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Let’s face it: I am passionate about bookshops. New or old, I feel at home as soon as I cross the threshold.

I’d never thought of as Hamburg as a bookish city, but my hotel was near the university and I could see the students in the half-light before sunset walking between the metal bookshelves, laden with academic tomes.

Heading south from there the next day, beyond Stephansplatz, I wandered down a colonnaded street where I saw a shop blazoned with the promising word Sprach. This proved to be a bookshop dedicated to languages, and although not extensive, I warmed to the direction.

Further down, several of Hamburg’s largest new bookstores are located; you got the sense that there was a bookish side to the Germans here, that was rather likeable. I kept wandering and found a bookstore near the Rathaus with a very good selection of German poetry (Lyrik) which managed to be slightly esoteric as well as covering all the major stops (Goethe, Schiller, Holderin, Celan, Rilke, usw). It was full, and the clientele seemed eager to ask questions of the staff to get their hands on the tomes they were seeking. There was a palpable feeling of excitement.

After browsing for a half hour, I was about to head off to the airport when I noticed that the tube station and link to the S1 airport line was nearby through a passageway. I was pleased to find a quick route out, but also noticed the word “suppe” and as I hadn’t had lunch, I followed the passageway in pursuit of soup.

Delighted, I found the soup bar was in the corner of a second-hand bookshop, which had a few formica tables in the middle so that people could select their purchases and read them over a meal. Every single table was taken, so I propped myself on the edge of a shared table.

After browsing for the best part of an hour, I’d bought a book of poetry in the Third reich for 3 Euros, and a Russian-German leanring anthology. The soup being served was Weiskohl suppe (White Cabbage soup) and as delicious as the name is evocative.

I’d passed over the purchase of several dictionaries, a boxed set anthology of modern German literature, and various academic tomes on German psychotherapy. I wished I had booked in my hold luggage for the flight back, and could have taken more books back with me.


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