garbo

Greta Garbo is making news again.

Sotheby’s will be auctioning a cache of Garbo private letters and photos, many of which outline her loneliness and frustration with being a female creative forced to perform what she deemed mediocre work.

To honor their release, I’m reposting a story about my accidental visit to her final resting place. Enjoy!

Just when I think being married to an architect couldn’t get more, ahem, entertaining, I am gobsmacked yet again. I spent a day riding a train to a remote suburb with MTM. We scurried along a grey stone wall, following it next to a road until it turned right into a gate, where the road opened up into what looked, to my untrained and tacky eyes, like Antarctica or that scene at the end of the movie “Alive,” where Aaron Neville sings “Ave Maria” as the cross comes into view on a range in the Andes. You know that place: where a plane crashed and they ate each other to stay alive.

MTM the architect took me to a graveyard.

Not just any graveyard, mind you. A UNESCO World Heritage site graveyard. A Gunnar Asplund designed graveyard. (I didn’t know who the heck he was either. Click on the highlighted link at his name if you are an ignorant non-architect like me.)

At the entrance to the graveyard is a cavernous sub-zero wind tunnel, I mean, a barren, snow-blanketed field with a mammoth stone cross set off-center and flanked by – dared I hope – a building. A modernist box that surely contained heat and some hot cocoa for me to sip while MTM flitted around snapping photos of screw details and blades of grass through the snow and handrails and the frame of the sky through a hole in the roof. When I finally dragged my frozen carcass to that building, I was devastated to learn that it did contain heat, an off-limits inferno for me – because it was the crematorium.

Who designs an inviting crematorium? Except an architect?

I steeled myself for more sub-zero wandering outside, following MTM down a graceful ribbon of drive that acted as – you guessed it – another wind tunnel. Only this time, there were trees on either side to break the gale. Or, to contribute to it. I don’t know which would be a more accurate descriptive.

Finally, we came to a snowy avenue through some trees. In the distance, I saw a white building with a pointed roof through an archway. Again, my ice-addled brain longed for a hot drink, hopes that were crushed once more when I discovered the little building was a funeral chapel. About fifty photos later – of the outside; a funeral was actually going on inside, making it off-limits for eager architects, even ones that wanted to hang around until the service was over and pretend to be part of the mourning party just to get a glimpse of interior – we wandered through one of the cemetery ‘rooms.’ MTM glimpsed what he thought to be a significant burial site on the opposite side, and I, who could barely move any limb by this point, trudged through the knee-deep snow behind him.

I made it to an aloof promontory, and who did I find buried there but Greta Garbo.

Suddenly, this was the best idea MTM had ever had, taking me to see gorgeous Greta Garbo’s grave, with her signature in gold on the headstone. Hyperactively, I took too many photos of my own and gabbed enough to disrupt her alone time.

I forgot that I was freezing. I didn’t want hot cocoa. The wind chill no longer touched me. I stood in the face of acting greatness, and I think it made me appreciate the architecture.

Maybe.

A little bit.

garbo
Skogskyrkogarden. Stockholm, Sweden.

garbo

A repost that I hope will be new to most of you.

With a couple of days to go in my residency, I decided to let the book rest and get out of my cell. Geneva has a vibrant gallery scene.

I Am Number 13 is breathing just shy of 60,000 words. My brain has been squeezed and smacked and wrung out. With a couple of days to go in my residency, I decided to let the book rest and get out of my cell. Geneva has a vibrant gallery scene. In the picture above, I’m window shopping for art and maps in the old city.

I loved this Rodin-esque sculpture in the St Pierre Cathedral plaza in Geneva, Switzerland.

I loved this Rodin-esque sculpture in the St Pierre Cathedral plaza.

Detail of the St Pierre Cathedral spire in Geneva, Switzerland.

Detail of the St Pierre Cathedral spire.

Little passageways like this one are abundant in Geneva's old city.

Little passageways like this one are abundant in Geneva’s old city. I think I explored most of them, because I couldn’t resist where they might lead.

John Calvin lived in the house on the left, but I was taken with the fountains spangled with flowers around the old city.

John Calvin lived in the house on the left, but I was taken with the fountains spangled with flowers around the old city.

I wasn't sure I'd get to Yvoire, so I ate this fera at Au Pied De Cochon in Geneva's old city.

During my residency, I’ve befriended Nina’s art assistant Jonathan.

He is a recent graduate of art school in Geneva. He gave me several insider recommendations for getting the most from my Swiss adventure.

  1. Eat fera, a lake fish unique to Lake Geneva. Actually, Jonathan told me to take the ferry from Nyon to Yvoire in France and buy fera from fishermen there. It’s half the price in France, even with the ferry ride. I wasn’t sure I’d get to Yvoire, so I ate this fera at Au Pied De Cochon in Geneva’s old city.
  2. When buying Swiss cheese, it’s best to follow the flies. The more flies, the better the cheese, especially if greeted by an old woman with a mustache. I haven’t tried this recommendation. Yet.

I couldn't resist standing in the middle of trafficless Rue de Mont Blanc and snapping my photo.

On my way out, I couldn’t resist standing in the middle of trafficless Rue de Mont Blanc and snapping my photo. I’m a sweaty mess, but I had a lovely day wandering Geneva with my purged brain.

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P.S. Wondering what I’m doing in Switzerland? I’m at The Trelex Residency in Maison Binet!

The book I’m working on now is a sequel to the others in the Nowhere Series so if you haven’t read the first two – go get them now!

A church has occupied the site of Geneva’s St. Pierre Cathedral since the 6th century, and one can visit every layer of its history for a mere 18 francs. The cathedral is home to Geneva’s Protestant Reformed Church. John Calvin worshipped here during the Reformation. In many European cities, churches like these are Catholic. I was surprised to find a Protestant church of this age and scale and had to take a closer look.

I was surprised to find a Protestant church of this age and scale and had to take a closer look at St. Pierre in Switzerland.

The front of St Pierre is a melange of architectural styles reflecting its long history. The current building dates from the 16th-17th century.

Many surprises were found underneath the sanctuary of Geneva's St Pierre in Switzerland.

The church interior is stark and minimal. It was renovated in the late 20th century. Many surprises were found underneath the sanctuary.

Architectural details of Geneva's St. Pierre Cathedral in Switzerland.

I always love to find these creatures lurking here and there.

St Pierre hosts an active congregation. These colorful reminders were scattered throughout the building.

St Pierre hosts an active congregation. These colorful reminders were scattered throughout the building.

From the north tower of St Pierre Cathedral, one has a panoramic view of Geneva, the Rhône, the lake, and both the French Alps and Jura Mountains.

From the north tower, one has a panoramic view of Geneva, the Rhône, the lake, and both the French Alps and Jura Mountains. It’s worth climbing over 200 stairs. I know how many there were because a little boy was counting behind me. I told him how impressed I was with his counting abilities, and he didn’t even break his concentration to say thanks. Which was perfect.

Underneath Geneva's St Pierre Cathedral lies an extensive archeological museum.

Underneath the church lies an extensive archeological museum.

I spent over an hour wandering from 6th century to 13th century ruins, baptisteries, catacombs complete with exposed bones, wells, monks’ quarters, and architectural remnants. This mosaic floor decorated the bishop’s reception room during the Middle Ages.

St Pierre Cathedral is a Geneva must see.

St Pierre Cathedral is a Geneva must see. I found an outdoor table near this spot and enjoyed dinner, not realizing I’d get a bell tower concert. The cathedral bells played the theme from James Bond, the theme from Superman, Summer Nights from Grease, and Smile (my divorce anthem from ages ago.) Many other foot-tapping songs were in their repertoire. Afterwards, I popped into the Reformed Church Museum for a demonstration of a Gutenberg press in action.

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P.S. Wondering what I’m doing in Switzerland? I’m at The Trelex Residency in Maison Binet!

The book I’m working on now is a sequel to the others in the Nowhere Series so if you haven’t read the first two – go get them now!