Another World - Berlin´s Magical English Bookstore
Some eight years ago, the BBC´s travel section was publishing a list of the world´s greatest bookshops. Amongst some more or less familiar names like Paris´ Shakespeare and Company or Porto´s Livraria Lello, lies Berlin´s Another Country bookshop, an eccentric and magical place I visited some five years ago for the first time. To be completely honest, I don´t remember what drove me there, I do however remember how utterly moved I left it. Years later I came back and took my friend Will with me. We left just as moved.
Another Country is pretty much another world. While owner and manager of the store, Sophie Raphaeline believes visitors tend to romanticise it a lot, I believe there is nothing wrong with that and we generally romanticise things way too little anyway. So to me, walking around Another Country genuinely feels like a parallel universe, one with a musky smell and sun rays that barely make it through the store´s dusty windows. You kind of expect a yellow paved role because as Sophie says, the first thing people think when walking in must be "We´re not in Kansas anymore".
The walls covered with old books from all genres, this bookstore is definitely not the place to go when you´re looking for a specific book. Another Country is the place to browse, slowly and with an open mind. For whatever the universe puts in your hand. The books are colour sorted to determine which are up for sale and which can only be borrowed. Technically even the 90% of the books you can buy, you can still return at any time and receive your money minus 1,5€ back. This way, the stock rarely has to be updated and the store/library maintains a constant collection of over 20.000 books. All in English, all dusty and wonderful. None by Sandra Brown.
The customers, pretty much all expats, are bounded by a love of books and the unconventional. They´ll come for the books, stay for the food (yes, Sophie also serves dinners in this Narnia land) and return for the chats. The Another Country´s community gets together for the English film club evenings on Tuesdays, the Friday dinners and the monthly reading group. The place is basically an institution supportive of the LGBTQ community and anyone in need of shelter.
Some seven years ago, Sophie was given three years to live. Perhaps in Another World time doesn´t work as it should because Sophie´s still there, every day, guarding over the books, an entity one can hardly imagine ever leaving the store and this other country.