Lingering Garden, Suzhou, China

The Chinese garden is a landscape garden style which has evolved over three thousand years. It includes both the vast gardens of the Chinese emperors and members of the imperial family, built for pleasure and to impress, and the more intimate gardens created by scholars, poets, former government officials, soldiers and merchants, made for reflection and escape from the outside world.

The earliest recorded Chinese gardens were created in the valley of the Yellow River during the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC). These gardens were large enclosed parks where the kings and nobles hunted game, or where fruit and vegetables were grown.

They create an idealized miniature landscape, which is meant to express the harmony that should exist between man and nature.

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Every detail is important. Carefully selected, crafted and put in its proper surroundings.

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Originally a classical private garden, the Lingering Garden (23,310 m2 ) is one of the four most famous gardens in China. Possessing typical Qing style, it is well-known for the exquisite beauty of its magnificent halls, and the various sizes, shapes, and colors of the buildings.

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Like other famous gardens in Suzhou, the Lingering Garden seeks to create stunning natural landscapes within limited space. In it, domiciles, ancestral temples and private gardens are included. Buildings, trees, and flowers blend harmoniously with their surroundings.

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Of the four parts, the central part is the essence of the whole complex. This part was the original Lingering Garden while the other three were added during the Qing Dynasty.

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Lingering Garden was commissioned by Xu Taishi (徐泰时), an impeached and later exonerated official in 1593 CE. Stonemason Zhou Shicheng (周时臣) designed and built the East Garden (东园) as it was initially called.

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Liu Su, another official in 1798 CE, reconstructed and renamed it Cold Green Village. He was an avid collector of Scholar stones or viewing stones( naturally occurring or shaped rocks which are traditionally appreciated by Chinese scholars), and added 12 more to the garden housing them in the ”stone forest”. The garden soon acquired the nickname ”Liu Yuan” from the owner’s surname. From 1823 CE the garden was open to public, and became a famed resort.

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During the Sino-Japanese War, the garden was abandoned and it even degenerated into breeding zone for army horses. After establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Suzhou government took over and renovated the garden.

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It was reopened to the public in 1954. In 2001 the garden was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list, and remains a major tourist destination.

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To sum it up, a typical Chinese garden is enclosed by walls and includes one or more ponds, rock works, trees and flowers, and an assortment of halls and pavilions within the garden, connected by winding paths and zig-zag galleries.

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By moving from structure to structure, visitors can view a series of carefully composed scenes, unrolling like a scroll of landscape paintings.

 

The Legend of the Isle of the Immortals

 A miniature version of Mount Penglai, the legendary home of the Eight Immortals, was recreated in many classical Chinese gardens

An ancient Chinese legend played an important part in early garden design. In the 4th century BC, a tale in the Shan Hai Jing (Classic of Mountains and Seas) described a peak called Mount Penglai located on one of three islands at the eastern end of the Bohai Sea, between China and Korea, which was the home of the Eight Immortals. On this island were palaces of gold and silver, with jewels on the trees. There was no pain, no winter, wine glasses and rice bowls were always full, and fruits, when eaten, granted eternal life.

In 221 BC, Ying Zheng, the King of Qin conquered other rival states and unified China under the Qin Empire, which he ruled until 210 BC. He heard the legend of the islands and sent emissaries to find the islands and bring back the elixir of immortal life, without success. At his palace near his capital, Xianyang, he created a garden with a large lake called Lanchi gong or the Lake of the Orchids. On an island in the lake he created a replica of Mount Penglai, symbolizing his search for paradise. After his death, the Qin Empire fell in 206 BC and his capital city and garden were completely destroyed, but the legend continued to inspire Chinese gardens. Many gardens have a group of islands or a single island with an artificial mountain representing the island of the Eight Immortals.

Source, Wikipedia

Annonser

Water Village, Yangtze River, China

 

On arriving by boat to the Water Village, you used to anchor up by this pavillion.  Facing the new, big cruisers, another, bigger pavillion has been built.

The evergreen waters, the silent mountains – and the lifting fog –  brightened my spirit. I knew this would be the highlight of our journey.

Cruising along the Yangtze River, you can still see fishermen rowing a wooden boat from which they fish. The history of fishing on the Yangtze River can be traced back seven thousand years.

The small wooden boat is usually twelve feet long and three or four feet wide, the boat usually has five to six cabins including the navigation cabin, engine room and the living cabins. With the rise in living standard along the Yangtze River, fishermen have installed diesel engines on their boats to save manpower.

To catch fish, there are usually two ways: net casting and using hooks. Daytime, fishermen cast nets with large stones as anchors. Then, one or two boats drag two ends of the net to catch the fish. Fishing hooks are put out before sunset and reeled in with the fish in the morning.

Every year, the fishermen repair the boat during the hot days of July and August. When the Chinese traditional Lantern Festival comes, the family usually eats a reunion lunch in the cabin and sticks incense on the fore at the same time burning papers and shooting off firecrackers to sacrifice to the water god for good sailing and good catch.

On our walk along the river, we were first met by stone faces speaking to everyone about what to do to fend off Evil…

Then – soft flute music reached our ears. A beautiful girl standing on the deck of an old wooden boat, and a man playing the flute, releasing its silvery tunes over the river.

Of course they were posing for us – but the old ways of this people, the Tujia, were both breathtaking and esthetically shown to us. As a visitor I could not but use my eyes and ears in silence. It hurts to watch the beauty and the sad loss of the old ways  – even if we know about the hardships they meant as well. It is the same everywhere in the world.

Following the wooden pathway by the river, the silent calmness and serenity  overwhelmed me. This was indeed a picture of a Lost Paradise.

The lush bamboo  and the stillness in the air, the boats and the fishing nets – and the sun lifting the veil of mist.

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Only the faint sound of the flute faraway, and the sound of birds rustling in the foliage. Tears in my eyes. It doesn’t matter if this gloryfying of the old is just…gloryfying. This little village shows the essence of old Chinese life, art, painting and poetry.

Leaving this Paradisiac painting and hiking further into the river valley, we approached some water wheels and an old homestead.

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On the little arched bridge, a young couple was standing – obviously this used to be a popular place for lovers to meet.

Soon we were to see a little performance on the marriage customs – Weeping Marriage of the Tujia Ethnic Minority.

The marriage date for girls of the Tujia Ethnic Minority ia usually welcomed with crying. According to custom, the new bride should begin to cry half a month or one month before the wedding ceremony. Whether a girl could cry about her marriage became a criterion to value the girl’s ability and virtue.

In order to be regarded as a good girl, the girl begins to study how to cry for marriage when she is twelve years old. Some will invite an experienced person to teach them. When 15 years old, girls will invite each other to match who cries best and teach each other.

There are songs which are sung when weeping for marriage. These include singing for parents, sisters, brothers, the matchmaker and ancestors. When singing the weeping marriage songs, the emotions are fully expressed through the mournful tones. They say that on hearing the vivid and strong words of the song, even the toughest man can’t fight back his tears.

The weeping songs can be sung by one person or by two. If one girl sings, she will cry for her destiny, the deep affection to her relatives and the feudalistic marriage custom she suffers under. When two girls are weeping together, it is called ”sister crying.” The bride cries and sings first, and then the other one will sing together with the bride to console her.

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The Bride unveiled

It is said that the weeping marriage custom originates from the marriage system in the old times. Girls sang and cried denouncing the marriage system and dreaming of flinging off its chains. Today, although Tujia girls can choose their loved ones freely, they still cry out of tradition.

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Our lovely Tujia guides. The basket on their back will show if they are married or not. Carrying flowers – free, carrying a baby – married.

Before reaching the waterfalls, we saw the bamboo forest swaying – monkeys! Maybe we would get closer on the other side of the river.

But first – the falls. Not very big, but fresh  mountain water falling through the lush bamboo forest. Have you ever seen an old  Chinese painting?

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The narrow gorge ahead of us.

Hiking back, quietly, everybody pondering and reflecting on their impressions…

…I suddenly found more reflecting and pondering faces – monkeys. This one became my favourite during the short time we were listening to them and watching them climbing rocks and branches. He was sitting there on the rock with his wise little face turned slightly upwards. Sometimes he glanced at his hands and into the greenery, but never jumped around making ooooooooooo – sounds like the others. I called him the Philosopher.

These monkeys had bushy tails instead of sleek ones to use for gripping branches. Unfortunately none of our guides could name the species. I tried to find them when I got home, but the closest I get is Rhesus Makak. If anybody knows – please write me!

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This trip back into the China of old; customs, art, painting and writing, I am certain will stay with me forever.

Because this is no more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Latvian Etnographic Open – Air Museum – an Island of Harmony

Lettlands Etnografiska Friluftsmuseum inrättades 1924 och är Lettlands motsvarighet till vårt svenska ”Skansen” – en av de tidigaste efterföljarna till vår stolthet. Området är stort, hela 88 ha, och det ligger naturskönt och avskilt från Riga stad. Genom åren har gamla hus och tillhörande byggnader flyttats hit, så att friluftsmuseet idag omfattar 118 olika byggnader. De äldsta från 1600-talet, de yngsta från 1930-talet. Hela Lettland speglas områdesvis på ett förtjänstfullt sätt.

The Ethnographic Museum of Latvia was established in 1924.118 folk architecture objects and more than 3000 household items from all Latvian historical and ethnographical regions (Kurzeme, Latgale, Vidzeme and Zemgale) , evidence from life and culture of the rural population from the 17th century until the 1940´s. the museum researches, exhibits and promotes the monuments of traditional life, as well as educates and informs about Latvias cultural heritage.

Den protestantiska kyrkan från 1704, har en fantastiskt vacker interiör.

The Lutheran church (1704) is a silent beauty.

Fantastiskt träsnideriarbete i altare och predikstol, och ett lika fantastiskt bemålat tak. Här hålls gudstjänst varje söndag klockan tio.

Magnificent wood carvings and the ceiling in soft blue, white and golden brown. Service every Sunday at 10 a.m.

Lägg märke till att ljushållaren vid predikstolen är i form av en människoarm!

Holding the candle, to the left, is…a carving showing a human arm.

Silence and Serenity

På väg nerför backen står ett vägkrucifix från 1907, en katolsk företeelse som var vanlig på den tiden.

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Den här mannen hade sin atelje/verkstad på en bondgård från 1850. Han svarvade skålar, men tillverkade också slevar och gamla tiders leksaker för hand, vilka han gärna demonstrerade och sålde.

This man worked at a farmstead from 1850. His bowls were for sale, as well as spoons and toys made according to old traditions. He was very good at showing visitors how they worked.

Många skolklasser besökte förstås – och förundrades över dåtidens leksaker.

Many school classes visited, of course, and wondered at the old time toys.

Vi kände igen alla leksaker från förr, bland annat snurra, ”helikoptervingar”, ”brumma” och slangbella.

We recognized all the old toys, like this one below, made swirling through a twist with your hands only.

Till gården hörde ett praktfullt boningshus med vasstak, en köksträdgård, ett magasin för spannmål och textilier, samt en badstuga.

The farmstead had a main building with reed roof, a kitchen garden, a storage house for cereals and textiles, and a bath cottage.

Det mest intressanta var biodlingen, mycket tack vare en besjälad idealist, Janis Snikvalds, som tillbringar en del av sin tid på friluftsmuseet för att informera och även sälja produkter. Vintertid jobbar han också med bin, men då handlar det om kontorsarbete.

The most interesting thing was the bee-keeping and the stories from the bee-keeper himself, Janis Snikvalds. A beautiful idealist and passionate bee-lover with a warm and loving heart. He works part time at the museum, informing about his work and selling healthy products from his bees.

Han berättade att hans far var biodlare, att han själv först var rädd för bin, men genom att hjälpa sin far vann intresset över rädslan. Den harmoni han känner när han arbetar med sina bin är svår att beskriva. ”Man måste älska bin för att kunna arbeta med dem.” Vi fick provsmaka tre fina honungssorter, varav en ljunghonung.

He told us about his fear of bees when he was a kid, how his father made him help out and how this made him develop a deep harmony in working with these interesting animals. ”You have to love bees to work with them”.

Sedan provade vi andra biprodukter (!), bland annat små pollenkulor som bina får med sig på bakbenen när de suger nektar, och ”bee bread”, som kommer från cellerna i honungskakan. Båda är erkända naturmediciner och är, precis som honung, välkänt verksamma mot bland annat inflammationer och förkylning. Janis berättade att man kommer till honom även från närliggande länder för att köpa. Vi köpte ett par pollenburkar med hem.

We tried both the pollen products and the bee bread – both recognized natural medicine working anti inflammatory and fighting infections. Janis told us that people came from neighbouring countries as well to buy these products. We brought home a couple of the pollen products – knowing from old that bees work magic. If you are interested – Janis Snikvalds is also on facebook. Go for ”Baltu Drava”, and find out more about him and his products.

Janis berättade också om hur kuporna transporteras med bil till t ex ljungområden för att kunna få ljunghonung. Biodlingen i världen är i kris, men Lettland är det land i världen som förlorat minst bin och samhällen.

Janis told us about the hives sometimes being moved to, for example areas with heather, in order to get heather honey. But, they were not like in for example the US, transported for days or weeks in big trailers, stressing the bees. These hives were only moved over one night and one day. Latvia is the only country in the world that is not in a critical situation of losing bees .

Han berättade också om de gamla bikupor som vi såg på många håll i friluftsmuseet. De är helt enkelt urholkade delar av trädstammar. Sådan har använts från 1500- till början av 1900-talet. De höll i 100 år. Från början placerades de vertikalt med trätak över, senare horisontellt med en lös bräda som lock. Han experimenterade själv med sådana i sin verksamhet idag.

Vi fortsatte sedan förbi en vävarstuga och ett hus med spinneri till en kvarn, som ligger längst bort i friluftsmuseet. Det är en vindmölla av holländsk typ, där övre delen vrids efter vinden. Den byggdes 1890, och var faktiskt i drift ända till 1950. Man satte segelduk på vingarna när den brukades.

A Dutch windmill – from about 1890. This one was working until 1950.

Rysk ortodox kyrka, tidigt 1900-tal.

Russian orthodox church, early 20th century.

Vi var många som stortrivdes här – mysfaktor hög. Alla katter och fina hus, vacker natur och tystnad – en underbar totalupplevelse av gamla tiders lugn.

We were many people – and animals – feeling good here. Not least the beautiful cats we met. A totally wonderful day in the harmony of olden days.

Bernina Express and Alp Grüm – Turquoise and Red

At the railwaystation in Pontresina we caught the Bernina Express – a classic train on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. (From Chur to Tirano in Italy)

On our way from 1850 m to 2091 m above sea level, there were many interesting and beautiful views. People were standing up in the train so it was not that easy to get good photos.

Lago Bianco is the name of the great dam up here, famous for its turqouise water.

…and the train for being red!

On reaching Alp Grüm, we had the majestic glacier right in front of us – but the sun made it impossible to photograph it – we half planned to come back in the morning to get a better view…but never realized it.

Going down again – and the water suddenly changed colours when looking back. Light is certainly essential to how you interpret a scenery. We really had enjoyed this trip.

Weissfluhjoch and Weissfluhgipfel – Cool and Windless White

In famous winter sports’ Davos – in fact 8 communities instead of one – we took the Parsennbahn up to Weissfluhjoch, 2662 metres, and from there to Weissfluhgipfel, 2844 metres – still snowcapped.

About 5 pm, but still warm… no wind, no people. Stunning views in all directions.

Silence

A harsh area for plants and flowers to survive in, but still, they are here. I was happy to find Ranunculus glacialis – isranunkel…

…and Saxifraga – purpurbräcka, hidden in the crevices.

The buildings here includes of course a restaurant, but also a meteorological station and a centre for research on snow and avalanches. There is a daily forecast on avalanches sent from here all over Switzerland.

Oh, the Silence – and the Air

The distant views …

…and the clouds of white

Muottas Muragl to Alp Languard – A Hot Hike

Switzerland, St Moritz alps. At 2456 m. we started our hike at Muottas Muragl – a panorama walk filled with majestic views and stunning flowers.

A very easy walk with no steep climbing, but still 24 degrees C…I met some wise elderly people who just walked for maybe half a mile to see the views and the flowers.

Alp clover and hikers – we all tried to stay in the shade as much as possible. Not easy in an open landscape.

Soon the views were opening up, and the valleys revealing all their secrets. And we could see St Moritz down there.

Leaving the morning dew and lovely coolness for beating sun as it rose higher in the sky.

Drinking water – fresh and clear. But also for putting our feet in. Not many degrees in glacier water – hardly for bathing. Every brook or flow offers a welcome break.

Majestic mountains and some rest in the shadows…when possible. My hat was very useful.

As this is an easy walk, many families had a delightful day out. Holding hands is a good idea when it is too steep.

Crossing an area where water had undermined the path and falling stones and mud slides made it dangerous to hike, we had to pass through a tunnel of corrugated sheet metal. Some holes were made in it for the view.

And we were richly rewarded in the end. Alp Languard in all its beauty – and cows! The end of a spectacular walk

On our way down with the lift (15 minutes), we met this lovely family…(Can you spot the dog?)

Some of the many flowers on the road…a feast to the eye. I found it rather difficult to focus my shots as the heat made drops fall onto the camera as well – but when we arrived at 1800 meters, the heat was 30 degrees C and more. So the day was well spent. I hope you enjoyed the trip too.

A walk in Verzasca valley – an extraordinary experience

The Verzasca is a Swiss 30-kilometre long mountain river flowing into Lago Maggiore. It is known for its clear turquoise water and vibrant colored rocks, as well as its treacherous currents. The Verzasca Dam is a few kilometers upriver from this lake. The Dam is well known for its 220 m height jump, which is one of the highest jumps in the world and also the most famous bungy jump, as it was used in the James Bond film GoldenEye.

Valle Verzasca extends over a length of 25 kilometres in north–south direction. The surrounding mountains respectively passes have an average altitude of 2,400 metres (7,874 ft).The Verzasca River valley is in Ticino, Locarno district, the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland.

The valley comprises several small municipalities, but we only visited Sonogno. My husband’s sister has a friend living there, hosting a restaurant at the end of the road. Sonogno is also the last village on the paved road through the Valley Verzasca. All motor vehicles are required to park at the entrance to the village. Understandable if you walk the narrow streets.

Here they meet again – Bodil and her friend – and we had a delicious meal at  his charming restaurant, Grotto EFRA.

With the connection to the public transport, tourism developed from the end of the 19th century, but still the majority of the young people of the Valley is looking for an income in wealthier regions of Switzerland or northern Italy.Today, the majority of the locals is active in the tourism. The conversion of the old Rustici houses into holiday houses created jobs, increased tourism revenues and ensured that the old houses and the characteristic image of the Verzasca Valley are preserved.

Sonogno is a very charming village and has a population (as of December 2013) of 94. The village has its own language which is a mixture of Latin and Celtic. But, the language of Sonogno is a dying language as only about 100 persons are known to speak it. Unfortunately we didn’t meet anyone using this old language – but that would have been awesome. The Villagers also speak Italian which is an official Swiss language – and I guess this will be the only language here within a couple of years…

The so-called Rustici (Italian for farm house) in grey stone, with white borders on the windows and heavy stone roofs, are typical houses in the valley. As a bar for the heavy stone roof, Castanea sativa wood is used. This tree was introduced by the Romans and is still growing in the southern part of the valley, below 1,000 metres (3,281 ft).

The local economy was traditionally based mostly on grazing. During the summer, the cattle grazed in the high alpine pastures, in the winter the cows were moved to their winter pastures. Due to limited jobs, many of the residents emigrated and after about 1850, many went overseas.The more recent exodus to urban centers, combined with emigration have caused a steady decline of population since the mid-nineteenth century.  In 2005 the agricultural sector still offered about 50% of the jobs in the municipality.

Due to its isolated location, the Verzasca Valley is claimed as one of the valleys that could keep the best its originality. The secluded geographical location made it unattractive for conquerors. First traces of settlement have been found from the early 2nd millennium BC in its south.  In the European Middle Ages, the population operationed mainly pasture farming, and since the early 17th century, many residents had to search seasonal labour outside their home valley; still unemployed young men were recruited as mercenaries for foreign armies.

So – let’s go to the beautiful river…its water is crystal clear, and the depth does not exceed 10 metres (33 ft). Its average temperature is 7 to 10 °C (45 to 50 °F).

I admit it was great to have a bath – we had about 34 degrees C this day as well. And a spectacular place to be!

 

Sweden – The Colours of Spring!

This is a photo cavalcade of the wonders happening everyday here now. I hope you will enjoy the walks!

Let’s start off with my own forest and then a trip to Öland and the ringing of migrating birds. Also a short look at the upcoming orchids – very few when I visited – but still. Lastly a gallery of some spring flowers – irresistable.

This is Alvaret – a World Heritage with very special plants and other inhabitants. Only a few places on earth has this kind of nature. Very special plants grow here, and an abundance of orchids will show off their best in the middle of May.

Konstverk på Judiska Kyrkogården – The Jewish Cemetery – A Closer Look At the Art Work

A closer look at the art work – shows that most of the stones are simple and serenely made. But there are also angels like this one – larger than life, taller than a human being.

I walked around it – just to find that someone was left to care for this grave.

Some elaborate stone sculptures were still standing, while others were resting on the ground.

Iron fences elaborately crafted. The details still …

intact.

Together with the green saplings they felt almost alive. And against the dark trees – monumental.

The upper part of the stones are almost always serenely held. The ones shown here are some of the very few I found with patterns or ornaments. The most common decorations were leaves, lions or deer, some hands as well. I just loved the ones I found with books or trees hanging over, leaning on them.

So many stories that are never to be told.

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En stilla vandring på judiska kyrkogården i Warszawa – A silent walk in the Jewish Cemetery, Warsaw

Den judiska kyrkogården i Warszawa ligger på Okopawa Street, ca en halvtimmes promenad från Gamla Staden. Det är en av de största judiska kyrkogårdarna i Europa. Den började användas 1806 och sträcker sig över hela 33 hektar mark. Över 200 000 gravar finns här inne bland träden – och här finns också massgravar med offren från Warszawas Ghetto. Mycket är övervuxet, och fallna och brutna stenar ligger under dessa höga trädstammar.

The Okopowa Street Jewish Cemetery is one of the largest Jewish Cemeteries in Europe. Located on Warsaw’s Okopowa street. The Jewish Cemetery was established in 1806 and occupies 33 hectares (83 acres) of land. The cemetery contains over 200,000 marked graves, as well as mass graves of victims of the Warsaw Ghetto. Many of these graves and crypts are overgrown, having been abandoned after the German invasion of Poland and the Holocaust. Although the cemetery was closed down during WWII, after the war it was reopened and a small portion of it remains active, serving Warsaw’s small remaining Jewish population.

De flesta gravstenar är mycket enkelt dekorerade, men det finns också rikt utsirade monument i olika stilar – från Egypteninspirerade till Art deco. Mycket vanligt är lejon och hjortar, men också händer. Några har till och med böcker – och en  vattenpump.

The cemetery is filled with monuments to Jewish communists, orthodox rabbis, and everyone in between. Many of the markers are simple, others are elaborately carved with angels drooping mournfully over a tomb or with large, elaborate bas relief panoramas of a somewhat imaginary medieval Warsaw. Large mausoleums also appear in different styles ranging from Egyptian to Art deco.

Det är en märklig känsla att vandra på dessa stigar bland de högvuxna, mörka träden. Alla dessa människor som begravts här, vars ättlingar alla gått under i Förintelsen. Ingen kan ta hand om gravarna.

It’s a strange feeling walking here…among those high grown, dark trees and all the graves without people left to care for them…everyone was lost in the Holocaust.

Mycken skönhet göms också här. Både i detaljer och i alltet. Själen vilar i vandringen. Några enstaka violer bryter igenom .

There is so much beauty here. In details as in the whole. Your soul is resting while you are walking. and a ray of violets shine on your path.