The coffeehouses of Vienna
Sie wünschen?” (“What would you like?”) The Ober (waiter) in tails asks you in a distant, polite tone for your order. Soon after, he reappears bearing an aromatic Melange (coffee with milk) on a small silver tray, complete with a glass of water, and an Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel) with Schlagobers (whipped cream). Yes, that’s typical for a Viennese coffeehouse. Even if the halcyon days, when artists and writers met over the round marble tables and the high society discussed God and the Emperor, belong to the past – Vienna’s Cafés are as popular as ever.
“The coffeehouse is the place for people who want to be alone, but need company.” The Viennese writer Alfred Polgar (1873-1955) on the guests in Vienna’s coffeehouses. He himself was also one of those people.
Famous coffee houses
Many of the legendary establishments appear completely resistant to change: the Griensteidl on Michaelerplatz for instance, or the opulent Café Central nearby. The writer Peter Altenberg even had his mail sent there, and his colleague Alfred Polgar composed a “Theory of the Café Central”. And not to be forgotten, the Café Prückel at Stubentor with its original fifties decor has cult status. And then there’s…. Ah, it’s impossible to give even a rudimentary overview of Vienna’s fantastic, multifarious coffeehouse landscape here!
Regardless of which coffeehouse you take a seat in – stay as long as you like! It’s perhaps the only type of restaurant or bar in the world where you can relax and sip your coffee for hours – and not be presented with the bill without asking for it! But you can’t just order a “coffee” – you have to choose from one of the many coffee specialities. Whether it’s a Mokka (espresso), a Kleiner Brauner (espresso with milk), a Verlängerter (espresso with water added) or the ever-popular Melange, an Apfelstrudel or Sachertorte belongs on your table as well. And you don’t need someone to chat to – in the coffeehouse you can enjoy being alone, knowing that the Herr Ober is there to make sure you have everything you need!
Text: Manuela Graf-Staudinger und Verena Brandtner, Fotos: Christine Wurnig