If you’ve ever been curious about how they get the right ashes into the right urn, or are just looking for something free to do in this charming town on the Elbe river, check out the Meissen Crematorium.
At this macabre attraction you can learn about mortuary practices, get a peek at a morgue, and even watch a dead body get reduced to cinders.
The tour starts with an explanation of sepulture history, symbols, and traditions, followed by an introduction to coffins, urns, and different kinds of cemeteries and methods of internment. This general overview of the world of undertaking also includes a few words about mourning.
The next station is the cremation chamber. As a crane lifts a laden coffin into position, willing visitors can press the button that opens the door on the fiery apparatus itself. The coffin is sprayed with water to prevent it from burning too fast, then is slid into the chamber. The entire cremation can then be watched through a small peep hole or, if preferred, the chamber’s door can be left open for easier viewing.
After the cremation is complete, the ashes and everything else that’s left falls through a screen that sifts out any non-body parts present (such as implants, jewelry, gold teeth, etc.). Bigger bones that did not burn completely are pulverized in a mill and added to the ashes, which are in turn put into an urn.
Anybody still up for it can then tour the morgue, where one can learn about the storage of dead bodies, the work of a coroner, and different types of funeral services.
These unique tours were introduced by crematorium director Jörg Schaldach, who wanted to give people a chance to have a clearer and more practical understanding of the event surrounding death, with the hope of demystifying this inherent part of life. First he offered the tours to medical personnel and employees of funeral homes. Then the offer was extended to classes of school kids (and their concerned parents). Now they are available to anybody who is interested, free of charge, as long as they have an appointment.
The Meissen Crematorium is one of the cheapest crematoriums in Germany, owing to their extremely energy efficient and rapid cremation chambers. In fact, funeral directors from everywhere in Germany come to Meissen with their dead bodies, organized in collective transports with special trucks.
The inherent creepiness of “highly advanced German cremation technology” is certainly accented by the building and its surroundings, which include a plaque honoring 17 slave laborers executed by a member of the Gestapo in 1945, as well as a nearby memorial marking the graveyard of 95 various victims of World War II. The Meissen Crematorium was built in 1931.
Know Before You Go
The tour through the crematory in Meissen is free. Before you can visit you need to call for an appointment well in advance. If you call from Germany, call 03521-452077. If you call from Europe, call 0049-3521-452077. International callers dial 011-49-452077. In any case, ask for Mr. Jörg Schaldach.