Searching for Garbo

Skogskyrkogården, Stockholm - final resting place of Greta Garbo

After a summery visit to the wonderful island of Gotland, I had a few hours to spare while waiting for a train from Stockholm. On an impulse, I decided to search out the most famous Swede of all, the elusive Greta Garbo. Although she spent most of her adult life in the USA, and the final 40 – 50 years living as a bit of a recluse in New York, Greta wanted to return home in the end. She is buried at Skogskyrkogården, just a wee bit south of Stockholm.

Not only is Skogskyrkogården Gretas final resting place. It’s also one of three UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Stockholm area. I was hitting two nails with one swing here. (In reality, I often don’t even hit one nail with one swing, but it sounds much better than the appalling expression killing two birds with one stone, doesn’t it? Also, I thought it an appropriate metaphor in the land of IKEA. But I digress).

Nature has done well at Skogskyrkogården, helped by landscape architects. That tongue-twister of a compounded name simply means Forest Cemetery, or Woodland Cemetery, and it is just that: a large expanse of forest, lots of space, tranquil, green, with tall firs – a pleasant place to linger and communicate with loved ones long gone.

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As UNESCO sites go, though, Skogskyrkogården is, well, nothing special, I think. UNESCO awarded the status in 1994, declaring it

an outstanding example of integration of architecture and landscape.

Resurrection statue at Skogskyrkogården, Stockholm

Resurrection

 

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Skogskyrkogården, Stockholm

Visitor centre

 

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Perhaps it’s because I’m not sufficiently attracted to this very strict functionalist architecture. I would no doubt have benefitted from having a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide rather than roaming about on my own. (Tours are offered, by the way, every Sunday in summer – costing 100 SEK and taking about 2 hours).

And Garbo?

After getting lost once or twice – which I’m wont to do – I finally found her grave. It’s a pretty stone, with her signature in gold. That’s all. No pictures, no words, no dates, just Greta Garbo. Simple. Elegant.

As I stood there, camera at the ready, I hesitated… Lift camera, zoom, shoot… easy as pie. Yet, my hand refused to cooperate. Remembering her most famous line, I slowly lowered my trusty old Nikon. Contrary to popular belief, they weren’t I want to be alone, but rather I want to be let alone – a world of difference, according to Greta. And in the end, that’s what I did. Let her alone. It felt right.

 
unesco logo

Skogskyrkogården is UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world.

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28 Responses to “Searching for Garbo”

  1. Janice Mucalov 8 November 2012 0654 #

    Greta Garbo is one of our favorite all-time actresses. A simple but elegant gravestone suits her… It’s nice you let her alone…

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 8 November 2012 0749 #

      Yes, I thought it a very fitting stone as well.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 8 November 2012 1113 #

      Only right she is buried at a World Heritage site, isn’t it…

  2. Muza-chan 8 November 2012 1029 #

    Very beautiful place, I love those trees 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 8 November 2012 1114 #

      Really nice how trees are everywhere here.

  3. ItalianNotes 8 November 2012 1216 #

    I didn’t know Stockholm had three World Heritage sites, so now I’m mad at myself for never having visited to Skogskyrkogården. I really must improve my research of nearby destinations.)

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 9 November 2012 1257 #

      It’s easy to forget the neighbourhood 🙂
      Apart form Skogskyrkogården, there’s Drottningholm Palace and the archaeological site Birka.

  4. Susan From Travel Universally 8 November 2012 1313 #

    I had read about Garbo.. she was one of the most beautiful actresses. I am quite amazed to know that Her Grave stone is simple and elegant. That’s so nice to show the purity of her.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 9 November 2012 1258 #

      She really was an intriguing personality. And of course very beautiful.

  5. Jackie Smith 8 November 2012 1444 #

    Your post is so beautifully written Sophie that the closing gave me a shiver. I could feel myself there, doing the same thing. I love posts that both give me new information and touch my emotions – your swing at the nail did both!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 9 November 2012 1258 #

      Thanks, Jackie 🙂

  6. Leigh 8 November 2012 1546 #

    I wish more famous people would embrace simple but elegant. It looks like you used your time well Sophie – and the more posts I read of yours suggest this is how you work. Ahh to be able to flit from one country to another with ease….

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 9 November 2012 1259 #

      Much easier to flit between countries in Europe than in America 🙂

  7. Natasha von Geldern 8 November 2012 2218 #

    Well good for you – I’m not sure I could have been so restrained 🙂 Not sure about it being a world heritage site, except for GG’s presence of course.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 9 November 2012 1300 #

      True, that’s almost a good enough reason in itself…

  8. Cathy Sweeney 8 November 2012 2356 #

    Even when I was a teenager, I was interested in Garbo and I’ve always had an admiration for her and her persona. I would love to visit Skogskyrkogården, but I don’t know if I could refrain from taking a photo. I give you much credit.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 9 November 2012 1301 #

      Not so much refraining, as being influenced by.. I don’t know what.

  9. Nancie 9 November 2012 0147 #

    You have great restraint, and I understand why you didn’t take the photo. I would have 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 9 November 2012 1301 #

      🙂

  10. Lisa 9 November 2012 0154 #

    I love your “hit two nails with one swing” metaphor – much kinder and gentler than the alternative! It’s nice to know that Ms. Garbo has a peaceful resting place – I would hope that I would be able to exercise the same restraint and refrain from taking a photo of her gravesite. It must be awful to be hounded in life to the point that one just wants to be let alone.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 9 November 2012 1301 #

      Yes, fame is probably much too costly for many.

  11. Debbie @ European Travelista 9 November 2012 0508 #

    Guess I really never where Greta Garbo was from! Interesting that this was selected to be part of the UNESCO sites. Most of them are not of the ho-hum variety!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 9 November 2012 1302 #

      I think many just associate her with Hollywood (and perhaps New York).

  12. Andrew Graeme Gould 11 November 2012 1407 #

    This is quite out of the ordinary, Sophie, and that’s what makes it so interesting!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 November 2012 1614 #

      Thank you 🙂

  13. InsideJourneys 13 November 2012 1949 #

    Simple and elegant. A class act, she was for sure.

  14. Jenna 26 November 2012 1536 #

    That’s a beautiful conclusion to your story, and personally gratifying because it gives me some context for my first trip to Stockholm next month. Thanks 🙂

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