Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Book lover's heaven

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. 


  1. that's heaven for sure. A few bookstores have closed around here too, and it is so sad. I personally don't think that bookshop are going to disappear. Bobbi the Oracle firmly believes in major change of trends in the years to come. I see people being bored of the domination of super mega stores, so i think they will go back to shop in the little shops. For example: in Italy they have built malls everywhere in the last twenty five years, but now not anymore. Not a single new mall was built in the last three years apparently, and this is because many of them are a total failure. People is fed up. I'm quite sure when the economy gets better little shops and bookstores will pop up every where. And downloading books is fine for the planet, but who loves reading loves books, the real thing. I don't have a kindle but I would love to have one, just to read the occasional junk I read every now and then (like win I am on a beach and I don't want to put too much effort in what I am reading) and I hate to think that a tree was cut and pollution was made because of this junk book. but the one I love, I have to TOUCH AND SMELL.

  2. I do hope you're right, oh Bobbi the All-Seeing Eye! I really hope people will want to go for character and quality again.

    Thanks for reminding me of the whole carbon footprint thing - I'm feeling decidedly less guilty about downloading now! I've been thinking about a kindle too. Right now I've got books on my iPhone and iPod, would be nice to have a bigger screen. I'm also coveting the latest iPad...

    Still, you're right: nothing beats the feel and the smell and the whole experience of a real book. I was at a bookmarket on Sunday and several stalls had great old books. I just wanted to hold them all up to my nose and sniff them (didn't - the lady already gave me a funny look when I squealed in delight)!

  3. Now THAT's a bookshop!!!
    That's what we could do with over here, church's as bookshops - much better use for them than what happens in them normally.

    Don't worry the printed word will be around for a good few years yet ;-) Look what's happening in the music business, well in the UK at least - the new big thing - vinyl!!! Yep the stuff we were all told would never see the light of day again is back.

    And don't get me started on how the downloading isn't helping the planet, don't forget the device your downloading on to has a carbon footprint the size of a planet.

    Sach leave the fruit logo'd products alone hahahahahahahaha

    1. But Si, apple is one of my favourite flavours! ;-)
      If it makes you feel any better, I don't have a Mac laptop. But I do predict the arrival of an iPad in the not all too distant future...

      Vinyl! Yep, it's on its way back in NL too - people do seem to hanker for the nostalgic these days. Bobbi the Oracle may be right after all!

  4. Hi Sacha, I tried commenting 3 times last night but it wouldn't let me.... grrrrrr. Hope it works this time! I'd be really sad if they closed a stunning place like that down, especially if they just left it sitting vacant. We have an old church here in Ballarat that was used as a nightclub for a few years, and now it's just empty and has been for the last 10 years I think. It is a massive, beautiful building with the most stunning architectural features.

    What a great atmosphere for a book shop the one you've featured would have! You're right though, some comfy chairs would most definitely be welcome.

    Linda. xox

  5. Replies
    1. Ugh yeah, I hate it when that happens! So often I thought I had commented and the text just vanished into thin air for some reason - but you got there in the end!

      Speaking of night clubs - the town I live in has a fantastic old church that is these days used as a party venue, and for special exhibitions, seminars and fairs. Stunning! I used to go to 70s and 80s revivals there and dance and sing to old favourites, it was such good fun. They stopped organising those parties but the place is still well worth a visit.

      Oh and I would LOVE to live in a converted church. I've seen some incredible examples of houses or apartments made in old churches. Sigh...

  6. I just did a post on my blog and as I hit the button it disappeared. It's on now. The right people at blogger must be all on vacation. Or sleeping.
    Anyway, do buy the iPad, please. I am a mac user, lover, fanatic, I can't live without my iPod touch (the new one takes pictures!!!) And I don't have an iPhone only because it costs more than a month of my rent. And because I have a terrible relationship with phones. They have all died drowning. Don't ask. Enough on free Apple promotion. But do buy the iPad, so I'll feel like i have bought it too...
    Yes vinyl is back. Actually many bands have never really gave up on it, and so did many record stores. My book case in my studio is half full with vinyls. We are going back to the little things. This is why my shop os going to be a success, sooner or later. Let's hope for sooner, so I'l buy the iPad too!

    1. The new iPod Touch takes pictures?? (steady there Sacha, you don't need ANOTHER iPod, your iPhone that is only 8 months old already takes perfectly fine pictures). Oh dear. I wonder whether I've fallen victim to great marketing or whether Apple's products are really that good.

      I do really like my iPhone/iPod I have to say. They even help me navigate through cities I've never been to before. And when I'm in London my iPhone tells me which tube line is closed this time (grrr) and which other route to take. Sometimes it just tells me 'get a cab'. I'm obviously still hoping to hail Stephen Fry one day - and that he'll actually stop.

      Oh yes, I've had the drowning phone phenomenon.
      Tripped in the bathroom one day, let go of the phone and it went right into the foam bath I just made myself. But it was in the pre-smart phone days so there wasn't too much heart ache involved. Oh well. At least I didn't drop it in the toilet like my friend Fab did earlier this year... Did you have an accident on the beach with your's? Or was this a potty incident too??

  7. Well you know what I think of fruit logo'd products so I'll say no more hahahahahahahaha ;-)
    All right then just a bit more. I'll say is that I have a very techie mate (mag editor) who sold his iphone4 within days of getting it and went back to his old Nokia phone as it offered him so much more connectivity......and a better camera.....

    1. OK. Do NOT get me started on Nokia. Or I'll climb on my soap box. Seriously. And start the hissy fit of the century. I mean it.

  8. I'll see your hissy fit and raise you a Samsung - pile of pooh ;-)

  9. Now we're seeing eye to eye again!


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