Valle Westesson takes you by the hand and guides you through the streets of Stockholm.
Where do you find the most fun, original or just plain interesting places in Stockholm? Valle Westesson is the right man to ask.
The 40-year-old writer and comedian has previously worked with the radio show Hej Domstol! on P3 and on TV with shows such as Robins, Hej rymden! and Gabbagabba. He’s also the man behind the humour site Rikets sal, the contents of which have been converted into book form.
Based in Malmö, Valle has previously lived in Stockholm and often visits for work. After deciding he wanted to share his love for the fun details in life, he published the book 100 Balla Ställen i Skåne a while back. Following its runaway success he decided to make one for the Swedish capital. 100 Balla Ställen i Stockholm was recently published, to act as a guide book for non-traditional and fun places in Stockholm. Everything from hidden gems to well-known tourist attractions are presented in a new way, with history and fun facts as well as a fold-out map. He describes himself as “very interested in what’s behind that corner you always pass but never stop to examine,” which is obvious to anyone who has taken even a cursory glance at his books.
So why did he decide to make his love for details into a book?
“I noticed that people around me actually listened when I started to tell them about nearby places that I liked and why I liked them. I thought that if they like it, maybe there are other people willing to spend a couple of minutes to hear what I have to say. It seems I was right.”
In his book on Skåne Valle he recommends things like the world’s only peat museum. In Stockholm we find out about everything from the birth of punk rock in Rågsved to wall pieces in Gamla Stan, and everything in between. Visiting foreigners and native Stockholmers alike should all be able to find something new and fun in the book. The idea is to show readers that sometimes the adventure is just around the corner.
“Everybody can Google any fact in five seconds, but it´s more difficult than that to learn the secrets that are hand-picked and described in a personal way. Hopefully my book gives something to the traveller that you don´t find in the major guides.”
Is this a book that you wish you had yourself?
Yes. If I didn’t write it, I would send love letters to the author. How could he come up with 100 places that I like so much?
What is the main difference between your hand-picked attractions in Skåne and here?
In Stockholm there is so much history compressed in a small area. There are a lot more places that have a special attraction just because more people live and have lived in the capital. But you meet friendly people everywhere, you just have to ask for help and they will show you more than you asked for.
What are your personal favourite spots in Stockholm?
Villa Fjolle, Folkets Fängelse and Hotell Villa Dagmar.
What do you think of the future of Balla ställen in Stockholm?
I hope to get a relationship with the readers and get new interesting tips for the next edition 2015.
What are you personally looking forward to this summer?
Taking my family to excursions with picnics while researching new places.
And in the future what are your plans?
To cover all of Sweden with exciting and peculiar travel guidebooks.
We’re looking forward to it.
Ten Balla Ställen (cool places) in Stockholm
The UFO-shaped summerhouse of eccentric multi-millionaire charter airline owner Simon Spies is an unexpected sight in the Stockholm archipelago. Spies’ 40 year younger widow (he died at 63, you do the math) still stays there so it’s not abandoned, but his company is long since sold. Find out more about the fascinating life of the crazy (”fjolle”) Spies in the movie Spies and Glistrup.
Christer Pettersson’s home
The life of the alleged killer of Olof Palme, Christer Petterson has many twists, turns and tall stories, and one of the more memorable events took place at his flat in Rotebro. While the world’s media lined up to interview him about the death of the prime minister, Pettersson left his flat. Where was he going? To his neighbour two doors down to play cards and have a few drinks. In his grasp were two bottles of Baileys and a bottle of Explorer vodka, and the story of the Dräparen cocktail was born.
Alva Myrdal created the collective housing by Fridhemsplan, with the idea that the inhabitants could get food from the communal dining space downstairs straight to their flats, with small food elevators. Also available was a possibility for nightly babysitting, for those who had to work late or wanted to get their learning on with study circles. The communal housing is not used exactly as originally planned, but you can still take a close look at it on John Ericssongatan.
The Ågesta reactor
The nuclear plant – unusually close to a large city – is no longer in use, but rumour has it that the Swedish program to create a nuclear bomb continued in the space long after it closed down in 1974. The documents surrounding the project are secret for 70 years, so it’s still possible that we will find out more about what was really going on in the Ågesta reactor. Some day.
Smitvägen Slussen – Björns trädgård
Have you ever wondered what the deal with Björns Trädgård really is? The small greenery above is mostly inhabited by kids and outcasts, but for those who have a car to park the basement below the park opens up a whole new space. It’s like ancient caves in the middle of the city. Find out for yourself, all you need is a parking spot!
The Secret Garden
Stockholm’s secret hub for intellectual and cultural events is a run-down Greek taverna. It’s an old building that is what it is, a laissez-faire attitude rare in the gentrified Stockholm. Enjoy the wildness of it all, during the cultural events and parties that happen once in a while. And the address is not so secret: Johannesbergsgatan 6 in Midsommarkransen is where it’s at.
The spot of the JAS Crash
Do you remember the historic JAS Gripen crash? You can still find where it all happened. The artist Thomas Qvarsebo has even marked the place of the crash at Långholmen with a small monument, shaped as a paper plane with the front facing down towards the ground. Visiting the site also offers a perfect chance to read up on the bribery scandal connected to the crash, one which to this day remains unresolved.
Einar Hylanders Environmental Project
The aristocratic late-blooming artist Einar Hylander had a dream. He wanted to recreate the sunny days that he remembered from his childhood in the early 1900’s, and decorated a house all in whites and light colours that makes you think of a childhood from the past, long gone. The piece was bequeathed to Moderna Museet, and the general public can still visit the house on Narvavägen. Book in advance through Moderna – just note that there has to be at least ten people in your group to gain entry!
Greta Garbo’s grave
When the international star actress Greta Garbo died in 1990, cities all around the world were fighting to give her a space for her final resting place. In the end, her birth city of Stockholm’s Skogskyrkogården got the honors. Check out her grave just 100 meters south of the chapel. And, by the way: At Skogskyrkogården you can also find a hardcore death metal cross, perfect for a summer selfie.
Folkets Hus in Rinkeby
Remember the now legendary ”We Shall Overcome”-moment, when Birgit Friggebo decided that a song would stop the racist wave that swept over the country in the early 1990s? Take a visit to Folkets Hus in Rinkeby and reminisce on days long gone, when politicians still hung out at small, dark, Folkets Hus and not just in over-lit TV-studios.
The examples above are taken from Valle Westeson’s book Balla Ställen i Stockholm. Do you have ideas on other balla ställen for his second edition? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.