Window shopping in Lubeck

Charles Cowling

2014-07-15 10

 

Yeah yeah, it’s a rubbish photo, I know, I’m not blind. It’s the best I could do. It’s an undertaker’s window.

In Germany. Me and the missus have been holidaying there. This undertaker is in the ancient city of Lubeck. As you can see (through a glass, darkly) the display is a series of objects on plinths.  It’s eyecatching. There’s a sign asking people who don’t understand the symbolism of the objects displayed to pop in and find out. It gives a reason for people to go in before they absolutely have to. Brilliant, eh? Beats luring the bowls team in to buy a funeral plan (the condemned men and women had a nice cup of tea and a sandwich).

Well of course we had to pop in and ask about the display and have a bit of a gossip. I don’t speak more German than it takes me to order pils and buy tobacco, but my wife (the one with the brains) is fluent. It ought to have been a good opportunity for her to practise, but the undertaker who greeted us, Carsten Berend, insisted on speaking English.

We had a good chat, and might have had a better one if Carsten hadn’t been so busy. They cremate 80% of their clients. We talked about the reuse of graves, and he was surprised that something considered so normal in Germany is reckoned so unacceptable by British politicians. He told us that there are 30 undertakers in Lubeck serving a population just over 200,000. His is a high-end business. He expressed exasperation at the incursion of semi-trained, cheapskate opportunists, which of course is something we know nothing about in Britain. Their window displays are created for them by an arty marketing agency and change regularly. We never found out what the display above actually means. Very nice piece of work, though, even better than dusty tombstones and upside-down bluebottles.

You can see their website here. You’ll need Google Translate to help you work through it.

It may intrigue you to know what music Germans like to play at funerals. Here’s what they recommend:

Screenshot 2014-08-03 at 11

Yup, Germans are much more relaxed about beastly foreign influences than we xenophobic Brits. Some of the songs you’ve never heard of are worth a listen. Not the Mancini Dornervogel (Thornbirds) perhaps. Xavier Naidoo is interesting; here’s his Abschied Nehmen (Farewell). Gronenmeyer’s really good. Try Der Weg (The Way) and Halt Mich (Hold Me), with its searing sax.

Historical note. So many people wanted to live in medieval Lubeck that they built houses for artisans in the gardens of the merchants’ houses. Thy are reached through narrow alleys. The only planning condition was that that the alley had to be wide enough to convey a coffin. Here’s what they look like:

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David Holmes
5 years ago

How strange! This was the brilliant alternative proposal that GBH, the branding experts who helped me with my ‘re-brand’ came up with.

I loved it, it is THE thing to put in a funeral directors window – but I chose the brand we have now simply because I felt families wouldn’t be ready to supply personal items for display in our window. I believed that it would be a bit much for most families so soon after losing someone to have to go away and be a part of my window display! Who can say if I am right?.

Evelyn
5 years ago

I think some families would love it too! There’s a powerful need to validate a life and to have it ‘recognised’ in some way. When families choose to include items at the funeral – like a pair of walking boots, or a hat, or perhaps have a bespoke photo coffin – it makes everybody feel connected and even comfortable in a way… maybe it’s the tangible links to a real life that are so important and intriguing?

Evelyn
5 years ago

I’ve just looked at the website and the pictures – I really like the use of draped fabric and what a fabulous curved coffin stand!! See (picture) bild 8 in the slideshow here
http://mueter-bestattungen.de/trauersaal.php

Evelyn
5 years ago

How clever – let the artefacts do the talking – they look like important symbols of people’s lives and loves maybe? I wish I had an arty marketing agency at my disposal…or even a shop window…

Quokkagirl
Quokkagirl
5 years ago

Gorgeous. The window is eye-catching and I love those little artisan cottages. Adorable.

Kathryn Edwards
Kathryn Edwards
5 years ago

It’s a great photo! The window design is thought-provoking and imaginative.