Since the Austrian capital Vienna is merely 60km away from our current place of residence (Bratislava), the fact that this city wasn't among the destinations included in our Reports section was something that bothered us for quite some time.
Although we do visit Vienna every now and then (usually to see one of our favorite bands live) we were still waiting for an extra push in order to board the train and explore the Viennese English bookstore scene first-hand. This moment has finally arrived in the middle of November, when we found out that the guest of honor at the annual Buchmesse would be Prof. Irvin Yalom, a renowned psychotherapist and the author of When Nietzsche Wept and The Schopenhauer Cure - works which have inspired one half of the Bookstore Guide team's master's thesis. Besides this, we were eager to visit at least one of this year's book fairs.
Once in Vienna, our first book-related stop was Shakespeare & Company, the only new addition to our bookstore database from this trip. We were not in a hurry, as this bookstore is open till 9 PM six days a week. Not surprisingly, spending the Friday evening in a bookstore probably doesn't rank among the favorite pastimes of the people of Vienna, as we found the bookstore rather empty (with only two visitors besides ourselves). However, this gave us the opportunity to talk to the owners and explore the bookstore thoroughly. Our impressions from Shakespeare & Company are summed up in the regular post, so we'll use the space here to provide you with some random thoughts and observations, which didn't fit in the post:
Dr. Sigmund Freud, who's name will be mentioned several times in this report, is still ever-present in Vienna. A whole shelf of books (in English) is dedicated to him in Shakespeare & Co. as well.
It would be interesting to find out the number of English bookstores which have included "Shakespeare" in their name. Our database includes one in Paris, two in Prague and one in Vienna, but there are surely many more so we decided to announce an unofficial challenge - if you know any other 'Shakespearish' bookstores, let us know.
After leaving Shakespeare and Co. and consulting our watch, we decided to visit the British Bookshop in Weihburggasse as well. Although the British Bookshop lacks the personal touch, atmosphere and peculiarities of our previous bookstore stop, it still offers a great choice of English titles. We also liked the reading corner with a sofa installed in the store which added to the overall bookbrowsing-friendly atmosphere. The bookstore itself is huge, spreading on several hundreds of square meters - one part is dedicated to fiction and non-fiction while another, also rather immense, to English language learning materials. And although the prices of the fiction/non-fiction section were comparable with the ones we're used to, the ELT material ones were on the higher end of the scale. Or at least it seemed so to us.
Our plan for the following day (Saturday) was clear - we headed towards the second Bezirk in order to visit the Buchmesse. Every year during this book fair, one book is selected and a hundred thousand copies are offered for free. This year it was the German translation of When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin D. Yalom. Even though our German is far from advanced, we were more than happy to take one copy and have it signed by the author later on in the evening. Such a great idea this is. You can find more about it on: einstadteinbuch
The Buchermesse itself, we have to admit, turned out to be quite a disappointment. Perhaps our expectations were too high but we were simply not impressed. Not only that the amount of English books on display was way below our expectations but it seemed to us that some of the stands presenting their titles lacked in originality (with a few exceptions, we have to add). So although we did enjoy some parts of the program and some sections of the fair, we decided to leave quite early. After all, we still had some things up our sleeves.
The lecture of Prof. Yalom was scheduled at 19:30 at the Sigmund Freud Museum so we still had plenty of time ahead of us. We also stumbled upon another bookstore included in our Guide - the exclusively looking Antiquariat Bugverlag. Although the bookstore was already closed, we managed to get a good look through the shop's door and windows and as the pictures show, it was quite a nice sight. We also got the impression that this definitely wasn't a bookstore into which you'd walk with a 5 Euro bill in your pocket.
Besides enjoying a long walk through the city and a typical Viennese meal for dinner (pizza) we managed to visit one more bookstore, one which we had visited three years ago - the International Bookstore.
There are two great things about this bookstore which impressed us the most during our first visit and the same can be said about this recent one. To be more concrete, we mean the selection of titles on offer for discounted prices displayed in front of the store, containing several interesting books. The second strong point being the amazing offer of American magazines, which includes some rare titles that we haven't seen in any other stores specialized in foreign magazines.
We were also in for a surprise - after descending downstairs, where more books are located (mostly thrillers and romance, not really our cup of tea, but also some interesting non-fiction - economy, politics, psychology) we noticed another door with a curtain with one of those 'no entry under 18' signs. And after poking in, we found ourselves staring at a room full of rated R videos, DVDs and magazines. Somehow, the last time we were in this bookstore, we failed to notice this peculiarity but were later confirmed that it had been there three years prior as well. Amnesia? Or is this simply what Freud would call a case of repressed memory?
After purchasing a book (currently in the process of reading) we headed towards the Vienna Christmas Market or the Wiener Christkindlmarkt - a rather jolly event which takes part from mid-November up until Christmas. Located in front of the Wiener Rathaus, the market is a very lively place where people gather to drink punch, buy sweets, eat typical Viennese food and enjoy the magical feeling of the upcoming Christmas. We must add that if in Vienna during Christkindlmarkt, you must make a stop there and warm yourself by trying the delicious punch in one of the souvenir mugs.
With only a couple of hours left, we made our way to the Sigmund Freud Museum (which is located in an house where Freud actually lived for several years of his life). After meeting with Prof. Yalom we attended his lecture, which was focused on his novel promoted during this year's fair. What Yalom presented to the audience was a rather thorough insight into the novel's main characters - Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and Jozef Breuer - how very likely the fictional meeting between them could have happened in the course of history and how this meeting could have affected psychotherapy itself. Needless to add, the whole lecture was not only informative and interesting but also well received by the audience.
After the lecture, we were quite glad to head for the night train back to Bratislava, as our stay in Vienna condensed to some 36 intensive hours was beginning to take its toll. However, we hope that the resulting report has managed to hold you attention at least for a while...
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