He is a German boy with a surprisingly sweet smile. He runs an old book shop hidden in an alley behind the main market road buzzing with eateries and souvenir shops flocked by tourists. He plays piano while you browse around the shop.
He doesn’t promote his shop. He says he would like to keep the surprise element when tourists find him.
It was a pleasant surprise for us. After a day of wandering around in a very touristy city where every second shop is trying to use Mozart to sell everything from a perfume to alcohol to chocolates, we stepped into an old quieter lane on our way to dinner. The quiet alley was lit up by a little book shop which looked straight out of the early 19th century. Turns out, the shop has been in existence since 1860.
Since all other shops were closed by that time, we stood at the entrance and queried if the shop is open for business. A young cute boy behind the counter popped out his head and welcomed us with an unexpected warm smile. He looked busy with accounts. We started to browse around.
The shop had an old world charm. The air inside was rich with the aroma of old books spread around the shop in no clear pattern. He didn’t seem to care much about order. It seemed as if books were haphazardly kept around in various wooden boxes, tables and shelves mounted on the walls. The old books were placed with the new ones. The torn papers were strewn around with the postcards. Some postcards had beautiful paintings but they looked as old as the shop itself.
The highlight of the small room was a grand wooden piano that seemed to serve more as a table for books than music. I was proven wrong soon enough when he started playing a beautiful melody without notice.
He had a very abstract answer to all our customer queries. He has a favorite poet, writer, painter but he didn’t know where the relevant books might be kept in the heap or whether he even had any. We found a few captivating sketches that were torn papers from a very old book which he couldn’t remember the name of.
While my friend was browsing the old books in an even smaller inner room, I was checking the origami papers in the outer room, which looked like the newest item for sale in his shop. His gaze followed me around the room for a few minutes before he started chatting.
He used to work as a book seller in Germany and then bought this shop from an old couple about 6 years back because he loves books. He spoke broken English but still managed to hold our interest enough with his words and gestures to make us want to come back.
We stand next to the piano with big warm smiles, wondering who will say goodbye first. I reflect on the past few minutes. Surreal. Memorable.
We leave with 2 coffee table books, torn pages from an old book and origami papers. We wish him good bye. ‘Thanks for finding me’, he says. I can see the lights dimming behind me as I leave. He wraps up his day and we walk on to explore the next alley.