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Varberg – Sweden Sunny Side Up

Varberg’s who’s who—Question: How do you get the business world’s upper echilon and their spouses to undress in front of a camera?

L-R: Jan & Britt-Marie Kjellman, Hans & Lena Lillhage, Jens Petersson and Ville & Angela Schottenius. Photographed for Nordic Reach by Nikolaj Alsterdal.
Answer: Take them to Varberg’s Kallbadhus. First erected in 1866, Varberg’s charming Kallis, with its exotic Moorish feel, is impossible to resist! On a recent visit to this sublime spot, while the afternoon sun slowly shifted over the water, these discerning residents agreed: Varberg is simply perfect! Comments from the participants in the photo shoot with Niklaj Alsterdal behind the camera follow later in the text.
There’s the sweeping beauty of Skåne in the south, the majestic mountains of the north, and the debonair cool of east coast Stockholm, but all west coasters know that they’re the ones who live on Sweden’s sunny side. In this lyrical gateway of Sweden, a relaxed attitude rules, and all Nordic frostiness is banished. This is where the charming little town of Varberg is located. Largely a place of rocks and sand, Varberg is positioned among hills and plains right on the water. perpetuating its long history as a trading city.
During its early history, when Varberg was under Danish rule, its vulnerable location made it an easy target for hostile armies. The pride of the town, the fort, was built as a castle by Danish count Jacob Nielsen in the late 13th century. Varberg finally passed from Danish to Swedish rule at the treaty of Roskilde in 1658, and today the city enjoys a much more civilized reputation, supporting a carefree, healthy lifestyle on the water, in part encouraged for the last 200 years by the benefits of Valberg's natural spring.
Varberg is also quickly associated with the textile and clothing industries. As one of the first areas in Sweden to be industrialized, the booming market brought the knallar, traveling merchants who left their mark on the area forever. The knallementality, as it is called, lives on today and usually indicates spirit of enterprise, creativity, and opportunism.

Jan Kjellman, CEO of IKEA Food
“We lived in the States-in Philadelphia—for 6 years, and we lived in Germany, Holland, Belgium. I’m from Stockholm but my wife hails from Varberg, and we had friends here, so we decided to finally settle down in the area. It did take some time to get used to the fact that we were actually going to stay in one place. …We live a beautiful life here, we’ve got a boat, we bike down to the beach to swim…. There’s no need to go away for summer vacation!”

Hans Lillhage, President of Marknad Varberg
“At the tourist agency, we began to work on the concept of Varberg as a spa city in 1996. We’ve received a lot of media attention and it has worked very well. There’s no other Swedish city that has kept its spa traditions intact like Varberg. We want to be the place where you feel good, whether you live, work or visit here. People here live longer and are healthier – we have a higher quality of life. I believe that if you can attract interesting people, then that by itself will generate more business.”

Ville Schottenius, President of Schottenius Management Vice Chairman and co-founder of Björn Borg Design Group.
“I was born here in Varberg, and I worked for Rolf Nilsson – a big Varberg name and profile. He practically re-directed the entire shoe business to Varberg and I got my start thanks to him. What I like is that here you’ve got possibilities to work in a sizable company with a faster pulse and still be in a small, calm town. Varberg has the qualities of countryside with the nearness of big cities like Gothenburg and Copenhagen. You can practically walk to the beach here.”

Jens Petersson, Managing Director, Craft of Scandinavia
“I wasn’t born in Varberg, but my ties to the town are strong. My father was born here and my wife comes from the area – it was only natural to move here. We had a house here since 1994, which we used for summers and weekends. When I got a job in nearby Borås, it seemed Varberg was the perfect place to settle: High quality of living, good schools, the nearness of the sea. Since I also ski, I enjoy the forests inland around Åkulla.”

The spouses:
Lena Lillhage, teacher
“My astrological sign is Cancer, and Cancers are home-loving by nature. I was born in Varberg and I never felt like leaving! Just look at Kallis, right upstairs there’s a little place for the ladies to sit and drink coffee after their bath – it’s so pretty! The walk by the sea front used to be what was typical for the city, and it’s lovely to take a stroll there any time of the year. I certainly do. Now Varberg is also famous for its shoe business. It has become a shoe center, but I find it good for any kind of shopping – whatever you need, you can find here. And if you enjoy playing golf or horseback riding, then Varberg is ideal!”

Angela Schottenius Otterdahl, teacher
“This city has grown so much! I have known Lena and Britt-Marie since childhood, but it was a different city then. Varberg has so much more to offer now. I like that it’s close to Gothenburg and Copenhagen, and that you can go by train to Copenhagen. Then you can enjoy a Gammeldansk (a Danish bitters)!”

Britt-Marie Lenfors-Kjellman, Owner of the clothing store JC
“When I grew up here, Varberg was merely a place where you summered, so it has really changed. I left when I was eighteen, and came back here six years ago. When I was eighteen everyone knew everyone; it’s not at all like that anymore. It’s a unique place, because of the nearness to the sea. I breed horses, and Varberg is the perfect place for that. I love it!”

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