As an avid traveler (and travel writer), I never can resist a stop into Evenaar (Dutch for "Equator"), the travel bookstore on the northwest corner of Singel and Oude Spiegelstraat (just across the canal from fantastic sandwich shop and Amsterdam institution Broodje Bert); even when the store is closed, I sometimes just stare wistfully into the windows. On my last trip there, I was lured in by the treasures in the outdoor discount boxes, from which I rescued Michael Wood's The Smile of Murugan: A South Indian Journey as well as The Sacred Thread, J.L. Brockington's classic introduction to Hinduism.
Such are the titles that are typical of Evenaar, whose collection spans more than strictly travel books; books that are essential to the identity of the countries and cultures represented in the store are also on offer - Homer's epics share a shelf with Lonely Planet Greece. "Travel literature, world literature, culture and history from afar" is how the store summarizes its collection, and the helpful, chatty owners are storehouse of information. Scarcely any country or culture escapes the store's breadth of titles (even Native Americans have their own section - the first such section I've seen at a travel bookstore); the bookcases in the back room are dedicated to antique travel books, precious artifacts from a time before travel was so accessible. But even for those for whom travel is inaccessible, Evenaar offers a window into far-off destinations and cultures, and with my recent purchases from the shop, I'm content to be an armchair traveler for now.
Evenaar Reisboekhandel - Visitor Information:
1016 AG Amsterdam
Tel.: (0)20 624 6289
Open daily, 12.15 - 6 p.m.
Location: Western Canal Belt
From Amsterdam Central Station, take tram 4, 9, 14, 16, 24 or 25 to the Spui stop; make a right onto Watersteeg, then another right onto Kalverstraat. Head north onto Sint Luciënsteeg and make a left; the street will turn into Raamsteeg and, on the western side of Singel, Oude Spiegelstraat. Evenaar is on the northwestern corner of Singel and Oude Spiegelstraat.