Vienna is a city of stylish melancholy. The locals are comfortable with death, enjoy funerals, and visit graveyards often. A Wiener Linien tram used to deliver bodies to Zentralfriedhof in the night, and a bus still runs through the cemetery. 'A schene Lei' is a non-ironic reference to dying well. On this tour, we visit the second largest cemetery in Europe, to explore the ever-changing fashion in graves. We will compare how different religions remember their dead, for instance with art, photographs, mini-biographies or plastic flowers. (In UK, the newspapers publish a chart at the end of each year, with the top 10 songs played at funerals - and Monty Python's Always Look on the Bright Side of Life has often featured.)
The Zentralfriedhof is far from the centre of our city, but is central to its identity, and there are more dead people there, than us who remain alive (3m vs 1.9m).
But this tour has a bigger purpose, and that is to encourage more people to give some of their wealth to make social change. This is an important tradition in the USA, where educational, art and healthcare institutions receive significant support from people at the end of their life. Much less so in Austria. Should we be spending less on gravestones, and more on the living?
At the end, we will collect in atmospheric cafe Concordia, for a social-dining event, with a curated set of questions exploring death, generosity, and how we want to be remembered.
The tour will be led by a representative of Caritas Österreich, and Eugene Quinn.