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The German Bookshop Hunt II May 29, 2008

Filed under: Book Shops — Kim @ 11:02 pm

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.

Antiquariat Hatry, Hauptrasse 119, Heidelberg, Germany.

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8 Responses to “The German Bookshop Hunt II”

  1. Lotte Says:

    Oh my god, I cannot believe my own eyes….It’s looking like bookheaven indeed! I’m so sorry for the man though, I hope business will eventually come around again, who doesn’t want to own a bookshop like this? I think it’s the best job EVER!

  2. kimbooktu Says:

    That’s what I said to him. He did not quite agree. How sad.
    I would love to own a shop like this too. And would never go outside either.

    The name of this blog was actually the name I choose for the bookshop I wanted to open once… I did not go trough with it for the same reasons Hatry lost his passion. It is hard if not impossible to survive as an independent bookstore.

  3. Melodee Says:

    WoW!! What a beautiful shop. It is heartbreaking. (online orders?)

  4. Agnes Tan Says:

    Let’s mend the poor man’s heart.
    I shall write a postcard to tell Mr. Harty the internet made many people learnt about his shop through Kimbooktu.

    Many thanks to Kimbooktu for shooting and posting about Mr. Harty’s lovely bookstore. Love your posts.

  5. tulibri Says:

    So many times I have been in Heidelberg and never dropped into this shop! Next time I know where to set my eyes on 🙂

  6. I must say, I can not agree with you in 100%, but that’s just my opinion, which could be very wrong.
    p.s. You have an awesome template . Where have you got it from?

  7. Ellen S. Says:

    Kimbooktu, I just wanted to let you know that I visited Hatry’s in 2010 and it was still there. I was so very fascinated that I hated to leave it – I took a picture as well as it has been posted above my computer for some time now. I think wistfully about my time and dream about such a book store. I also bought two books. 🙂

  8. I went to this beautiful bookshop today and i am soo happy about your post and pics i took a video from it. I wanted to stay there forever…..i just wanted to say to you that it’s still there and stunning as always! ❤


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