Generally speaking, I don't usually leave a cemetery thinking, "Wow! That was awesome!" However, during a recent trip to Ireland, I experienced that exact feeling. It started out as as a suggestion from my friend Hannah on a Saturday afternoon. We were thinking of what to do and she said, "We could take a tour of Glasnevin Cemetery. It's been a few years since I went, but I remember having a great time there." A bit confused but very intrigued by what that meant, I readily agreed.
Upon arrival, I was first surprised by the massive size of the place. Secondly was by the light-hearted and up beat attitude that everyone (especially the tour guide) seemed to have. "Fun fact," he said to start, "There's 1.6 million people buried here. That means there's more dead people in Glasnevin than living people in all of Dublin. I've even got a few relatives over there." He pointed and chuckled. I then looked over and noticed a sign advertising for the cemetery listing some of the names of those buried, such as 125 people named Barber and 11 people named Beard. (As seen above)
"In case you haven't noticed," Hannah said to me, "Ireland has a bit of a different attitude towards death than most places." I had noticed.
Then we began to make our way through, first with the guide pointing out some of the notable people from the Easter Uprising in 1916 and the War for Independence that followed. The guy explained the back story behind a few of the people, inserting humor here and there, and then pointed to a large tower which he said was placed above the family tomb of Daniel O'Connell (of whom O'Connell Street is named after). "Now," he continued, "This tower has been closed for over a year. Does anyone know why?"
In the back, someone grumbled an indecipherable answer.
"That's right!" the tour guide said somehow able to understand what was said. "Someone put a bomb in there and tried to blow it up. Fortunately though, they didn't know explosives very well and only managed to blow out the window. Now lets go inside and check out the dead O'Connells!" We then walked in. By this point, Hannah and I had already gotten into conversation about how we'd want our funerals to be.
"First of all, no one will be sober, said Hannah, "I want it to be a huge party where everyone in celebrating their time with me. I'd never want to make my family and friends sad."
"I'm thinking of going along the Viking route," I added, "Put me on a raft with fireworks, push it out into a pond (aka the poor man's ocean) and set it ablaze."
Once inside the O'Connell family crypt (which turned out to be rather bright and colorful), we saw a big coffin front and center in a heavy metal case. "This," the guide said as he smacked his hand down on it, "is the coffin of Daniel O'Connell. Feel free to touch it." Naturally, Hannah, myself, and about half of the other people followed suit. "You know, I've never had an Irish person on the tour who didn't touch the coffin, and I've never had a German who did." He then continued and said that there are only two spots left in the family crypt, and that one is promised to a nine-year-old boy who he personally got to give a tour too.
"I've never seen a kid so excited to see his own grave," the guy explained, "Even when he left, he happily said, 'Can't wait to see you again soon!' I had to add, 'Hopefully not too soon.'" Anyway, with that aside, we left, passing the graves of James Joyce's parents as well as Maud Gonne, the lady who was repeatedly stalked by the famous poet W.B. Yeats. Finally, we reached the most famous grave in the cite: independence leader Michael Collins. As we approached, I saw an interesting looking sign with an inscription in Irish Gaelic on it. "Woah, cool sign!" I exclaimed. "What does it mean?"
Both Hannah and the guide laughed. "It says 'STAY OFF THE GRASS."
Oh. Well that was a bit anti-climactic. Anyway, there were numerous flowers on the grave which the guide explained were sent by a French lady who became obsessed with Collins after watching a 'highly inaccurate film depiction starring Liam Neeson.' But he said that the cemetery was still grateful for her support. Hannah then leaned over to me, "I was about to show my support for this place by subscribing on their website, but I noticed it was currently at 666 subscribers. I felt that statistic needed to stay."
Shortly after that, the guy wrapped up the tour and Hannah and I decided to check out the cemetery museum (which even turned out to have an exhibition on grave robbing). I went into the whole experience not knowing what to expect, entirely relying on her judgment, and I left feeling like a kid that just visited his first amazing theme park. I never thought I'd describe a graveyard as awesome and a tour through it as hilarious, but now I'm doing just that. Therefore, I highly recommend anyone seeking adventure and looking to put a more lighthearted view on death to come here. It's absolutely worth it.