|Magdalena Åström, Konditori Valand, Stockholm|
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Pic: Mats Jonholt
Magdalena Åström, Konditori Valand, Stockholm
Konditori Valand is owned by Magdalena Åström. Her (Swedish) husband Stellan Åström designed this beautiful cafe in 1954. Everything is original... lovely little fridges with red dots, the floor, the chairs... the walls... the Campbell soupwarmer... Valand is 'L' shaped with mostly dark-wood furnishings and has a pronounced 'film noir' feel about it. The counter as you enter has mirrors and neon, an ancient cash register, a coffee machine and a wonderful glass display case of cakes arranged painfully neatly across the shelves...
M Jonholt writes:
Tiny, resolute German-born cafe owner Magdalena Åström is very much aware of the fact that Konditori Valand, in Stockholm's 'Surbrunnsgatan', is a national treasure.
Her Swedish husband Stellan designed the interior himself in 1954, and absolutely nothing has been changed since then: the dark beautiful 'Royal Boards' covering the walls, well used tables and chairs made of teak, a unique black stonefloor imported directly from Italy.
The teak-espalier, separating two different sections of the cafe, is especially breathtaking, giving the feeling of an old noir black-and-white movie, a sentimental monument of a world long gone.
(The classic bracket candlesticks with lampshades - ordered from 'Svenskt Tenn' - were all stolen before they could even put up. New ones had to ordered.)
Today, patrons include a mix of old regulars (some have been visiting since the 50s), students, cultural workers and tourists.
Artists, actors, and musicians all come here to enjoy, and be inspired by, the unique, peaceful atmosphere. "Even Princess Victoria was here once, but I didn't get to see her, my husband was working then. We sometimes let the cafe out to film-shoots and commercials and things like that. Even a rock video was partly shot in here!"
In an old German travel guide that Magdalena prizes, Konditori Valand is listed as number two among the many things not to miss on a visit to Stockholm.
And lots of German tourists still find their way to Valand, even though there's not even a sign on the wall outside to lead you to this amazing treasure: "The neon sign always falls down in the winter when they shovel snow from the roof." (The interior neon signs over the menu however are still there, put up in the 50s by the legendary Ruben Morne.)
A couple of years ago, Konditori Valand was open until eleven o'clock at nights, and the Åströms had several employees working shifts. But since the cinemas in the neighbourhood had to close down, there are fewer customers.
Magdalena and Stellan work shifts to keep the place open from eight to seven on weekdays. Magdalena does all the baking and cooking herself (and the cleaning): "I like to wait at the tables you know, I realize you don't have to these days, but I'm old fashioned. I like to take care of my customers."
The regulars pray Valand will be safe forever, but Magdalena is uncertain about the future.
She and her husband are getting too tired to go on any longer: "I just don't know what will happen. My sons are well educated and wouldn't want this kind of job. And I guess finding a buyer who's willing to keep and preserve this original setting is not going to be easy..."
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