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.


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



Skogskyrkogården, Stockholm

Visitor centre


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.