Santorini | 4. Romance in a Bookshop

Wherever I go, I always find myself being drawn by tiny old-looking bookshop. Of course, gigantic bookstores like Kinokuniya or Taipei’s 7-storey high Eslite are amazing and jaw-dropping. But there’s always something romantic about a small bookshop. You can sense this personal touch, you can more or less gauge the characteristics of the owner. All the things he/she sell is a reflection of who he/she is: the title of the books, the way the bookshop is decorated, the shelving system, the items being displayed behind the window, the way he/she greets people… each and every little details convey a story.

Santorini holds two precious little bookshop I adore so much. The hidden jewel (just like what its name suggest), Atlantis Books in Oia and Books & Style in Fira—not far from the bus station (the owner of the bookshop is the one who gave me Karagkiozis wooden puppet as a gift, and I gave him a bottle of Vinsanto as a parting gift before I left).

Atlantis Books is a true hidden treasure. You could miss it easily as you walked by those colorful tiny shops in Oia’s alleyways. But I always think that I’m a bookshop owner in my past life. Books are calling me. Bookshops are my sanctuary. And that’s how I found Atlantis Books that windy afternoon, climbed down the stairs to their magical blue door, and as I stepped in, I realized: heaven must look like this.

When it comes to books and reading, I love it the traditional way. Looking at those crumpled cover, caressing the flipped pages, reading the notes written on the side of the page with a pencil, laughing at the coffee stains, smelling the damp paper—vintage books get me high! And Atlantis Books is heaven because they have these vintage collections and some classic’s first editions. True gem.

The story behind this bookshop—as appear in their official site, is even more romantic:

“In the spring of 2002, Oliver and Craig spent a week on the island of Santorini. The land inspired them and there was no bookshop, so they drank some wine and decided to open one. Oliver named it Atlantis Books and the two laughed about how their children would run it someday. In England, Tim took Craig for a walk along the Sussex coast. Craig told Tim about the bookshop and Would he like to build it. Tim said Great!

For a year the idea percolated as Craig and Oliver went about graduating from university. Around his thesis deadline Craig called Chris and talked about the bookshop. Chris said Can I come?

An email from Jenny went like this: Maria and Craig, I’m introducing you both. Maria, Craig’s going to Paris in December and thence to Santorini. Craig, Maria is from Cyprus and is English Literature & bookshop employee extraordinaire. Love you both, J.

The four boys and Maria devoted six months to saving money, finding books, settling debts, writing and reading and thinking. Tim borrowed a van named Danny. Will offered to design a website and a wave logo and said Could I come along.

New Year’s Morn, Quinn packed Danny, waved us off and we ploughed across the continent and landed in Oia. We found an empty building facing the sunset, drank some whiskey and signed a lease. We found a dog and cat, opened a bank account, applied for a business license, found some friends, built the shelves, landed a boat on the terrace and filled the place with books. Jenny came in April and painted everything blue.

Atlantis Books opened in the spring of 2004 and lived below the castle for one year. In the winter of 2005  we moved into the center of town and settled nicely into the community. We’ve had food festivals and film festivals, writers reading on the terrace, and a host of cats and dogs.

The bookshop feels like home now and we’re still laughing about how our children will run it someday. As Will says, it’s as easy as that. As you. As that.”

Books & Style is nostalgic in its own humble way. It reminds me of the little bookshops in my hometown where my parents used to take me. Apart from some lovely postcards, they have children’s corner (where I found the Greek edition of The Little Prince to complete my friend’s The-Little-Prince-book collection), wooden souvenirs, as well as recipe books. But what I love the most is the watercolour paintings and the vintage-looking tin cans/boxes. They are so beautiful!

I’m still holding on to this all-time dream: to open up a small bookshop with a small cafe inside it (and I always believe that I’ll meet my soul-mate in a bookshop!). Wish me luck!


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