Instead of going on the official cultural programs today, I decided to make my own personal program. I've wanted to get some books here for a while, so I looked up a few noteworthy book stores and libraries and made a day of visiting them.
1. Büchertisch (books table)
first place I visited was a second hand book store not far from my
apartment here. It lies in a quiet back courtyard and offers books on a
wide variety of topics. What I found particularly nice was the free
coffee and tea set up for customers. I didn't happen to find any books
there that completely took my breath away, although one about dinosaurs
wearing latex suits to hide among the humans sounded interesting. Thus, I
left empty handed and moved on to the next bookshop.
2. Miss Marple: Die Krimibuchhandlung (Miss Marple: The crime novel bookstore)
had a bit of trouble at first finding this bookstore, since I had to
walk a bit from the subway station, and I got a bit turned around.
However, eventually I got to the right street and found the shop. It was
rather small, about two bedroom sized rooms next to each other. The
second room had a rather nice rocking chair from which readings are
periodically given. If I can find someone who'll go with me, I might
Now, apart from talking to my host and her
friend or people at the Goethe Institut, I've had to do relatively
little talking with native Germans. Mostly, I just say "eine Currywurst,
bitte." Thus, when the woman running the shop asked me if I needed help
finding anything (which I did), I was slightly nervous. However, I was
able to ask for the type of novel I wanted and understand her response
without difficulty. Woohoo! I got a book by Nele Neuhaus called Schneewittchen muss sterben (Snow White must die).
trying to find Miss Marple, I stumbled across some sort of open air
market where all sorts of food and other goodies were sold. I decided to
wander around. Among the flowers, fruits, and vegetables were specialty
meats, specialty breads, pastries to die for, and one stand offering
primarily nuts and dried fruit. I decided to buy a few dates stuffed
with assorted nuts, which without any added sugar were still sickeningly
sweet. I also picked up a feta and zucchini tart for lunch, which was
so much better than having yet another wurst. As delicious as they are,
one should not eat exclusively sausage.
3. Jacob-und-Wilhelm-Grimm-Zentrum (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm Center)
next visit was to the largest public library in Berlin, named after the
Brothers Grimm. From outside, it looked quite serious, and inside it
was even more serious. You could not go into the library itself with a
coat or bags or books without either putting them in a locker or placing
everything in a plastic bag where security could check it. To use a
locker, you either had to bring a lock of your own (I hadn't) or use on
of the fancy electronically locked lockers. The lockers locked via a
chip in a so called Mensa Card, which you had to purchase in the
cafeteria. It was quite strange waiting in line with people with trays
of food to get a card. Finally, after waiting a while to get an open
locker, I went inside the library itself. It was huge.
floor had shelves upon shelves of books lining the perimeter while an
enormous work room took up the center space. If you look at the picture
to the left, it shows the central rooms, which get progressively smaller
so that each floor can get some sun from the sky lights. There were
perhaps 6 stories, all of which were beautifully organized and perfectly
quiet, despite being full of people. That is one of the things I love
about libraries, the peace.
4. Bücherwald (Books Forest)
was one of my favorite places, simply because the idea is so clever. On
a street corner in Prenzlauer Berg stand several tree trunks fastened
together with nooks cut into them and covered by plastic flaps. Inside
these nooks are books, which anyone can borrow and return as they will.
People can also put old books there, as long as they contact the project
organizers to get registration numbers for the books first. The tiny
library is almost entirely autonomous, and yet it works. Since I'm only
here for two more weeks, I decided against taking any with me.
back in Kreuzberg, I visited a science fiction and fantasy bookstore.
It was pretty ridiculously wonderful. Although small, it had a wide
variety. A large section had only English books, which I mostly ignored.
Instead, I hit the fantasy section. The woman working there helped me
find the book Die Stadt der träumenden Bücher (City of Dreaming
Books) by Walter Moers. When I asked her about other good German authors
(many of the books there were translations), she went wild.
"This author is well known for more epic fantasy," she says, pulling down a book and handing it to me.
"And this author is rather interesting. His books are more unusual." another book.
"This is part of a popular series. It's fairly light." yet another book.
she not had to go back to the counter to check some people out, I think
I would have ended up buried in novels. It was fantastic, pun intended.
I ended up leaving with the Walter Moers novel and one by Christian von
Aster called Der letzte Schattenschnitzer (The Last Shadow Carver).
in all, today was a nice break from the tourist activities I've been
doing. I got to speak to locals, familiarize myself more with the city,
get lost a couple of times, and finally spend some money on something