I am in South Africa, in the small coastal town of Hermanus not far from Cape Town. I have a few hours on my own and wander curiously around in the charming town that has clear traces of its past colonial history. The architecture is a mix of small houses in typical Cape style and more modern buildings without character. The town is very peaceful and quiet and known for its many galleries and all the whales that at certain times of the year gather outside the town’s cliffs and beaches. June to December is the peek season for whale safari in Hermanus. But it is April and I have to find something else than whales to look at.
On my way back to the hotel, I get aware of a nice storefront. It is dark green with trompe l`oeil painted bookshelves full of fake books. The sign Hemingways Bookshop is painted with beautiful old-fashioned text. This makes me really curios.
A bell rings as I walk in the door and two, for me typical English ladies welcome me. We start talking immediately, as I express my excitement about the huge amount of books, interior and the adventurous atmosphere. It just struck me immediately when I entered the store. This is how a bookstore, combined antiquarian has to look. I’m crazy about books and the joy of walking between the shelves fills me with excitement. It is not just books in the shelves that are placed so that a labyrinth is formed throughout the store, everywhere are strange objects, both old and new. There are dolls and teddy bears and old souvenirs everywhere.
Barbara, the oldest of the ladies, tells me she works here 2-3 days a week. Hemingways Bookshop was founded in 1995, she says. It was the author Beth Hunt who started it all. Barbara is holding up a book about Hermanus, the book Beth has written. I ask if I’m allowed to take a picture of her and Barbara gives me a smile. Yes, but first you must give a donation to the charity work we do here.
I take the picture and then, with good conscience, I can stumble into the labyrinth and enjoy the smell and sight of old coffee table books, leather bounded books, nips and African masks stacked in secluded corners. My glance falls on a big Pinocchio doll that I would love to have, but not everything is for sale, says Barbara with a wink.
Hemingways Bookshop is internationally renowned for its good selection of rare books and is the place where you will find exclusive books on African art and history.
If you ever visit this small, peaceful city of Hermanus, south in South Africa, you need to look for Hemingways Bookshop. If Barbara is there, you can say Hello from me.