“I stepped into the bookshop and breathed in that perfume of paper and magic that strangely no one had ever thought of bottling.” – The Angel’s Game, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Life is made up of little things that make you feel alive. Have you ever smelled something which immediately takes you back to a place, and you suddenly want to go back to that particular moment? What if we could keep these smells bottled up somewhere and we can just sniff and bam, we’re there!? While we travel, our senses are geared up to the fullest, since we are in a new place and we need to take (and breathe) in everything around us. And that’s why we keep remembering the particular smells from particular countries.
And speaking of smells… books!
“She breathed deeply of the scent of decaying fiction, disintegrating history, and forgotten verse, and she observed for the first time that a room full of books smelled like dessert: a sweet snack made of figs, vanilla, glue, and cleverness.” – NOS4A2, Joe Hill
There is nothing better than getting that sniff of an old book. I used to think that I’m a weirdo for entering bookstores and libraries and sniffing around. But apparently, I’m not the only one. So here’s a shoutout to us book nerds!
One of the first things that I do when I’m visiting a new place, is look for bookstores or old libraries. When travelling around in a city, you have all the time in the world to just wander in different bookstores and taking it all in, without the worry that you should be doing something else way more important than just looking around.
So here are some of the most magnificent bookstores and libraries that I have been (till now!).
1. Liverpool public library, England
This library might seem like a common, modern day library when you first get in. However, if you keep walking, you end up in that room. Yes, with spiral staircases and all. And you can go up and wander around, feeling like Belle in Beauty and the Beast!
2. Biblioteca Angelica, Rome, Italy
This 16th century library, which comprises of valuable manuscripts collected by the Augustinian friars, is a public library located very close to Piazza Navona. Although it is a very small library, it definitely is worth a visit.
3. Real gabinete português de leitura, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
This Portuguese reading room has been built in the early 19th century, and includes a vast amount of books by Portuguese authors. Even though I don’t understand the language, this library is still impressive with its architecture and floor to ceiling bookshelves.
4. Livraria cultura, Sao Paolo, Brasil
This is one of the largest bookstores in Sao Paolo, and there are also English books! Although the photo above might not be that clear, yes there are a lot of books in there. (And that hanging dragon was quite impressive!)
5. Strahov library, Prague, Czech Republic
This one looks like it just fell out of a fairy tale. You can’t go inside the room, just watch (and smell!) the books from the entry way. And yes, my face was like that guy’s in there. Holding my jaw from dropping to the floor. I know, this photo doesn’t do this library any justice. It is that beautiful!
An added bonus – you need to get yourself to a monastery on a hill far from the city centre, and see the lovely Prague from above!
6. Bookstore Dominicanen, Maastricht, The Netherlands
This bookstore is housed in a 13th century Dominican church. Once you get in, you are immediately transported to another world, far from the hustle and bustle of the bikes in this Dutch city. Buy a book (English ones are widely available here), order a coffee, sit quietly in the corner of the church, and let the wonder of reading do its magic!
7. Somewhere in Morocco
And when you don’t find a bookstore, the books will definitely find you! While wandering around in the streets of Morocco, we stumbled upon a small square where a book sale was taking place. Obviously, all of the books were in Arabic, but I definitely needed to stop and check them out!
Have you ever been to a bookstore / library that is worth a visit? If yes, please do let me know! 🙂