The German city of Heidelberg has a lot of bookshops to offer. Part one of this series is proof of that. (Click here to read it.) Since I visited the city for business, I did not have enough time to visit all the bookstores I photographed. From the shops I did step into, one of them stood out. By far. In fact, it must have been one of the most beautiful bookstores I have even seen.
Click ‘more’ to read the story about the mesmerizing used bookstore called ‘Antiquariat Hatry’.
If heaven is a bookstore…
Wandering through the high street of Heidelberg, the ‘Hauptstrasse’, I have set sight on a view bookstores. The shops are either ‘common’ bookstores with a wide assortment of touristic guides and not much else, or the variety that sells cheaply published ‘bargain books’.
For a city that is supposedly the oldest in Germany I expected a little bit more rustic looking bookstores. When the high street is almost coming to an end, I spot something interesting on my left hand side. A store with piles of books in the windowsill. As I walk by I look inside. I collect my thoughts. I cannot not believe it. I walk back. Take another look. Pick my jaw of the ground and walk in.
If heaven is a bookstore, I must have died. “Antiquariat Hatry” is every booklover’s dream. Everywhere I look, from floor to ceiling are books. And the ceilings are high. Even the floor is covered with piles and piles of books. At the end of the shop is a spiral staircase. A man is running around with stacks of books in his hands placing them amongst the many others on the shelves.
I approach him to ask him if it is alright to take pictures of his ‘wonderful shop’. He agrees, though reluctantly. Since I am speaking to him, I also ask him if he has books about books. He has, of course he has. “They are on the second floor. Turn left, turn left again and you will find them next to the window”. I am amazed that he knows where to find anything in this packed shop. A shop that has three floors and a basement.
Every floor is the same as the ground floor: packed. The shop has German literature, nature, history, physics, computer science and any other kind of science, art. You name it and it is there. I expected to find a shelve, maybe two, on books about books. There were six cabinets! And a mountain of books on the floor. It takes me some time to browse through them. Finally I go back down with two beautiful books. Only two, because I cannot take home everything.
I take the books to the desk on which the cash register is placed. And, again, piles of books. When I hand them over to the still busy man I ask him the question that must be asked. 200.000 is his answer. There are two-hundred-thousand books in the store. I am baffled. The man is actually the owner of the shop. Mr. Hatry himself.
He is cannot be older than forty. He looks pale, as if he never leaves his shop. I ask him if the shop is a ‘hobby gone wrong’. “A hobby?” His eyes pierce right through me. “No, this is not a hobby. This is my profession!” Worried if I might have upset him, I ask in my most gentle voice: “But this must have started out as a hobby. Right?” Hatry takes a moment and tells me he started the shop 25 years ago. After dropping out of university it seemed the natural thing to do. “Looking at the shop, it seems more like a passion”, I ask and tell him at the same time.
“No, no passion”, he replies in his best English. “Not anymore”. My shocked expression did not go unnoticed. Hatry explains that a lot has changed over the years. “The internet. I do not have customers anymore.” For a moment I think he is going to cry. I hand over the money for my books and leave the shop. This wonderful shop that knew passion once. I am afraid that it will not be there anymore when I come back on a later date. A sadness comes over me which I cannot get rid of until I browse through the fantastic books I bought at this unique and wonderful shop. If you are ever in the area, please go to this shop. And buy something.