When The Netherlands flirt with Neverland
The 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World
It’s when I came across this website that I decided to take for the second time the 2:30 hours-long train ride bringing me from The Hague, a small coastal Dutch city, to Maastricht, The Netherlands. I had already gone there with a friend, but had missed the Selexyz bookstore.
Being a total bookworm, I harassed another friend to make the trip with me. 5 hours of travelling for a bookstore? Yessir. And for that bookstore, I’d do it again. And again.
|Selexyz Bookstore, Maastricht, The Netherlands
The Dominican Church in which the bookstore is set, built in the 13th century, makes you want to tiptoe and whisper. A rather hip café is located at the end of the building, in what used to be the choir, should you feel like going through your most recent literary purchases (however, the constant buzzing and the design tables and chairs convinced me against it – the thing looked more like a busy French bistrot than a cozy, tipping-the-book-pages-in-your-ristretto type of place).
Otherwise, it’s all books, squeezed into a three-storeys-high black and rather contemporary structure, a stunning contrast with the fresques of the ceiling and the smell of old stone still lingering around. One slight minus; the neon lights. Admittedly, this church being enormous, it must have been difficult to strike the right balance when it came to lighting. But the crude white halo emanating from the neons unfortunately cut the natural light stemming from the great stained glass windows all around the edifice. Mind you, this was a very minor irritant, pointed out for the sake of complaining and finding the little thing that will make this unbelievable bookstore slightly imperfect.
If you do go, don’t miss the delicious, always-crowded Zondag café (Sunday, in Dutch – a blinking red sign in this country, where shops religiously close their doors on, well, Sundays). Located on a corner of the Wijckerbrugstraat, it is on your way from the train station to Sint Servaasbrug (see description below), taking you to the other side of the Meuse River.
Albeit being (tastefully!) decorated like a vintage diner (in a more “design” fashion), this little eatery serves nothing like the greasy food we find next to the US Interstate. Make sure to try their daily special – it’s been a real treat, both times!
Dutch cities were, in a large majority, severely touched by WWII. Maastricht did not escape it (being one of the first cities attacked, as a point of entry – see http://www.waroverholland.nl/index.php?page=maastricht. Ironically, the main goal was to keep Maastricht bridges intact.).
As such, it is always surprising to face the dichotomy between the old and the new – as witnessed by the picture below, taken from Sint Servaasbrug, the oldest bridge in The Netherlands, facing the modern Hoge Brug.
Side note: Holland definitely being THE country for bikes, its architecture goes accordingly – exhibit A, the little ramps on each side of many staircases, allowing the Dutch to bring their best two-wheeled friends along.
A CALL TO MAASTRICHT FANS: If you have tips and tricks, favorite places or warnings, please share it on this blog!