Months and months before our Europe trip, and well before we started to plan out an actual itinerary or even purchased flights, @welovebookworms posted a picture on Instagram of the inside of the library in Stuttgart, Germany. I was completely mesmerized and immediately looked at a map to see how close Stuttgart was to Frankfurt (two hours south, so not next door, but also not outside the realm of possibility). I took a screen shot of the picture and mentally filed it away on my bucket list.
It wasn't until we were actually in Frankfurt that we sat down with Rachel and Micah and made a plan for our five days of touring in Germany. Mike, being the nerd that he is, took all suggestions and put them in a spreadsheet. Then we each got a chance to secretly rank each item: three meant it was a top priority for us, two meant we didn't have a strong preference, and one meant we absolutely, positively did not want to go there. After we had all had taken a turn voting, Mike did some fancy calculation that gave each destination its own score and ranked them. (Trust me, after eleven years of marriage, I'm used to such nerdiness now.)
The Stuttgart library wasn't ranked the highest, but no one actually gave it a one, so it was sitting squarely in the middle of the pack. We took the highest ranked items first (the Rhine River boat tour and the medieval castle, Burg Eltz) and put them into the schedule, and then slowly filled in the schedule with the lower-ranked items. Everyone knew that the Stuttgart library was the one thing I really wanted to see and so they were generous enough to give it a spot on the agenda. (Of course, since we were traveling two hours one way, we wanted something else to do besides just see the library. The Mercedes-Benz museum also happens to be in Stuttgart, and so that satisfied the boys' interests.)
On the drive to Stuttgart, I was actually really nervous because I felt personally responsible to insure that this library really was awesome. What if we went and the general public wasn't allowed in? Or what if the photo was deceiving and it didn't really look like that? (Of course, we had looked it up ahead of time and it seemed like it was open to the public, and it had won an award for best library, which seemed like a good sign.)
But then, we walked into the library, and this is what it looked like. Not exactly my visions of open grandeur.
Trying to stay optimistic, we walked through various sections around the perimeter of the library, looking for some secret passage or something that would lead us to the view we were envisioning. Finally Mike said, "It kind of looks like they closed everything in. Maybe it was a safety concern or something." I had to admit he might be right. We could go into the middle of the building, which was an open, cavernous space, and look up several floors, and there wasn't even a hint of the bright, light, open space I'd seen in the picture. And no sign either, saying, "This way to the cool part of the library."
Before giving up completely though, we decided to ride the elevator all the way to the top, just to see. The doors opened, and we saw this:
Cue the angels. It was like walking into a fairyland. It was such a stark contrast to the drab space below, and even though it was exactly like what I had seen in the photo, it was such a delightful surprise because I'd started resigning myself to its nonexistence. Walking out of that elevator was one of my favorite moments of the entire trip.
There it was: four floors of stairways, railings, sunlight, seating, and shelf upon glorious shelf of books (in a language I couldn't read, but that's beside the point).
The doors on the fifth, sixth, and seventh floors led to additional sections of the library (like the children's section!) and from there you could go outside onto a balcony that encircled each floor of the building. On the eighth floor, there was a darling café, and you could also gain access to the outdoor walkway and the stairs leading up to the roof of the building.
(lest you be confused, Rachel and Micah's baby, not mine)
(view from the roof)
After I'd had my fill of the open space (and everyone was very patient with me and let me take my time), I explored the children's section and had fun finding many familiar titles in a not so familiar language--even Calvin and Hobbes, which we had to take a picture of since we knew Aaron and Maxwell would appreciate it.
Walking around the Stuttgart Library was a highlight of our trip for me. It was so different from anything else we did, and I'm glad we took a chance and went.
Which amazing libraries or bookstores have YOU been to? Tell me, so I can add them to my future travel bucket list!