A visit to the Happy, Merry, or Cheery Cemetery...
Depending on who you speak to it’s one of the three names, mentioned in the title.
After our time in Cluj, (as the locals call it), we headed north, to about 1 km from Ukraine, to visit the cemetery we had heard so much about. Our first introduction of hearing this place was from one of our bartenders, Jackie, who advised if we ever go to Romania, to definitely visit this place, although she wasn’t sure where it was in Romania.
Now that our plans have changed, this was on our list of things to see. We weren’t sure what to expect, thinking it would be similar to other cemeteries, a few people, or none at all. Well, we were wrong, there were hundreds of tourists visiting this cemetery, the roads were lined up with souvenir shops, and parking was limited.
The cemetery was very vibrant, with tombstones done in blue, and each of the tombstones describes (in Romanian) what the person did, and or how they died.
It began with a local artist Patras Stan, who, back in 1935 carved the tombs and started writing poems about the deceased. The artist also walked around on Sundays with pen and paper listening to gossip to get ideas.
Even though we couldn’t read the actual poems, you can definitely see from the depictions either how they died, or what they did in their lifetime.
From there we drove to Sighetu Marmetiei, where a famous museum, however previously was a prison is located. As it was closing by 6pm, we did manage to get tickets, and the lovely lady stated that since we would need more time, to come back the next day and the tickets would still be valid.
This prison was built in 1897, but when communism came to Romania, many people were incarcerated here until their trial. As we made our way from one room to the next, we knew we would need a couple of hours to visit and learn more about this dark period.
In the 45-minute time frame we had, we managed to see a couple of rooms, and the main hallway has a photo of each person who was jailed here. Men and women of all ages were sent to this prison. You get the chills walking through some of these rooms, reading the various stories of all those who died, tortured, or in some cases lucky to be released. In some cases, the trials would convict a dead prisoner to another 5 years for the crime they committed. It’s shocking to see how humans can treat other humans in such an evil way, and yet we continue to do so.
There is a memorial of statues dedicating to those who have suffered in this prison, which is very moving. This is a must for anyone coming to Romania and spending time in this area, and thankful the manager back in Timisoara, who told us to go to this museum. We ended up purchasing a book and look forward to reading/learning more about the stories during this time, and in this area.