German forest burials: RuheForst

I have just returned from a conference in Germany (Bochum), where as part of the German Sociology Association’s annual conference I gave a paper at a panel session called ‘the diversity of death and dying’. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to hop on the amazing and cheap (well, compared to the UK!) German train network and venture to a nearby city called Hagen to visit one of Germany’s forest burial sites under the company name RuheForst.

In Germany it is illegal to bury a person outside of a cemetery or scatter ashes, so the option to have a whole-body burial or scatter ashes in a natural burial ground isn’t available for those residing in Germany. However, a person can have their ashes interred in a forest; an option available through two companies: Friedwald and RuheForst. The first EcoEternity forest – Friedwald in German – opened in 2001. I went to visit one of the RuheForst sites in Hagen; a simple 10 minute taxi ride from Hagen hbf (main train station). Below are some photos I took during my pleasurable visit last week. Enjoy!

Entrance to the RuheForst

This is the entrance

…a place where mourners can sit and say farewell to the deceased’s ashes, which are meant to stand in an urn on the wooden stump in the foreground of this photo.

Note the wooden cross!

People purchase a small plot to bury ashes in an urn around the base of existing trees in the forest. Whilst there are no permanent markers on the ground, each tree bares a small plaque with the names of those whose ashes lie beneath one’s feet. In this case there are currently 7 ash interments under surrounding this tree.

In this photo you can just make out the small plaques that a number of the trees have together with a number plate that identifies each tree.

A bereaved visitor has made an informal memorial from natural materials found on the forest floor, on the site of where someone’s ashes are buried.

I think this is quite lovely!

Another informal, subtle memorial made by a bereaved visitor from natural materials. And the same, with the photograph below. Some of these grave memorials are so subtle and blend into the forest floor that one has to keep a keen eye on the forest floor to notice them!

And in this photograph a bereaved visitor has cleverly left a heart-shaped stone half hidden into the base of this tree. Absolutely wonderful in my opinion!

A view along the main drive.

This delightful ‘shepherd’s hut’ is regularly open for enquiries by visitors to the RuheForst. However, note the wheelbarrow signifying the removal of floral wreaths by ground staff from burial plots!

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