Greetings from Prague! Ben and I arrived here last night, after four trains, two delays and a small fire (but that’s another story). We spent the last five days in Germany, mostly visiting my friend Mekhla, who lives in Freiberg. Mekhla, you may or may not remember, is my amazing pianist friend, who played wonderful music while I read and took me to listen to wonderful music while I read.
Freiberg is a small German town, home to seven universities and a whole lot of university students – 77% of the population are students. Freiberg is like a fairytale town, especially at Christmas time – narrow, cobblestone streets wind through the city centre (which is closed to vehicles) and are practically dripping with christmas lights. The buildings are labelled with which year they were built in – many were 1400s, several stretching back to the 1200s. We visited the Black Forest, which was beautiful and Grimms fairy-tale like, the floor covered in red and orange and blown leaves, the trees stark and looming above us. We ate black forest cake (after trekking through the Black Forest for two hours, so we wouldn’t feel guilty) from the oldest cake shop in Freiberg, which was established when the town was still a part of France over 100 years ago.
But something that really delighted me was the number of bookshops in Freiberg. In a town of only 100 000 people (200 000 if you count the outer suburbs) there was an extraordinary number of bookshops. Mekhla pointed out at least six, and we went into two. Those two were enormous – each floor was as large as the bookshop I worked at in Adelaide (which is arguably the largest in Adelaide, a city of 1 million people) and there were three or four floors in each store! Amazing. And they had English sections! Only one of them had English children’s books, and only really new releases, but I was so happy that there was a decent selection of English fiction. I picked up Jasper Fforde’s most recent Thursday Next novel to read on the long trip to Prague, which turned out to be even longer than expected – the book was finished a couple of hours before we arrived, worst luck. I’m going to need to visit another bookstore in Prague before we make the trip to Vienna in two days! I’ll keep you posted on ‘The Globe Bookshop and Cafe’ in Prague, which is on the list to visit tomorrow.