The Viennese Coffeehouse


One of the reasons why I immediately fell in love with Vienna is because it is a town that takes cake seriously. I have had cake at 10 o’clock in the morning and at 10 o’clock at night and it was the most normal thing in the world. In Vienna, it is always time for cake!
And there is a lot of it to be had in the wonderful old coffeehouses. The coffeehouse is a big part of Vienna’s history and identity. In the 19th century, this is where philosophers, authors and artists, students and politicians came to discuss their ideas and many a piece of literature, work of art or philosophic idea was born there over a cup of coffee “mit Schlag” (with cream). In the words of popular-arts correspondent Egon Erwin Kisch: “The coffeehouse might be described as the home that one does not have to have because one has the coffeehouse.”

A little of that spirit remains until today. There is a remarkable feeling of equality in Viennese cafés, at any given time there will always be a colourful mixture of students, business people, families with small children, genteel elderly gentlemen reading the newspapers and people working on their laptops. Although waiters are notoriously grumpy, I have never been rushed in a Viennese café – even when I’ve sat by myself with my tea and apple strudel, reading a book for a several hours. The Viennese coffeehouse is a place where you are invited to spend time, or to quote Alfred Polgar: “An asylum for those who want to kill time without being killed by it”.

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