Czech Republic, with its 230,000 people buried (65 000 graves sites). Actually, it consists of twelve different cemeteries. You can find here Christian Orthodox, Muslim, and Jewish cemeteries and military burial grounds of Russian soldiers from Napoleonic wars, Czechoslovak soldiers from WW1 and WW2, Soviet and Commonwealth armed forces, as well as prisoners of war.
Famous People Resting in Olšany
If you like to explore tombs of significant historical figures of Czech history, you can take a new learning trail. It takes you to all sections of the cemetery and tells you the life stories of actors, writers, and painters. For example, you might know the story of Jan Palach (a great movie by Agnieszka Holland), who buried himself in 1969 as a protest against the Soviet occupation.
The New Jewish Cemetery
The Jewish part is a different world from the rest of the cemetery. It has numerous alleys with high-grown trees and tombs written in the Hebrew alphabet. The stroll in this part is like a walk through history. It is divided into several sections that guide you through the period of the neo-Gothic, neo-Renaissance, Prague and Viennese Art Nouveau, Classicism, Purism, and Constructivism up to the present.
You can find the Jewish community’s traditional burial place in Josefov, the Jewish town in the city center. However, it became insufficient in the 19th Century, and the Jewish population gained its place in already existing Olšany. It is approximately ten times bigger than the Old Jewish Cemetery in Josefov. You can even find here a famous tomb of Franz Kafka and other significant Jewish figures of Prague.
How to Get to Olšany Cemeteries
Take a green line metro to the Želivského metro stop, and you will exit right next to the Jewish cemetery. Around the corner are two entry gates opposite to each other. Here you can find the learning trail, but also a US-style cemetery with white crosses, a Soviet one, and many others.