In Barri Vell, the old town of Girona, narrow alleys and fascinating medieval stairs appear around every corner. Suddenly I stumble upon Portal del Colleccionista, an antiquarian bookshop. The smell of dusty book shelves always has a magnetic effect on me; this Girona bookshop is no different.
Inside, I’m chuffed to see old books and manuscripts fill every little nook and cranny. There’s travel literature and every other kind. The proprietor, Señor Cortés Lopéz, is happy to chat and let me photograph his shop. He digs out books in Russian, English, French, Spanish and Catalan. Holding a leather-bound parchment manuscript from 1792, feels like transgressing the boundaries of time.
The nearby resorts of the Costa Brava teem with tourists of all nationalities. Yet, the majority of visitors to his shop are Russian, Cortés Lopéz says. We briefly discuss the Russian people’s love of books. One of the first things I noticed during my first visit in St Petersburg (back when it was Leningrad), was the many Dom Knigi (book shops). Much great literature has emanated from Mother Russia. During the oppressive years of communism, the Russians were at least spared mind-numbing television programmes. Books were what counted. Have the Russians held on to that noble tradition?
I hate to leave this wonderful Girona bookshop and the promise of further engaging conversation. But sadly, I have a plane to catch.
Girona is the capital of the Costa Brava, one of Europe’s oldest beach destinations, in the autonomous region of Catalonia in northeast Spain.