Some people would say that Maastricht is well worth a visit just for the sake of sampling at least one variety of its famous pastry, the so-called 'vlaai'. Now I'm quite partial to a nice bit of pie myself (you would never have guessed it I'm sure), but its allure isn't so great that I would travel an hour and a half for it. Especially as you can get half decent vlaai all over the country these days. A great bookstore on the other hand - now there's another matter. And Maastricht has one I think is nothing short of fabulous.
Oh alright - so I didn't board a train to Maastricht last week to indulge in booky delights. But I could have. What's more, even after hours of sauntering around TEFAF admiring its many treasures - steadfastly ignoring increasingly urgent messages from the extremities to the grey cells to flop down somewhere - I still wanted to make my way into the city centre. In the heat. Just for the sake of a visit to the 13th century church that has been transformed into a temple of the written word. Now there's a place I can see myself worshipping in.
I'm not the only one who thinks the old Dominicanerkerk or Dominican church is a book lover's dream. It even made it to this list of the 20 most beautiful bookstores in the world (along with another great NL store - cloggies rule). The place simply has everything. To start with the blatantly obvious: it houses a good range of books. Not exhaustive - but enough to make sure there's something there for everyone. The thing that really can't be beaten (enter my favourite word again) is the atmosphere of the place: great architecture, amazing light, nooks and crannies and special little details everywhere. I love the faded frescoes and murals (not really very obvious in the photos but then they ARE faded), and even the tombs with their heraldic motifs add to the special character. They're not still in there by the way. I think.
The only thing it lacks in my view is a smattering of comfy armchairs instead of only the odd stool here and there. It does have a great coffee corner so I guess I shouldn't really whinge. In spite of it being the Dutch national sport (and here's you thinking we were into ice skating or football).
A picture paints a thousand words, so have a good look and tell me if I'm not right.
So what's your verdict? Book lover's heaven yea or nay? I thought so.
And now for the bad news. Trouble in paradise I'm afraid. This wonderful bookstore is part of the Selexyz chain, which has last week gone into administration. If a solution isn't found urgently, the Selexyz bookstores, including this one, my beloved Donner in Rotterdam and wonderful Adriaan Heinen in Den Bosch might have to close. I can't begin to tell you how utterly unreal and devastating that would be. An English friend told me not too long ago that our's would be the generation to witness the closing of the last bookstore. He'd better not be right (so far he hasn't been the most trustworthy oracle so there's hope yet).
As you can understand I was feeling slightly melancholy leaving the Dominicanerkerk, not knowing whether this might have been the last time I visited it as a bookstore. I did make several purchases there - and what a load of good that will do now. But it did make me feel slightly less guilty for buying numerous books over the internet - not to mention downloading a fair few.
And then I finally decided it was time to give my feet a rest.