I’m currently on holiday in Krakow, Poland, and so far it’s been pretty amazing. Not only is the city beautiful and full of history, but there are also lots of bookshops! As you can probably expect, I’m having a brilliant time 🙂
My mum wanted to join me on this mini trip, so she took the plane from London and I flew from Amsterdam. Once we arrived at our accommodation, I noticed that we’d both brought a Primo Levi novel to read. Levi was an Italian Jew who was captured and sent to Auschwitz in 1944. A lot of his novels discuss themes of the Holocaust and WWII. Considering that we’re in Poland and will be visiting Auschwitz in a couple of days, it seems like we both separately decided to fully immerse ourselves in the history. If you’re interested, you can check out a book review I wrote for If Not Now, When? on my old blog, here. I’m still currently reading If This is a Man and it’s pretty hard going. I think it’ll be even more difficult once I’ve visited Auschwitz and seen, with my own eyes, some of the places that Levi describes. I’m hopeful that the experience of reading the novel and visiting the site will give me a better understanding of the terrible tragedy that was the Holocaust.
Now, after discussing that little literary coincidence, I wanted to tell you about a couple of bookshops we visited today. Being the bibliophiles that we are (where did you think I got my love of books from?), my mum and I obviously had to check out a few of them. We first visited Massolit. I honestly could have spent all day there! There were shelves and shelves of books, new ones and second hand ones, from all over world, and all in English. Absolute heaven!
The two guys working there at the time were also super helpful. I decided to look for some Polish novels and they both spent a long time suggesting authors and pointing out their favourite books to me. After much deliberation, here are the ones I finally chose:
Stanislaw Lem is a science fiction writer, most commonly known for his novel, Solaris. I was initially on the look out for that one, but they were out of stock, so I picked The Investigation instead. The Investigation mixes sci-fi with mystery in, what seems to be, a scientific, philosophical, and cold blooded read. Stefan Grabinski was a random recommendation from one of the guys in the shop. We talked a lot about sci-fi literature and then he asked me if I liked H.P Lovecraft. Once I confirmed that I did (The Call of Cthulhu anyone?) he then asked if I liked Edgar Allan Poe and gothic literature. “Yes” and “yes” were the answers to those questions. Grabinski is often referred to as the “Polish Poe” and so The Dark Domain promises to be gruesome and terrifying, yet beautifully written.
After visiting Massolit, we decided to check out the Matras bookshop. It’s famous for being the first bookshop in Europe, and books have been sold at the site since 1610! I initially expected the building to look wonderfully old and filled to the rafters with books. Unfortunately, the store has seen many a makeover because it looks disappointingly like a modern bookshop chain, complete with fancy couches, stark lighting, and a coffee bar. They also didn’t have a great selection of English language books. It’s still pretty cool to think that I’ve been to the oldest bookshop in Europe, but if I had to choose, I’d rather go back to Massolit 😉
My holiday has only just begun so maybe I’ll have time to visit a few more bookshops before I have to head home. For now, though, I have a couple more books to be getting on with so I’ll say do widzenia for now 🙂