The island of Santorini, Greece, is part of a small archipelago, all remnants of a volcanic caldera. Much of the caldera is submerged, creating a lagoon that Santorini curves around. Oia is a little village perched on the rim of the island, looking as if it could slide down into the lagoon. The village consists of white washed houses, blue domed churches, and cafes that seem to be carved directly into the rock. The beauty of the Cycladic architecture is everywhere, yet for me, the highlight of visiting Oia was the little bookstore, Atlantis Books.
It was near the end of my study abroad trip, and I was starting to miss the small things of my regular life, such as the feeling of having books around me. Every room in my home has books in it. Yes, even the bathrooms. My weekly routine includes visits to the library and various bookstores. For my inner Pippa to feel that all is right with the world, books need to be close at hand.
Walking down the cobbled marble pedestrian street Nikalaou Namikaou, passing jewelry stores and cafes, the sight of a little white building with a mural of books (and a sign stating, “Rent-A-Cat €5”) painted on its side arrested my attention. I descended down the curving blue stairs as fast as I could, narrowly avoiding the thorns of the salmon-colored bougainvillea arching over the railing. The space was small, and it felt homey, white walls lines with bookcases, interesting nooks and crannies beckoning.
A small monk’s cell was visible in the back, a cot, a light and a few books all that it contained. I wondered if the man behind the counter lived there. Perhaps he was the owner? At the moment, I was too busy looking about to give him much notice.
One of the first items to catch my eye was a display of James Joyce’s The Dead. As a student of Irish Studies as well as that being one of my favorite short stories, it seemed as if a bit of my life had somehow found its way across oceans and continents to a small island in the Aegean Sea. Each copy was bound in brightly colored paper. A placard informed me that they were “published on the occasion of Christmas Day 2012, this is the twelfth title published by PARAVION PRESS. We produce limited editions of our favorite short works…Paravion is hosted by Atlantis books…founded in 2004, in Oia, Santorini, Greece.”
A customer came in as I was deciding which color of binding of The Dead I wanted to purchase. I eavesdropped a bit, catching snatches of their conversation. “Oh, you’re from the States, too?” “Yes, I’m from… living here now. Actually, right here in the bookstore.” He pointed at the small room I had spied.
After he finished with the other customer, I checked out, and asked him about the Press. “We have our workshop right there in the back.” He swept his hand to gesture at a room behind him. “We produce the books, as well as embossed prints and cards.” Then the post arrived with a package that arrested his attention, so I gathered up my purchases and left, wanting to know more about his life, his press.
Climbing back up the stairs, upon reaching the street level, I noticed a private patio on top of the bookstore, table and chairs, looking over the sea. The perfect view. I felt wistful. I wished that I had a life like that, a press, a devotion to books, a simple life surrounded by beauty and community. I wished I had the courage to live my life how I wanted to live it, rather than living it to please others.
Shop photos of Santorini in Rachael Holliday's print store: