Zurich gets a lot of ink for its quality of life, which is certainly merited. But to really understand the quality of life in Zürich, spend some time understanding its quality of death at one of its cemeteries that doubles as a park and schrebergartens (community gardens). The 19th-century Friedhof Sihlfeld has all the markings of a classic cemetery, including an imposing neo-classical crematorium and vine-wrapped stone gates worthy of a Goth album cover. But it’s also home to particularly sculptural and expressionist headstones, lofty cypress and pine trees, Japanese maples and cheery trees, and dense rhododendrons and lilacs teeming with Eurasian jays, green woodpeckers, chaffinches, wrens, robins, and firecrests. Nearby are chalet-like garden sheds where gardeners end their day grill-side with bratwurt and beer or a fondue in autumn. The cemetery's public benches have recently been equipped with “book boxes” filled with the occasional English book. The new exchange program with the library makes a trip the graveyard anything but morose.
By Adam H. Graham, AFAR Contributor