A few weeks ago, I blogged about the dwindling number of independent bookshops in Bookshops Vs. The Internet: Is This the Reality? Though, prior to coming to Berlin, I’d read about a fantastic example of one that would be situated just under my feet, a couple of blocks north of our apartment. I’m pleased to say, that upon finding Dussmann’s, it does not disappoint!
But you’re English, I hear you cry! And you’re in Germany. Isn’t the sight of floors of books, ripe for reading but in another language, a touch frustrating? Well, it’s true, my German is basic and whilst I’m learning, aside from the books I bought for my baby daughter, I’m not sure I’d get through the first sentence of most of the titles on offer. Until… you find the excellent English and international section. And this isn’t just paying lip-service to a good idea; this section is spread across two floors and hosts an excellent array of titles from genre-led, to literary; from non-fiction, to children’s. And although the biggest section is in English (and I’m certainly not complaining about that), they stock titles in languages from French, to Spanish; from Russian, to Arabic. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The other wonderful thing about this bookshop is the space itself. Spread over four floors, the centre is open from ground to ceiling and so there is a fantastic feeling of openness about it. It’s quiet too and offers a welcome respite from the hubbub of Fredrichstrasse where it is located in the heart of the city. In fact, it manages to be calm and relaxing without being subdued or stilted, and aside perhaps from the beautiful (if slightly staid) café in the basement, you don’t feel like a naughty child in a library. Rather, the space lends itself to the love of the written word and there are areas given over to book browsing with people digging into titles, writing in journals or tapping away at laptops. There’s also a great zone for children, with an enormous picnic-style table for the young to fall head-first into a story, and an inviting play/reading nook for parents to sit with infants and share a tale or two together.
I’ve taken my laptop with me on one or two evenings (it’s open until midnight Mon-Fri, and until 23.30 on Sat) and sat writing in one of the leather chairs on the mezzanine that overlooks the basement café and the four-story-high living wall that trickles with water into a tiled-pool of greenery and fish at the bottom. A thoroughly enjoyable experience it is too!
It’s more than a bookshop, really: Dussmann calls itself a Kulturkaufhaus, or cultural department store. There’s even a small auditorium tucked away in the basement where creatives host events. The wonderful soprano Diana Damrau was performing there only last week. So, when I’m sitting there, quaffing coffee and working hard on my sequel to The Procurement of Souls, I can’t help but daydream about the time when maybe, just maybe, I might find my own name nestled amongst the shelves….