The world has many wonderful places, and today, I want to share with you one of my favorites, a true jewel of my beautiful Buenos Aires. As you know, if you read my little bio, I am from Argentina, and the truth is that not many people know of the treasures our southern country holds in its cities. Buenos Aires has true gems in its streets, and today, I want to share with you one of those I love the most, that must be in every traveller and book lover bucket list.
Yesterday, I had a dentist appointment, but going there isn't always bad. One of the things that always makes those days better is that, three blocks away from the clinic, I can visit one of the most amazing bookstores ever built. And it's not just me saying it. The British newspaper The Guardian named it as the second, most beautiful bookstore in the whole world. Let me introduce you to El Ateneo Grand Splendid.
I just can't resist it. Every time I'm around the area, I have to visit this place. If you look up, and let your eyes wonder on that wonderful decoration and splendor, you can easily lose yourself in the fascination, and believe you actually are in the 20th century. Let's explore some of its history, ok?
It was built in 1917, and opened in 1919, meant to house a cinema-theater, on the foundations of what once was the Norte National Theatre, which took the name of Grand Splendid. Back in its theater days, this place had four rows of boxes and the capacity for a 500 people audience, and was famous for the tango presentations and the important figures that performed on its stage, like Carlos Gardel. The theater even had a Radio, installed in 1923.
Today, the bookstore still keeps that old, wonderful splendor, with the original decoration intact, and the red, velvet curtain; but, most definitely, one of the most amazing things this place has are the frescoes in the dome, painted by Nazareno Orlandi, which have their own story to tell.
They catch my attention every time I look at them. It shows an allegorical representation of Peace, painted in 1919 as a celebration for the end of the I World War. The Peace is represented by a sensual female figure, next to a ladder sorrounded by flower garlands, clouds, doves, angels and nymphs, everything as a way to show that the world has left the cruel war and its horrors behind. And on the opposite side, on the left, we can find another female figure holding a projector whose film wraps around the Peace, as if connecting the new technology with the praises towards love, peace and harmony.
It's beautiful, isn't it?
The bookstore has worked there since 2000. In what used to be the private boxes, now you can sit to read and have some coffee, or find one of the comfortable chairs where you can take any book with no purchase required (there's a very nice table with comfy chairs around the romance area). Or you can take a sit in the restaurant and confectionery (where the old stage used to be), order your favorite drink, and simply enjoy a good moment listening to the piano music that always floats around.
If you ever have the chance to visit Buenos Aires, you won't want to miss this place (and you will probably find me walking there). Any book lover will find it fascinating. I can tell many people from other countries visit it; once I helped two Chilean women to find the price of a book, and yesterday, I saw and heard people from Japan, the USA, France, England, and many other countries. After all, who can resist going there? Even if you don't love books, the place itself lures you in with its great beauty.
If you want to see more, you can find more pictures and see the decoration details here: http://www.ba-h.com.ar/buenos_aires/libreria_el_ateneo_grand_splendid.htm#.V6-ImHVS3VN
Thanks for reading! And please, feel free to leave your comments and opinions!
'till next time!