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2013 in Bridges – A Review

My blog is all about bridges. If you follow me, you know that I put a picture of a bridge up on every Sunday in the category „Bridges on Sundays“. Quite a few of them have been from my archives, but there were also many I found this year – ever since I have started self-hosting, which I have just over a year now, I have been looking for bridges even more carefully than before. I will give you my favourites in a review of my year 2013. If you click on the bridge’s name above the respective picture, the link will redirect yo to the full post on the bridge.

1. Oderbrücke, Frankfurt (Oder) / Słubice, Germany / Poland

Oderbrücke, Frankfurt / Slubice, Deutschland / PolenI didn’t make it to Poland as often as I’d liked this year, but I did cross this bridge between Germany and its Eastern neighbour twice. This bridge makes me reflect history and appreciate living in a unified Europe today. And it makes me realize that I love Poland. A lot.

2. Karlshöhe in Stuttgart, Germany

Karlshöhe, Stuttgart, GermanyIn the post about this bridge I talk about my yearly meet-up with my three girls from grad school, and how we have crossed into adulthood together and on the way passed several bridges and overcome various obstacles. Friendship is such a valuable thing.

3. Bridges in Nottingham, England

Bridges, Nottingham, EnglandIn this picture, I see two bridges working together to make up a system of connections – a traditional stone bridge to the left and a modern steel one straigth across. There is not just „the“ one bridge to cross in life. There is bridge upon bridge upon bridge.

4. Abteibrücke in Berlin, Germany

Abteibrücke, Berlin, GermanyThis is the bridge to the so called Isle of Youth in the Spree River. When I posted the picture, I hadn’t even crossed it yet. I have now, and I regretfully say that I haven’t become more youthful to my knowledge. But maybe I am just so youthful altogether that I didn’t realize 🙂

5. A Bridge in Spreewald, Germany

Bridge, Spreewald, GermanyI found this to be a nostalgic bridge that seemed to me to bridge gaps between different layers of time. Still now I think it is a romantic place, as is the entire Spreewald which is full of bridges spanning the small canals.

6. Bridge at South Pond, Chicago, Illinois, US

South Pond, Chicago, IL, USI keep using this picture, but I have to say I love it because I know that I was so truly and deeply happy in the moment it was taken, and I think that shows in my smile. This was on my big trip this year, to Chicago, and the pictures shows how that city connects greenery and urbanity beautifully to create a whole.

7. Bridge at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois, US

Graceland Bridge, Chicago, IL, USThe small bridge at Graceland cemetery, a large, quiet and peaceful place in Chicago, seemed to me to be magical, enchanted, spellbound even. It led onto a small island where time seemed to stand still, and conversation with the deceased seemed to be possible.

8. Ponte Luís I in Porto, Portugal

Ponte Luiz I, Porto, PortugalPonte Luiz I in Porto may have been the prettiest and most impressive bridge I came across this year. The resemblance with the Eiffel tower is not entirely coincidental, as you will be able to read in the post. It was majestic, and made me fall in love with Porto.

Which one of my Bridge discoveries from 2014 do you like best? Did you come across a beautiful bridge in 2013 that I should put on my Bucket List? So you have any plans of crossing bridges – literally or metaphorically for the up-coming year?

Ping Tom Memorial Park Drawbridge in Chicago, Illinois, US

Back to the summer, back to sunny weather and back to the travel life – back to Chicago.  Ping Tom Memorial Park Drawbridge, Chicago, IL, USOn my very last day in Chicago, Jesse took me to Pilsen for the best Mexican food I have ever had in my entire life (and that from someone who lived in El Paso, Texas for a year!) and to enjoy a bit of Chitown’s Latino side. On the way back home, we stopped by the Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chinatown and sat by the Chicago River for a while before taking a boat downtown. We were in sight of the bridge – not a spectacular one, although I liked the little hut that was on top of it and wondered what that was for. It was a mild August day, and the sun was glistening on the water. Children were playing nearby. It was peaceful.

But then, all of a sudden, the bridge started moving! It hadn’t looked like a draw bridge to me, but the entire body (including the little hut) started moving upwards along the steel constructions on the sides. After coming to stillstand, it remained silent for a while, then a train passed over it and when that was gone, the bridge came down again. It was the weirdest looking thing to see the little house on the bridge rise up and sink down again. I imagined that, when I was a little girl, I would have wanted to live in a house on a bridge that moves up and down. I think I still do.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

Capture the Colour – Streetart Edition

I am not a photographer. I am slowly, ever so slowly starting to get a grip on perspective and lighting in a process of learning by doing as I am taking photos for the blog more and more; and I have recently understood that photo editing is something I cannot stay away from forever. But I am still self-conscious when it comes to my pictures.

All the bigger was my surprise that Julika of Sateless Suitcase (an enchanting blog everyone should follow!!) tagged me in theCapture the Colour Photo Contest. While I am most definitely not going to win anything (it must be a huge contest with God knows how many participants), I enjoyed the process of choosing five pictures for their specific colour – a new way of looking at photos and training my eye to see photography as artistry. I chose to show you pictures according to a theme, like I have seen others do it on their respective posts (Julika chose one city for each colour), and am showing you five street art pictures I took this year.

Red

Epplehaus, Tübingen, Germany

This is a former squat in Tübingen, Germany that is still a self-governed youth center. When I went to school in this cute little Southern German town, I would pass by here on my bike almost every day. I took the picture last March when I went to visit my alma mater. Most of the writing on the facade are slogans of the political left. Tübingen was an important place in the 1968 student movement, and I feel like this place is somewhat continuing that tradition.

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Lübbenau, Germany

This is actually a connection box for street lighting. They are usually just left grey and boring in Germany, but this one in Lübbenau, in the Spreewald region South of Berlin, has been turned into a little canvas for a cute little piece of art. And didn’t I have to love it all the more as it was depicting – a bridge!

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Zaspa, Gdansk, Poland

Gdańsk Zaspa was my street art discovery of the year, and I have dedicated a whole article to it here. It is an area in my beloved Polish city Gdańsk where the socialist concrete buildings have been turned into overdimensional works of art. I love this one because it is so plain and yet so detailed with its sea of drowning houses.

Blue

Eastside Gallery, Berlin, Germany

I took this picture at the demonstration against the partial tear-down of Berlin’s Eastside Gallery. This is the street art you can see on the original Berlin wall – and the hole that was recently made in it in order for an investor’s plans for building large apartment and office complexes in the area. The Eastside Gallery is the longest connected piece of the Berlin wall that is still in place and an amazing document of history as well as an artwork of epic proportions. I hope it will keep being protected by the people and government of Berlin.

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Pilsen, Chicago, US

On my last day in Chicago, my friend Jesse took me to the predominantly Mexican-American neighbourhood of Pilsen for some excellent, excellent Mexican food and a blast of Latino culture. Getting off at the L stop at 18th Street (use the pink line!) alone was amazing – the station is covered in beautiful art that shows the cultural heritage of the inhabitants of this part of the city. I could have stayed and looked at the details forever.

This is my street art focussed colour contest contribution. Now I would like to tag Aggy of DreamExploreWander, Ulli of ansichtswechsel, Aryn of Driftwood & Daydreams, Aiko of Behind My Messy Desk and Mandy of Emm in London and invite all you great blogging girls to do the same and show us the colour in your life!

Five Reasons Chicago Became My Favourite US City

As of lately, if you don’t have a great interest in Chicago, you haven’t had much to read on my blog. Now I still have many posts to write about the „Second City“ of the US, but I don’t want to bore you and instead keep diversion on my blog. Because of this, I am going to mix it up a little again in the future. I have some great posts in store. Nonetheless, I feel like my Chicago-adventures deserve an all-embracing post that rounds it all up for now. So today I will tell you the five reasons why Chicago quickly stole my heart and became my favourite city of all the ones that I have visited in the US.

1. Walkability and Public Transport

The L, Chicago, IllinoisMy most influential US experience, as I have mentioned, has been in El Paso, Texas. In El Paso it is virtually impossible to walk anywhere at all, and I was never allowed to use public transport for my hostmum’s fear of someone mugging me or the likes. In Chicago, not only are the sidewalks, but with the cta, Chicago Transit Authority, there is a magnificent system of metros (called the L, short for ELevated) and busses that will make every part of the city easily accessible. Convenient day-, three-day- and seven-day-passes make it a joy to move about the city. Apart from that, a lot of the stations on the L show the charms of days long past with their wooden platforms and cast-iron banisters.

Banisters at L stop Western (Blue Line), Chicago, Illinois Chicago is easily accessible in the most convenient, healthy and environment friendly ways. What’s not to love.

2. Architecture

Skyline, Chicago, IllinoisMy readers know that I am a fan of the medieval red brick beauty of Northern European Hanseatic cities. But Chicago has shown to me what urban beauty in a large metropolis can truly mean. Skyscrapers don’t have to be glass boxes without creative form or shape. They come in neo gothic, neo classicist, and in round, triangular, and square shapes in all creative combinations. I might not want to live on the 57th floor of any given building, but those skyscrapers are sure impressive. And they can be, I think I have mentioned it before, funnily reminiscent of social realist architecture in Eastern Europe.

Magnificent Mile, Chicago, Illinois

Chicago has opened my eyes to a new artform – modern architecture. Thank you!

3. The Greenery

Lincoln Park Lily Pond, Chicago, IllinoisChicago has a seemingly infinite number of parks. It starts by the great ones downtown, Grant Park and Lincoln Park, that stretch along the entire coastline of Lake Michigan, and continues in uncountable small neighbourhood parks in every part of town. A lot of them have lagoons that add a freshness and wideness to the urbanity you find downtown. They are lively places where people from different communities seem to come together to have a good time, and people watching is a wonderful pastime here.

Humboldt Park, Chicago, IllinoisChicago is not only loud and crazy in its urbanity, but it provides spaces of retreat in its midst.

4. Shopping

Coffee and Tea Exchange, Chicago, IllinoisDon’t get me wrong, I am definitely not the girl who goes abroad to shop. In all honesty, I don’t even like shopping very much at home, and it is beyond me why someone would spend precious time in a foreign place with an activity as tedious as running through shops that look the same in all the Western world anyway. But… when there’s shops like in Chicago, it is different. There are unique places like the above Coffee and Tea Exchange that feels like what in German would be called a Kolonialwarenladen – one of the general shops of yore that would mainly sell items from the colonies. And there is an amazing vintage shop culture for ANYthing – clothes, records, and of course, books!

Myopic Bookstore, Chicago, IllinoisChicago puts the atmosphere, the individuality and the fun back into shopping for me. I haven’t had this much fun browsing through items in a long time.

5. The Lake

Lake Michigan Marina, Wilmette, IllinoisFinally, Chicago’s biggest selling point to a water girl like me is bound to be Lake Michigan. Being from Hamburg, I appreciate water in a city more than anything. Being at the shore of a river, a lake or an ocean clears my head and makes me happy. Usually I wouldn’t have thought that a lake would really do it for me – too static. But Lake Michigan is different because it feels like the sea. Its colours change between a Baltic grey and a Mediterranean bright blue, it has angry big waves and quiet glassy clear days. If you get out of the immediate city, you will come across beaches that are well worth a holiday.

Lake Michigan, Wilmette, IllinoisI appreciate Chicago’s urbanity, its excitement and all the convenience that it has to offer. But the beauty of it is that it doesn’t only offer that, but also the opportunity to easily get away from it all and feel yourself in nature. It seems that the city has it all.

What about you? Have you ever been to Chicago? Does it seem like somewhere you would want to go? Have you got a favourite city in the US?

Bridge at South Pond, Chicago, Illinois, US

Today I am self-indulgently using a picture of me on a bridge. I hope you can bear with me 🙂South Pond, Chicago, IllinoisThis is a bridge at Chicago’s South Pond in Lincoln Park. One of the fabulous things about Chicago is the myriad of parks the city has. In Lincoln Park you can strut from South Pond via the Zoo to the North Pond Nature Sanctuary in one long beautiful walk – and it is all for free!

Standing on the bridge at South Pond looking at the Chicago skyline, I felt the great gift of the green and the nature surrounding me inmidst of the big city. There were flowers in blossom and different birds came to rest at the shores of the pond, families were strolling the Park Nature Trail with laughing children, and me and my two friends were enjoying our walk. It was peaceful, and yet the skyscrapers in the distance promised tales of rattling metros, honking cars, fussy businessmen and -women strutting along through the street canyons, bustling shops, friends sitting over coffee at Starbucks, and all the noise and excitement of urban life. Between those different worlds, I felt eternally grateful. What a rich life it is that I am allowed to lead!

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

„All Are Welcome“ – The Bahá’í House of Worship

Before I came to Chicago, I had never heard of the Bahá’í. When my friend Jesse suggested that I go to see their House of Worship in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, I was open to it because I have a general interest in religion and places of worship, and the pictures Jesse showed me of the temple looked stunning. But I did not foresee how much everything I found would speak to me.

The commute out to Wilmette is easier to take during rush hour, because the purple line of the L, Chicago’s metro, goes from the downtown Loop area directly to the quiet suburb in the morning from around 7 through 10 and in the evening from around 3 to 6. I take it to the last stop, Linden, and when I walk out the station, I can’t fail to see the sign that points to the Bahá’í House of Worship. I walk along Linden Avenue with its beautiful villas and only about five minutes later, while crossing a bridge over the North Shore Channel, I see the white dome glisten through the trees. Then it opens up before my eyes in all its splendour.

 Bahai House of Worship, Wilmette, IllinoisWithout knowing much about the faith at all, I just feel impressed by the white beauty of the House of Worhsip that was built here in the beginning of the 20th century and is the oldest Bahá’í temple in the world. As I approach the door, it is opened for me by an usher who moves somewhat solemnly. I enter the simple room that seems almost round – it is actually a nonagon with nine alcoves that are topped, like the outside walls, with quotes from the holy scripture of the Baha’í. I especially like

The light of a good character surpasseth the light of the sun.“

I wonder briefly how spelling something with a th instead of an s can make a sentence sound so much more meaningful – a „surpasses“ might not have impressed me as much.

Bahai House of Worship, Wilmette, IllinoisAfter a bit of quiet contemplation there is a devotion in which the lofty usher has read parts from Bahá’í scripture. It is unpretentious, simple and without any rite or big gesture. Just reading. Lutheran services are bombastic by comparison. I sit and listen and look around me in the big room under the high dome. I sense that the nine sides with their nine glass doors are to symbol that people are invited from all directions and, metaphorically, all backgrounds. If the chairs weren’t pointed to one side of the room, there would be no hierarchy in the structure of the room. Just equality.

I sit out in the gardens of the temple for a while. They seem to me like the proverbial gardens of Alamut Castle that were said to resemble paradise. Not because they are so beautiful (although they are), but because they have that oriental touch with their fountains and flower beds.

Bahai House of Worship, Wilmette, IllinoisAfter my visit to the gardens, I visit the Help Center underneath the temple not really expectant of a lot – but there is a small exhibition on the history of Bahá’í Faith and the House of Worship where I end up spending two hours learning about the Bahá’í, and after that, I understand much about the temple’s architectural symbolism.

Bahai House of Worship, Wilmette, IllinoisThe Bahá’í Faith is a monotheistic religion which roots in Persia around 150 years ago and is based on the teachings of the prophet Bahá’u’lláh. Its three main principles are the unity of God, the unity of religion and the unity of humanity. The faith is therefore quite syncretistic. It says that there is just one God, and that all religions point to that same God and thus are essentially not different. Analogically, the equality of religions is mirrored in the equality of all human beings. I remember the feeling I had in the temple, that people were invited from everywhere and from each background and direction. The architect’s intention to symbolize that worked well on me.

Bahai House of Worship, Wilmette, IllinoisThe syncretism in this really speaks to me. It has been a conviction of mine for a long time that at least the big monotheistic religions really promote the same spirituality with the use of different stories and rites. My American hostfather always says: „Same God, different names“. That is exactly what the Bahá’í Faith says.

And it is beautifully symbolized in the columns on the temple that show, from bottom to top, the ancient pagan sun symbol (weirdly reminiscent of a swastika, which unfortunately stems from this rune indeed), the Jewish star of David, the Christian cross, Islam’s moon and star and finally the Bahá’í’s nine-pointed star. Nine is the holy number of Bahá’í Faith – hence the nine alcoves of the temple. It is the holy number because it is the highest single digit and as such is supposed to symbolize unity.

The Bahá’í justify their syncretism (which extends to Bhuddism, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism) by the idea that new religions emerge at different times throughout history to enable people to have a faith that can be actively practiced in the society they live in. Basically, a new prophet will renew the ever-same faith in a contemporary sense. This makes a lot of sense to me, and it explains why Islam, the youngest monotheistic religion, accepts science as a godly way to explain God’s creation – as does Bahá’í Faith.

I enjoy learning about the founding myths of Bahá’í Faith, and the principles the belief functions by. They all come back to the three basic principles. In the exhibition, quotes of the prophet Bahá’u’lláh, another spiritual figure of the Bahá’í called the Báb, and the prophet’s son are posted to the walls, and some of the words speak to me deeply, most of all the last sentence of this:

Bahai House of Worship, Wilmette, Illinois For a while I think about what would keep me from converting. I then realize that it is the existence of a prophet. I would have difficulty to all at once recognize the existence and sacredness of a prophet that was unknown to me so far. I then ask myself if a prophet is necessary for a faith like the Bahá’í Faith. But it must be – because people need words like the ones above from an authority to keep to a faith, I think. If they didn’t, maybe religion couldn’t do so much harm.

Bahá’í Faith is beautiful to me – inclusive, accepting, and sensible. It promotes equality and unity, and it says that worship is done by being an active member of society, thus bringing faith into the midst of modern life. It holds up principles that I can believe in. That might not be the function of religion – but it makes it easier. I at least found lots of unexpected spiritual inspiration in Wilmette.

Bahai House of Worship, Wilmette, IllinoisHave you ever gotten to know a religion that was previously strange to you through travel? Had you heard of the Bahá’í before? What do you think about them – and about their House of Worship?

Wabash Avenue Bridge in Chicago, Illinois, US

I have asked my friend about five times how to say the name of the street that runs over today’s bridge and I cannot for the life of me remember it. WAY-bawsh? WAW-besh? Wah-BOSH? Who cares, really. Maybe I should just refer to it as Irv Kupcinet Bridge, its other name that it takes from a famous Chicago journalist.

Wabash Avenue Bridge, Chicago, US

The picture is taken from Michigan Avenue in sight of many of the famous architectural marvels of Chicago downtown. Although I was in a way taken by the skyscrapers from the beginning, I am honestly ambivalent about their „beauty“. Are they really beautiful? Or are they just – stunning? impressive? awe-inducing? I don’t think one could speak for all of them in general. I absolutely adore the Jewelers Building, the pretty one on the left in the picture with its tower rising out of the base and its pretty cupola. It reminds me weirdly of the Palace of Culture in Warsaw – Stalin’s gift to the Polish people. Strang seeing a building reminiscent of socialist architecture in the United States!

The bridge almost disappears inmidst the canyons of skyscrapers, but I hope it has not escaped your attention that it is on there, crossing the Chicago River. Because the river branches out, it looks like the letter Y on the map (with a lot of good will, admittedly) – and the Y is an important symbol of the city that shows up on public buildings, street lanterns, and gully covers. In a city so appreciative of its river, bridges must play a role, too. And I think they make a wonderful counterbalance to the architecture that is reaching for the skies. They ground the city.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

How I found Europe in Chicago

Even before I came here, I noticed in my travel guide that Europe is ever present on the map of Chicago: The Ukrainian Village. Little Italy. Greektown. Pilsen, as in the Czech town. The Holstein Park, as in the region in Northern Germany. Not only were there geographical allusions, but many places were named for famous Europeans: Humboldt Park. Goethe and Schiller streets. Pulaski Park. Dvorak Park (yes, they have a LOT of parks in Chicago!). I thought it was interesting how a country whose population is traditionally made up of immigrants to some extent tries to reconstruct its heritage this way, and I was curious if I would find Europe elsewhere in Chicago, too. I was not disappointed.

The neighbourhoods that take their names from Europen countries or cities are not only named that, but many are inhabited by immigrant population. This leads to funky combinations, like the neighbourhood with the Czech name of Pilsen being inhabited mainly by Mexican Americans today. Also there is the Old Town which used to be the German neighbourhood – and not only do you find a big European grocery store there, said grocery store also has a rooftop terrace on which you can have beer and, brace yourself, Currywurst!

Currywurst, Old Town, Chicago, IL

Germany in America: Currywurst with Sauerkraut…

Maibaum, Old Town, Chicago, IL

… and a Maibaum!!!

You also can hardly fail to come across signs of the Polish population. At the blue line stop Division, you will find the so called Polish triangle, and there is the renowned restaurant Podhalanka, a place that supposedly has really good Polish food. Along Milwaukee Avenue I saw several Polish Restaurants with Polish names that Americans who don’t share this descent probably cannot even pronounce – or how would you say Czerwone Jabłuszko (Little Red Apple)?

Polish Triangle

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And at the Polish Triangle another piece of Poland: The Chopin Theatre! (Yes he was Polish – NOT French!!)

 Not only do you see the Polish influence in the cityscape, you can also hear it. I went on the blue line one morning and waited at my stop for the train to come in. Two middle aged guys next to me were chatting animatedly in Polish. The first thing I noticed was how much they cursed. Every sentence was generously lined with the word „kurwa“, Polish for whore or bitch. While that amused me only slightly, my face split into a wide grin when they started discussing about Germany and what a dirty country it is. Sweden, yes, Sweden was clean, but Germany, kurwa, unbelievable, the amounts of rubbish in the streets. I chuckled.

Obviously, all of this stems from immigration, like I already said. I found this noticeable not least at Graceland Cemetery, a beautiful graveyard well worth a visit which I have written about here. A lot of the tombstones displayed foreign heritage, like this one showing that the deceased had been born in Hungary.

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Also, the Germans were here again, not only with their names: Many tombstones did note say „born“ and „died“, but „geb.“ and „gest.“ – short for geboren and gestorben. It means the same, obviously, but I found it quite remarkable that the Germans kept their own culture alive to the point of having their tombstones signed in their own language rather than English.

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Austria came into play when we went to a cute coffeehouse called Julius Meinl that saved the famous coffee and had interieur that resembeld classical Vienna coffeehouse furniture. The coffee was fantastic, and the menue carried things such as Einspänner, Melange and Verlängerter – with the umlaut writing!

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Finally the immigrants have not only named places after people and brought parts of their culture in food and drink and architecture, but they also saw to the fact that their greatest heroes would be commemorated in the city. There is a memorial for Alexander von Humboldt, one for Kosciuszko, one for Copernicus, one for Havlicek, one for Hans Christian Anderson, one for Goethe and one for Schiller – and I would have been bound to find more if I had been able to stay longer, I’m sure.

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Have you ever found Europe on another continent? Where was it and what made it so European for you?

 

An Afternoon’s Meditation – Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery

I have already written about my love of cemeteries as a place of rest, meditation and a new perspective on life. When Jesse suggests that I go to Graceland Cemetery on the Northside of the city, I am making a note of it immediately. One of the more humid and overcast days of my stay in Chicago, I take the bus to the red line of the L and go up to Sheridan to discover the large cemetery that has been the final resting place for many a Chicagoan since after the Great Fire in 1871.

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The L stop at Sheridan already puts me in a slightly pensive mood, because it is of the run-down morbidity that I love about cities in Eastern Europe. The platform is made from hard wood planks, and the stairwells are narrow and have rusty bannisters painted in red. You can see through the grid onto the mezzanines and there’s a lot of old rubbish and flaked off paint. I think it is pretty. I am not sure why.

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The entrance to the cemetery is on the far side coming from the L, so that I have walk along the high brick wall for quite a while. On the Southern side there is a piece of cemetery that is seperated from the street by just a mesh wire fence, and I catch a glimpse of the first tombstones. I see many German names, a foreshadowing of what I am about to see later.

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After I have found the gate and entered, I immediately feel that this place is very different from all the cemeteries I have been to in Europe. Wide asphalt streets run between large patches of grass on which the tombstones are spread out as if desultorily, aimlessly planted just anywhere. I see no system, no plan.

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You can stumble upon one family, and then rush right into the next one without noticing. As I contemplate that, I like it a lot. Because what system is there to death? In the beginning I am even unsure as to whether I would be allowed to leave the asphalt street, but then I notice that most graves cannot be reached unless you walk across the lawn. So I start venturing.

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I come across many sites that have massive pillars crowned with sculptures, or sumptuous sarcophagi. Most of the people have been dead for a long time, a hundred years or more. Only occasionally will I come across a grave that is adorned with fresh flowers – I read somewhere about this cemetery that its eerieness stems from the fact that most children of the dead lying here are also dead. I don’t find it that eerie, though. Probably because it is so wide and light and so little overgrown. Some of the mausoleums are almost cold and sterile – very clean.

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I start thinking about wealth. What would lead someone to ask for a final resting place that had something so pompous about it? I don’t feel like I could grieve properly in any of those cold stone halls, however impressive they might be. I do like all the stones that are just laid out on the grass, shone upon by a burning sun in the sweltering heat of the day. They feel integrated into the nature of the place.

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As I walk from passed life to passed life, I come to the peak of one of the soft hills. There is a bush, and a tombstone hiding away underneath it, a bit aside from all the others. It does not seem to belong to any of the families around, and it is small and simple. Unobtrusive, like the bridge I will discover half an hour later and that I have written about here. I come closer and study the stone. Across the top it says EDWARD, and on the stone it reads „Died Feb 2, 1868, Aged 19 yrs. 6 months“. I sit down.

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I wonder if anyone still knows about this grave and who this boy was. I wonder if he died because he was ill, or if he had an accident, or if he was poor. I think about how he has lived to see the Civil War, and wonder if he lost his family in it. I wonder if he ever was in love, and if he ever had a first kiss or if he ever got to lose his virginity. I ask Edward all these questions, but there is no answer from the small stone. As I get up again to explore more of the cemetery, I think that for what it is worth, someone took note today of this life that once was and said a little prayer for a boy who lived a life that was too short 150 years ago.

Bridge at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois, US

This week’s bridge is of the unobtrusive, yet inviting kind. It promises calm and peace. And it delivers.

Graceland Bridge

This is a bridge that leads to an island in a lagoon at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. You know from this post that I love cemeteries, and I am sure to write more about this one with all its impressive mausoleums and the wide stretches of grassy hills with tombstones in all shapes and sizes. I do no recall having been to a cemetery with a lagoon before, and the way the weeping willows were reflected in the albeit a bit too green and dull water added to the medidative character of the experience.

The Bridge leads to the Daniel Burnham burial Island. Burnham was an architect who is largely responsible for the looks of Chicago today. He and his Family are resting on the Island in the shade of trees, their graves marked with simple stones that carry plaquettes with the names, rather than fancy relief art or sculpture. While the cemetery was already quiet, the Bridge took me to its quietest and most peaceful spot. I could come to myself in this place.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

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