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RAVE

When hush, crowds descend

Email|Print| Text size + By Leigh Turner
Globe Correspondent / September 3, 2006

VIENNA -- Beethoven is buried here. So are Brahms and Schubert, the Strausses and Schönberg. Key scenes from ``The Third Man" were shot here. But composers and movie classics aren't the only reasons to visit the Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery) in Vienna.

To experience the full glory of Vienna's great necropolis, come at dusk on Nov. 1. On All Hallows, so many Viennese come to pay their respects that the city schedules extra public transportation. But don't worry, the place won't be crowded. The 3 million people buried in 495 acres here since the cemetery opened its gates in 1874 outnumber the present population of Vienna 2 to 1 .

As night falls on All Hallows, the Zentralfriedhof is transformed into an ethereal wonderland. It seems every visitor throughout the day has lighted a candle at a headstone. Kneeling black-clad women rake frozen earth around graves. Candlelight shimmers on stone angels' wings. Visitors move toward the cemetery gates, their breath forming clouds .

It's the combination of mass happening and individual emotion that makes All Hallows at the Zentralfriedhof so moving. In the night, a sea of lifetimes laps around you. Stop for a moment. See the glimmer of a lantern reflected in a black marble gravestone. Listen. Beyond a hedge, the sound of feet shuffling on gravel tells the story of one more visitor heading home through the darkness.

The main entrance to Vienna's Zentralfriedhof (011-43-1-760-41) is at Simmeringer Hauptstrasse 234 . Get there by trams 6 and 71, the ``Cemetery Line." September-Nov. 2, 7 a.m.-6 p.m.; Nov. 3-February 8-5; March, April 7-6, May-August 7-7.

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