Human Flower Project

Havel’s Flower Cortege

For the Czech Republic, the loss of Vaclav Havel is reminiscent of the mourning for Lincoln in the U.S.


Floral tributes for former Czech president Havel cover the funeral boat in Decin, 1/1/12

Photo: CTK

To honor Abraham Lincoln, there was the famous funeral train that carried his body for two weeks from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Illinois, in the spring of 1865. The outpouring of flowers along the route changed, among other things, floristry for decades to come, as the American public now had an impressive model of how to mourn.

Vaclav Havel was assuredly the same sort of heroic leader in the Czech Republic, and at his death December 18, 2011, the floral tributes overflowed.


The body of the late Czech president Vaclav Havel travel tthree days down the Vltava and Elba rivers.

Photo: Petr David Josek

Ceremoniously reminiscent of Lincoln’s obsequies, human rights minister Michael Kocáb arranged for Havel’s coffin to journey three days down the Vltava and Elbe Rivers on a pontoon boat festooned with wreaths and flowers. The trip from Prague ended in Decin near the German border on New Year’s Day. Admirers and mourners had waved from the river banks all along the route, and some 1500 people were there to welcome the boat at its destination. Kocáb and others then dropped the flowers into the water.


It took more than an hour to release the thousands of sympathy flowers into the Elbe.

Photo: CTK

“I think the whole event was very dignified,” said Kocáb, who had also been a personal friend. “It took us about an hour and a half to throw the flowers into the river and they formed a nice carpet that covered the water for many kilometers. I think Václav Havel also would have appreciated that the event was quite informal.”

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