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The old primary school has apparently been abandoned for quite some time. Crumbling plaster is leading the way. Decay as far as the eye can see. Now and then friendly yet strong reminders written somewhere: "Instortingsgevaar" (danger of collapse). Certain areas of the school building are definitely in a pretty bad condition which is obvious even without knowledge in statics. Remnants of the former school life are scattered throughout the whole building. Toys, photos of former students as well as old books. All these things just intensify the frozen in time atmosphere. A beautiful little place left to rot right in the middle of active school grounds. That´s the reason we chose the summer holidays for our visit. Despite of that the grounds were really busy that day. Apparently, preparations for the upcoming school year took place. Sneaking into the building was quite easy, whereas sneaking outside unseen became an almost undoable task. While taking photos inside the grounds had become more and more busy. The only chance was trying to head towards the exit as fast as possible. And so the inevitable happened. Only few steps after leaving our building we heard a loud "Hey" behind us. Two workers appeared but couldn´t hide their smiles. Still feeling relief a woman, probably the headmaster, came out of the active school building opposite of ours and shouted angrily at us threatening us to call the police. Disappearing as fast as possible was the only option now. Barbed wire or not. After a detour to our car and an adrenaline level slowly going back to normal we finally escaped safely. A brief look back to our arrival: while searching for a parking space we were watched by an elderly man standing behind his window with his curtains in his hand. He observed us so obviously so that we decided to look for another place to park our car. Yet not before waving at the conspiciously behaving man who responded by waving back at us right away. So better never tend to underestimate the local "security". 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
It´s a special kind of silence that´s being felt all over that place. It´s peaceful. Heather´s growing like a carpet and right between all the weathered stone crosses. Once made out of plain stone, they now mark the human remains of former patients of the nearby psychiatric hospital, who deceased between the years 1921 - 1981. As the cemetery was opened in '21 the hospital was still named "Rijkskrankzinnigengesticht" ("public mental hospital") - a customary term at that time. Around 1750 - exclusively male - patients were buried here. As mentioned above, the last one in 1981. The graves itselves are designed pretty simple. The individual stone cross only contains a metal plate with the name as well as the date of birth and death of the patient in respective. You can´t help it but ask yourself what kind of lives they might had had. It was not uncommon that patients had to spend a significant part of their lives in such institutions, not to say even their whole lives. One thing is certain at last. They all had to spend the rest of their lives within an institution, which excluded them from society. The graveyard itself is located right in the middle of the woods. Thanks to the sunny weather of a late summer´s day, it helped to find the atmosphere more peaceful than anything else. The sun was shining and created an immense heat between the stone crosses and the heather growing all over the place, just helped to add friendliness to the whole scenery. I´m sure a cold, misty November´s day would change the whole atmosphere completely. Yet, the friendly weather that day couldn´t delude me from that gloomy mood arising deep down. All those seemingly perfect stone crosses in a row, those bleached out plastic flowers on some of the graves and further, partly indefinable objects being found on the site - remnants of an unique culture of memory - made me feel quite uneasy. Shortly before leaving the grounds, I spotted a pretty new-looking plushie, a mouse. Sitting right on one of the crosses, already with cobwebs on its head. It really appeared out of place. My gaze settled on the fence around the burial site. Right in the middle of the woods, I could see a woman standing on the other side of the fence. Rooted at the spot and gazing at me as well. Or maybe she wasn´t even looking at me, but the whole scenery itself. I started to feel a bit uneasy, as I feared she wouldn´t like me to be right in the middle of that burial site. Yet, when I started to approach her, I was able to recognise her as a patient of the still existing psychiatric hospital nearby. Apparently, she was on an excursion through the woods with other patients, but had left the group for a short time. I really asked myself, what her thoughts were. I´ll never know. Coming nearer, she disappeared in the thicket and I left the cemetery grounds.