The idyllic mass grave

People are passing by without paying any attention to the hawthorn grove in the forest at the gate of Taarbæk.
I often wonder if they are aware of the story.
Beneath the hawthorns is a mass grave. A grave for the victims of a cholera epidemic in Copenhagen back in 1853.
The many dead were driven on carts along the coast of Øresund to be buried inside the forest at Taarbæk.
There wasn’t enough burial ground left in Copenhagen for all the poor people who died of the epidemic.
I was speechless when I by a coincidence learned about the tragedy and the grave a few years back.

Old superstitions said that people got infected by plague if they sat on a grave and that is why the hawthorns were planted to avoid the epidemic from spreading.
The story also got my imagination working overtime, when I met a strange woman on a little path between the hawthorn a few years ago:

‘I went there on a late afternoon. It had just rained, it was cloudy and there was a sombre atmosphere about the place. Maybe I needed a rest, or maybe it was my meet with the woman who influenced me.
She was suddenly in front of me. Where did she come from? She was white-haired and pale. Eyes were dark and odd tinned at the same time. She looked right through me, and I made way, otherwise she had walked into me on the narrow path.
Some hours earlier, I had read several stories of peasants who constantly prohibit felling the hawthorn. Felling a hawthorn means disaster on animals and humans, and the old superstition is alive and well.
I wondered how far photography was included in the many legends and myths that exist around the trees. I took the chance and found several motifs, after which I gladly left the burial site. I was unusually tired when I got home, and I attributed it to the long day I had.

At night I woke up with severe pain in the stomach.: The Death and The Hawthorn

The place is very idyllic and a mass grave isn’t the first thing that pops up in your mind when looking at the small hawthorn grove.

A few kilometres away is a beautiful hawthorn plain at Springforbi.

It turns out that the two species of common hawthorns and single-seeded hawthorn cross spontaneously.

Hawthorns grow by insect pollination, so it can take place over long distances, also from Taarbæk. And the crossing is fertile: it continues to put seeds. The thorns that were planted on top of the cholera graves in the forest, was a single-seeded hawthorn and the one on the plain was a common hawthorn.

I read that many Hawthorns on the plain at Springforbi developed into a new subspecies and Christen Christiansen Raunkiær, Professor of Botany at the University of Copenhagen and Director of Botanical Gardens 1912-23 named it: Cratægus Eremitagensis.

On the first Saturday in June people visit the unique Hawthorn plain at Springforbi.
Some are dressed in white just like the hawthorns and all are celebrating the arrival of the summer.

But I often wonder if they know of the trees development 🙂

26 thoughts on “The idyllic mass grave

  1. The past has so many secrets and as stories are passed from one generation to another, it’s hard to know the truth. But that’s what is fascinating about travel (or walks). Your pictures are gorgeous and the effects go very well with your tale. 🙂

  2. Beautiful captured and very well written, Hanna. Exploring history is often an interesting matter. Even it is a sad story and background it must be a really interesting place for an enjoyable walk.
    All the best,

    • Thank you so much, Stefan!! Exploring landscapes is a wonderful thing. Walking over hills and through valleys, chatting with locals, hear people’s tales and adventures that’s one of the best thing I know. Norway and Austria is well suited for that kind of sport but Denmark has a lot to offer too 🙂
      I wish you much luck with your team at the World Cup!
      Your wish for our team made the difference 😉 🙂

  3. I always wanted to become nourishment for plants when I die. Not buried in a nonbiodegradable coffin and casket.

  4. Excellent history! I adore learning about history. The photos are as lovely as the Hawthorn. I must say, I can be superstitious, so I probably would have awakened in the night with a stomach ache, too! ❤

    • Thank you so much, Resa. Exploring history like that really gets me going 🙂 🙂
      Actually I was ill for several days after the encounter with the lady and the mass grave. Somehow somewhere I got myself a stomach infection but I only have a vague theory of how it happened. xx

    • Thanks for that. The trees are interesting too and I never grow tired of the place.
      Creativity lies in the camera I’m using. It has a program that contains image effects. My favorites are Watercolor and Illustration.
      I bought the camera for ‘a million pound’ several years ago 🙂 It’s not weary !!! I know that after several repairs.

      • I grew up surrounded by hawthorns as the gardens in our street had tall hawthorn hedges! They were murder to trim.
        As for the pictures, I thought you must have been using an effect although perhaps on your computer. So it must be a “flash” camera with the built in effects

      • Would you believe it – I have the same camera 😮 but I’d never found this effect as it’s buried in the menu. Will have to try it out. I believe you can apply the watercolour effect after the picture has been taken too.

      • Haha!!! You sure can apply the watercolour and the illustration after taken the picture. “Menu: 3. row, lower choice, image effect” 🙂 🙂

      • Indeed. Will have to try it out next week. A few days walking in Cheshire followed by four days in Amsterdam, so hopefully plenty of photo opportunities. I’ve had the camera 4 years now and never really tried these features!

    • Oh, she was real but a very strange lady!
      Had I met her on an ordinary forest path, I would have been a little surprised by her lack of courtesy.
      But the experience was reinforced by the many stories I had just read about hawthorn.
      Thanks a lot, Marguerite xx

  5. I don’t know if that’s the exact same place, but it looks like where I saw a natugle at sunrise, one day… 🙂

    • I love owls, Samuel. Should you ever get acquainted with an owl in Jægersborg Dyrehave, I’ll be pleased with a few coordinates 🙂 🙂
      Old trees are massively represented, including the fallen trees.

      • It was on the edge of the meadow that’s between Eremitageslottet and the sea. If you send me an email, I can give you more precise directions, though I cannot guarantee it will still be there 🙂

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