SYMBOLS Stories of cultural life.

Some 150 years ago...

A man was closing many steel and wooden doors behind him. He loved these buildings with red brick walls and lighting from the ornamental windows. For decades the area served as one of the Poudrette's factories.

Some historians would say that was a soap factory, but some other sources say that in “Poudrette factory” in Graz, human feces were turned into fertilizers and alcohol. We are not sure at the moment, but this is where our friend from the past had spent most of his career, taking care of security.

Each corner was a story for him. Small lunch chats or big argues over the factory problems. Stories that will now be gone for ever. Nobody will remember and gradually not even know that this factory existed here.

Pobrežje, a village near by Maribor

At least that is what he thought at the moment. It was a sunny morning and to complete his mission of closing the factory he had to take a train to Graz. Bring keys and some papers to the company headquarters. The train was leaving in about 2 hours so he had to go quickly to the train station in the town center.

You see, there was no bus station around. But as he closed the last doors, he was lucky enough that a village man just passed by with a horse carriage. Not that this will help him get there faster, but at least will spare him some walking from Pobrežje village to Maribor town.

A cemetery for right bank residents of Maribor suburbs

The two men discussed the future. As they have heard from others, Maribor town council bought the fields in this area for a large cemetery. People from the right bank suburbs of the river were supposed to be buried here. The left bank residents were using the cemetery in the west, besides today's stadium.

They were frustrated and amused at the same time. On one hand, their beautiful fields and nature will be turned into death valley which felt kind of creepy. Would you want a cemetery in your front yard? On the other hand, there were always many jokes about death and cemeteries. And at least the Pobrežje village will remain quiet and peaceful.

German and Slovenian town

It is hard to be sure what was the name of our gatekeeper. Could have been Hans or Ivan, depending if he was German or Slovenian. Or Czech or Croatian or Serbian. Yes, Maribor accepted all kinds of travellers, economic or other immigrants.

And while having a walk around the cemetery today, please do read the inscriptions and names. They are still quite descriptive about what Maribor looked like just a few generations ago.

Then, against all odds...

As the train stopped, Franz Manninger looked out of the locomotive window. A locomotive driver was two things: careful and respected. But we will discuss him just a few minutes later as we will be able to touch the memory of him.

First, let's talk some more about how come you are reading this story as it should have been forgotten 150 years later? The thing is, you have entered the European Cemeteries Route. In fact, Pobrežje cemetery is the headquarter of this route that currently consists of over 70 cemeteries. It is part of Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe (ASCE) that consists of hundreds more of cemeteries all over Europe.

And these two organisations are on a mission of preserving the heritage, resting in cemeteries. Stories like about this factory, Hans, Franz or George. Everyday people, sometimes famous, sometimes not, who lived and left a mark in the city. Their stories, reflected in the names and symbols in the stones, are the inspiration of our work. The artistic aspect, as well as the historical significance of the graves, must be preserved for our and future generations.

This is why, perhaps against all odds of the times when Hans and Franz lived, their stories are somehow preserved and retained.

And as we will walk through their stories, we will in fact walk the history of Maribor, Slovenia and Europe.


Photo source: STYRIARTE