We are fortunate to have a stunning garden right outside our 4th-floor Copenhagen apartment. The Assistens Cemetery is immaculately maintained, with sections of it listed and no longer used for burials.
There are mature trees en masse, the odd patch of perennials in summer and lovely memories of people who lived and died in Copenhagen hundreds of years ago. And there are young people sunbathing in the summer (and yes, there is the occasional topless woman among them), families going for picnics – as has been the tradition ever since this cemetery was located in the countryside beyond the old fortified city and people would go to visit their departed family members on a Sunday and make an outing of it – and runners going for a jog on the many criss-crossing paths.
The cemetery is a living place, an integral part of our neighbourhood and in no way a gloomy or sad place. And it’s a whopping great view to have; from the warm yellow wall surrounding it, scanning upwards across the headstones and tree trunks to the canopy of tree crowns that form our horizon.
On the other side – from the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom – our view is less stunning, but to me it is actually also quite charming. We can look down into the courtyard garden below, with barbecues, tables and chairs and even a swing hanging from the branch of a medlar tree. And we can look across to a roof-scape of chimneys that reach up to the heavens, with frequent visits from seagulls and crows. It might not be conventionally beautiful like the view over the cemetery, but it has an urban charm to it; a sense of Baudelairesque retreat to a place above the city.
It reminds me of Baudelaire’s poem Paysage, where during winter the narrator retreats to his Parisian garret to write his pastoral poetry and
De tirer un soleil de mon coeur, et de faire
De mes pensers brûlants une tiède atmosphère.
“To pull a sun from my heart and to make / from my burning thought a tepid atmosphere.”