by Ruby on September 9, 2010

Long time, no see. Why, you ask? Oh, you know, I’ve just been exploring the world.

Well, not quite the world, but Europe, at least. But I didn’t forget the blog while I was away! Instead, I searched out bookstores in each of the cities I visited, and explored a little of bookish culture across the pond. Three cities, three blog posts! First stop: Amsterdam.

Amsterdam, like every city on my trip, amazed me with its sheer age. We stayed in the Old City, where circular canals and twisting, cobble-stoned alleyways lead past Starbucks and H&Ms to ancient churches (and constant disorientation. Seriously, I was more turned around in Amsterdam than anywhere else we visited. Darn canals).  Luckily, all the wandering around we did while trying to find various museums and landmarks led to the surprise discovery of lots of bookstores! (click any image in this post for full view)

Above is Architectura & Natura Boeken, which I assume specializes in books on architecture and nature. Its shelves were stacked to the ceiling!

These two images are from Volk Warenhuis Rotterdam (I think), which may mean Popular Department Store Rotterdam. An airy, multi-story place, prominently advertising “Kok Boeken”, or cookbooks. Beautiful.Volk Warenhuis Rotterdam also sold a bunch of cool non-book items, just like Vroman’s! Their window display is travel-themed, hence the Canadian flag.

I also saw some of my favorite window displays in Amsterdam. They’re really creative! Check out how De Slegte (Of the Bad?) dealt with having too many books:

And look at this eye-catching display of a popular new title at Athaneum Boekhandel (Boekhandel means bookstore, hence the post title):

Waaaaait a minute, that cover looks familiar.

Yep, hij is er (roughly “He is here”). Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. Go figure.

Seriously though, bookstores were everywhere in Amsterdam. I was only there for two days, and I found more in Amsterdam than I found anywhere else. The best thing  we stumbled upon, though, was an outdoor book fair, which apparently takes place every Friday!

I couldn’t get a good shot of how big this was, but it was at least two blocks long. They had books in Dutch and English (and probably other languages too), fiction, non-fiction, art books, cookbooks, technical manuals, magazines… anything you could want. Most of them were used, but I saw what looked like some new book stalls, too. My favorite find: the Lord of the Rings, in three hardbacks with very 60’s-esque covers. I almost bought them, but there was no way I was fitting 3 hardbacks into my bag. So sad.

All in all Amsterdam struck me as a very literary place. It made me wonder how many people would turn up to a weekly book fair in LA, or even Pasadena (not to mention one that closed off multiple blocks of a street). It seemed like there were bookstores everywhere I turned, and every one had bikes parked out front and people inside, even at odd times like Friday morning. A quick google search for Amsterdam Books turned up 23,000,000 results, many of which referred to the Friday book fair, or events happening at stores in the area. Looks like the literary scene is alive and well in Amsterdam!

Next time: London!