If you like to read, flip through books and have a good conversation about a novel you love, in Empordà you have a good destination to escape and immerse yourself in a world of letters in a medieval setting. Calonge, located on the Costa Brava, became the first “book town” in Catalonia and one of the few in Spain.
This initiative began a few months ago to transform Calonge into a “book city” following in the footsteps of other cities in Europe, such as Hay-on-Wye in Wales or Montoliu in France. A project that makes books and libraries the hero, and also serves to attract visitors to cities that enter the circle of cultural tourism.
Not that Kalong died. Not much less. Inland this small town offered the visitor and locals a quiet and charming environment, with its cobbled streets, stone facades, and castle… The past of the Middle Ages can be touched by hand. Moreover, a few kilometers away, the marine district of Sant Antoni de Calonge has opened the city to one of the most beautiful areas of the Costa Brava. But the project to become a ‘city of books’ added a charm to Kalong that made it stand out. The revitalization sponsored by this initiative is remarkable.
The city concentrates a total of seven specialized libraries in a small network of medieval streets and squares. The city council chose this project as a sign of the municipality’s economic revitalization through the promotion of culture and a focus on sustainable tourism, and it offered tax incentives to entrepreneurs who wanted to open their literary establishment in the city. Seven projects (none of the promoters were Calonge residents) were selected that opened their doors in the winter, defying the northern winds of the Girona provinces. This summer they are testing the honey of their success.
A small cobbled yard provides some shade. Local visitors mingle with tourists with a red complexion from the sun. One shop window shows some tarot cards, the other a map of the world, and in another some colorful illustrations. Some visitors speak Catalan about the latest editions of the publication while a French family searches for nicknames in their language to add to their massive beach bag.
Each library specializes in a different genre to ensure business continuity into the future. Llibooks focuses on books for children and young adults. Calonge Còmics offers comics, graphic novels, and manga. Lliberria Orient focuses on themes of oriental literature. Cocollona focuses on esotericism, astrology, and spirituality. La Viatgeria has books on travel and sustainable living. Rals Llibres is a public library with titles for all tastes and ages. The Libelista Calonge is also a generalist, and has transcripts in English, French and German, as well as in Catalan and Spanish. And all the people who started them have a history of love for books and a passion for the subject they majored in. Taking into account that nearly six thousand residents live in the historical center of Kalong, count how many books each person gets.
The city is meant to be a meeting place for writers, painters, publishers, booksellers and readers
The first shooting trial of them all was on St. Jordi’s Day, April 23, which dawned on the town full of storm-defying book stalls. The overall success was overwhelming. Many buyers explained that before they went to celebrate Writers’ Day in the larger neighboring cities, such as Palamos, Platja d’Aro or Girona, but their status as a “city of books” led them to want to try it first-hand.
Booksellers and booksellers explain that during the year many people come on weekends, and in the summer tourists are added, creating an active mix. At the opening of the initiative, he invited the city council to come and live the experience.
Create a network
In addition to opening institutions, this project also includes carrying out various activities, with the aim of creating a network. A stable program with seven cultural courses dedicated to promoting reading, literature and the world of books has been launched, and the city aims to be a meeting place for writers, illustrators, publishers, booksellers, and readers. Kalong has already had a lively cultural activity throughout the year. Now, with this project, the city council site’s agenda is overflowing with calls.
Among the cultural courses, it stands out, for example, It came in the versea series of poetry recitals in symbolic places of the city, or VIP booksellers, where cultural figures take a guided tour of the seven libraries and select the copies they like the most. Other courses suggest small scale musical performances, or performing arts such as circus or dance, accompanied by discussions on the world of books.
Projects all over the planet
There are examples of “book cities” all over the planet and in different shapes and forms. The Welsh city of Hay-on-Wye was a pioneer, followed by many others in Europe: Petcheril or Montmorillon in France; Mohlbec in Germany; Bredevoort in the Netherlands; Reu in Belgium; Fjaerland in Norway; Montegio in Italy… In the rest of the planet, Stillwater stands out in the United States, Kimbuchi in Japan or Boral in Australia.
In Spain, the city of Urueña in Valladolid was the pioneer, with a large number of libraries, workshops and activities related to the world of books, from literal binding, illumination with miniatures, calligraphy … There are libraries with novelties and libraries with second-hand copies, old and discontinued. This small medieval town of about 200 residents houses a museum dedicated to music, an ethnographic institution, and an illustrated story museum.
Literary festivals in Catalonia
In Catalonia there are many cities that are part of the “Viles del llibre” network, which dedicates different times of the year to literary festivals, book markets and cultural activities related to literature. The goal is to promote culture through decentralization and support the local world with the social and economic revitalization of the book sector. With the restoration of spaces and the opening of used libraries, as well as the countless cultural activities, sustainable development is facilitated. Notable cities in this network include Belbrat, Cervera, Montblanc, L’Escala and La Pobla de Segur.
There are examples of “book cities” all over the planet. The Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye was a pioneer