Monday, November 03, 2008

Alla Helgons Dag and a Urinary Emergency in Sweden

Alla Helgons Dag is over. The holiday was November 1st. I suppose you could make a case that this is Sweden’s answer to Halloween. Kind of. Or at least to the side that celebrates the dead. All Saints Day. It’s a day for honoring all those important dead people in your life. It is also a red day. And that might be more important for some people.

But not for me. Because I don’t work. Not because I’m religious. Come on now.

But the other day I did find myself wandering around a cemetery just a few days before Alla Helgons Dag. Now, wandering around a cemetery is kind of weird. And it’s not something I do on a regular basis. But this was a special cemetery. Not because relatives were buried there, but because it is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Skogskyrkogården, the Forest Cemetery.

Thousands upon thousands of gravestones dominate the area. Massive centuries old trees dominate the area. And somehow these two dominant forces work together quite well. Which might explain the World Heritage designation. It would also explain the description from Lonely Planet about the “unique design and the harmony of function and landscape.” I couldn’t have put it better myself. Which is probably why I don’t write for Sweden's country guide by Lonely Planet.

Anyway, I wandered around for well over an hour, just kind of taking it all in. Snapping some pictures. Just enjoying the sunlight that was penetrating the forest creating those creepy, but quite beautiful, shadows that you can only find in a graveyard. I made a half-hearted effort to find Greta Garbo’s grave, because that’s apparently what you’re supposed to do while there, but didn’t manage to find it.

I did however find the bathroom. Which was a big feat for me. Because I was struggling and had to pee like you would not believe. Have you ever needed to pee so bad that you started sweating? Sweating from concentrating so hard on not peeing yourself in a World Heritage Site? Sweating from walking so quickly in hopes of finding a toilet? Sweating so badly from holding it in? I have. As of my walk through the cemetery at least. Of course, some people might describe me as sweaty.

By the way, I am damn sexy. Hairy and sweaty.

Anyway, I found a few bathrooms that were locked. This obviously did me no good. It was after one of those locked doors that my mind started to wander. To my relationship, or lack thereof, with God. To respect for the dead. To the desecration of graveyards. An internal battle was waging over whether I should just run off to a far corner of the cemetery and find a tree.

I chose instead to make a move back where I came from. The main entrance seemed to have a bit more facilities to choose from. So I started moving that way. Fast. Luckily I came upon the visitor’s center. Which had at least 10 doors leading into the building. The first few I tried were locked. And panic began to set in. I couldn’t convince myself that it was ok to pee in a graveyard. And a World Heritage designated graveyard at that.

So I walked all the way around the building hoping to find an open door. I did not. But I did stumble upon a girl coming out of the building for a smoke. And with a hint of desperation in my voice I asked for the bathroom. Turns out it was the door immediately to the left of the first door I had tried. I had just started moving to the right instead.

I made it inside. Relief. And I committed no unspeakable sins.

Aside from my moment of urinary panic, it was quite a pleasant little adventure. And definitely worth a visit.

Welcome to Sweden. Where peeing in World Heritage designated cemeteries just does not happen.

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  1. That looks positively quaint compared to Uppsala's graveyard.

    Uppsala graveyard ftw woot! ;)

  2. Hairy--

    I feel your (former) pain. Well, metaphorically. It's really "been there-done that," both the accepted and unaccepted ways. Mother Nature has her own rules...

    I like cemeteries. Lotsa history there. Go to the Père La Chaise cemetery in Paris. You can some pix of it and the rest of Paris here:



  3. @jd - uppsala cemetery is nice, and I say that mostly because my buddies and I traipsed through that thing plenty of nights trying to get back to flogsta while we were exchange students.

    but it is like a small puddle in comparison to this place. I think skogskyrkogården has over 100,000 graves.

    @ron - mother nature shows no mercy sometimes.

    and very cool pictures of the parisian cemetery I must say.

  4. If you want to see more graveyards, visit Solna's (Between Haga Södra and Norra). It's huge and beautiful, and you can also see other significant memorials there nearby. I even wrote about it some time ago (lousy with linking, sorry). Better not drink coffee before the trip, LOL!

    I also recommend the same Parisian cemetery. Not only because Jim Morrison was buried there. Even in the daylight it was spooky. There were houses built for the deceased. Be there AND be square :)

  5. Ive never really thought of graveyards as worthy sightseeing destinations. apparently I need to rethink that.

    thanks for the tips.

  6. Loved visiting this place (I admit I went for Garbo's gravesite) and although I am prone to pee emergenices that produce sweat, pain and shaking, I luckily did not face one whilst there.

    But good to know that when I return one day there will be relief should that scenario arise (because it just isn't right to urinate in a cemetary that does not have an open bathroom).

  7. it was a pretty impressive place. and if I go back next time, Im peeing right before I get there.

    Ive learned my lesson. And Ive also realized that I am incapable of desecrating graves.

    these are important lessons to learn I think.

  8. Great story and well controlled. Somehow, peeing in a cemetery doesn't seem good form at all.

  9. its true, I just didn't think that would be appreciated. bt it was close...