Cărturești Carusel Bookstore, Bucharest

Bucharest bookshop

Cărturești Carusel Bookstore, Bucharest, Romania

Bucharest is very much a continental capital, very different than, say, Split or Rome. Some have nicknamed it “Little Paris” or “Paris of the East” because is is full of stately architecture – grand boulevards, baroque domes, high windows, even somewhat Hausmannian style buildings. Though less pretty than many Transylvanian cites, Bucharest is full of fascinating history – perhaps the most bizarre is that of “the churches that moved” (more here) – a handful of churches that were uprooted and carefully transported by rail to outside the city centre so that the Communist leaders wouldn’t be able to see their spires from their new (ugly!) Stalinist architecture (the only real exception being the massive Palace of Parliament). Speaking of beauty, you only have to step foot inside the Cărturești Carusel Bookstore to fall in love. This beautiful storied building regularly tops list of Europe’s most beautiful bookshops! Built in 1903 by Greek bankers, such a thing of beauty (and money) could not evade the communists, and the building was confiscated during the 50s, and later, like much of Communist leftovers, was abandoned to decay on its own. So how was it saved? Well, a very determined grandson of the original owners spent two dozen years – yes that’s 24 years! – arguing that he is the rightful owner before it was returned to him in 2007, and the bookshop was born. Several stories with layered and undulating balconies, spiral stairs, grand staircases, huge windows, and beautiful white bookshelves, it’s not hard to see why it’s so lovely. It rather makes sense that the bookshop’s name means Carousel of Light.


Pro tip: Their English-language section is not massive, but it’s better than most. Prices though are very high, and sadly there aren’t too many Romanian authors translated to English. For bookworms, it’s better for browsing than buying! 


More of Bucharest & Beyond


 

Złote Tarasy, Mall, Warsaw, Poland

warsaww2warsaww1

Złote Tarasy Mall (as seen from outside & inside), Warsaw, Poland

While a mall might not be the first thing you think of when the words “beautiful places” and “Europe” are combined in the same sentence, that doesn’t mean they don’t qualify! While most malls are rather mundane and follow the same generic formula, some break the mould; some make you look around and notice the building itself, not just the stores and shops and stands indoors. This particular mall in downtown Warsaw, located a stone’s throw away from Dworzec Centralny (the central train station), and the Palace of Science & Culture (a sturdy specimen of Stalinistic architecture, erected in many cities he “conquered”), is modelled after a waterfall – a cascade of water breaking a damn and spilling over into central Warsaw. Somehow, it seems fitting – the waves crash over the barrier, threatening to drown Stalin’s tower (which so many see as a vestige of Communist oppression, a period in history they’d like to put behind them). While at the end of the day, Złote Tarasy is a mall like any other when it comes to shopping and fast food-dining, it’s still quite an artistic place to buy a new pair of shoes, eat pierogies, or see a film!