In Germany it was normal to have a walk on a graveyard on a Sunday even if nobody is burried there they know. The graveyards I knew were very beautiful and looked like a park. I remember the one I used to go with my parents on Sundays, just for a walk when I was a child. There were a lot of trees, plants and bushes, banks to rest, and even a sandbox for children, a lot of flowers and the graves very well taken care of. It was not unusual that children ran around the graves or played "hide and seak" behind the grave stones.
So when we moved to Belgium in 1959 I thought the graveyards would look the same and one afternoon after school I went with a friend just for a walk and to have a look on Belgian graveyards. Already at the entrance the warden gave us a suspicious look, he probably wondered what two young giggling girls are doing on a graveyard.
Of course the graves and the whole yard were completely different as the once we were used to, there were no trees or any green grass or bushes, all graves were covered with grey stone plates, sometimes in marble, without or with artificial flowers. It all looked sad and grey.
So we went from grave to grave to look at the old photos on the gravestones and then found steps leading into a crypt, containing little compartments just like safes in a bank. From far away we heard a bell, several times but didn't pay attention. Then we had enough it was really too spooky in here and it got already dark. We decided to go back.
Of course we got lost and couldn't find the exit, so we stumbled between the graves on the grey gravel and tried to find our way out. It was a quite strange situation but we were not afraid of any ghosts coming out of the graves, we even found this very funny and laughed and giggled all the way long. Finally we saw street lamps and the gate. We wanted to go out, but the gate was locked. Nobody there, the warden was gone too ! We started to call at people on the street, but they just looked at us with big eyes, thought probably we were joking or were mad and just walked by. We couldn't even explain our situation because both of us spoke very little French at that time !
Finally an elderly man, came to the gate and asked what happened. We tried to explain him that we were locked in and couldn't get out ! He laughed said something and disappeared. It was hopeless ! But shortly after he came back with a policeman.
To get us out of our unwanted prison, the policeman tried to get hold of a somebody of the municipality, but of course all offices were already closed in the City Hall. Finally he found somebody but this person didn't have the keys. Another policeman arrived and other people started to gather around the gate and we looked like prisoners behind bars ! They were all laughing and one lady gave us an apple ! I asked for an orange. They discussed together where to find the key of the graveyard gate to get us out. The gate was far to high to climb over it and the cimetary was surrounded by a high walls too as if people were afraid that white dressed corpses would want to get out !
Finally a breathless old man arrived shaking a bunch of keys ! He looked them through, one by one, found the right key, opened the gate and we walked out. We were greeted with laughter and "ahs" and "ohs" like long lost friends and some people even applauded ! The two policemen found it less funny and took us both to the police station. That was the first (but not the last) time I had been in one. We had to make an official statement, how and why we got locked in and we told them in our poor French, that we hadn't paid attention to the ringing bell, and that we also didn't know what it was ! They didn't inform our parents and let us go and
this was good, because knowing our fathers they would have been very upset with the policemen and the warden of the graveyard and not at all with us, because for them a graveyard was an open place to walk around and enjoy ! If only they would have known how the Belgian graveyards looked like ! We had just arrived in Belgium.
more participants at Jenny Matlock's Alphabet Thursday