Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Coffeehouses’ Category

Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts to Rock Me Amadeus

“In Berlin so many people are out walking, that you meet up with no one. In Vienna you meet up with so many people that no one is out walking.” – Karl Kraus (In Berlin gehen so viele Leute, dass man keinen trifft. In Wien trifft man so viele Leute, dass keine geht)

1)      Don’t mix up Australia and Austria

Don’t even joke about it. The joke’s just old. Older than a worn out record. Granted – if you made it the whole way here, you must realize you won’t be finding any koalas hanging out in the chestnut trees along Prater Allee. That being said, if you expect to receive any kind of mailing while here, be sure to advise the sender to write “EUROPE” in big bold letters across the bottom of the envelope. The kangaroo image Australian postal employees stamp onto Austrian mail that has detoured its way Downunder might be adorable evidence of the Aussie sense of humor but is little consolation for the extra month you will have to wait till your mail finally arrives.

 2)      Don’t Call Austrians Germans

Don’t. I’m not kidding. Austrians are touchy about this for many reasons but I think it is also similar to Canadians who are mistaken for US Americans and New Zealanders who are mistaken for Australians. It’s that big neighbor complex. Austrians speak Austrian German and would never be caught dead humming a hymn honoring Kaiser Wilhelm. They seem to feel an affinity towards that Bavarians but I suspect it has something to do with the shared love of Lederhosen.

Salzburg - Mozart's Birthplace

Salzburg – Mozart’s Birthplace

3)      Do Feel Free to Austrianize Beethoven 

Pasqualatihaus - Beethoven Residence in Vienna's 1st District

Pasqualatihaus – Beethoven Residence in Vienna’s 1st District

Beethoven was born in 1770 in Bonn, Germany but came to Austria to study under Mozart at age 17 but had to leave before he could begin his tutoring only to return in 1792 (aged 21) to study under Haydn. He then stayed in Vienna until he died in 1827. In Vienna, you can visit places he lived, played concerts, and hung out. Though he moved about 70 times while in Vienna to different places in the city, he considered Austria his “Wahlheimat” (chosen homeland). And between you and me, Mozart’s Austrian citizenship is disputable because he was from Salzburg, which was actually the independent Archbishopric of Salzburg from his birth 1756 until his death in 1791. But I strongly advise you to keep this our little secret. No one has to know. What good would it do to bring it up?

 4)      Don’t confuse the Von Trapps with the Brady Bunch

Yes, you might go to Mondsee and do the Sound of Music tour. And if you are feeling romantic, book yourself a room in Villa Trapp if you can navigate the supposedly English version of the their website that only appears in German and has no prices. Austrians might love raindrops on roses, Edelweis and Schnitzel but they won’t break out in a round of Do-Re-Mi at the first sight of the Untersberg Mountain. Most Austrians will have never seen The Sound of Music nor will they know anything about it. So if the Alps inspire you, Climb Every Mountain till your heart’s content but don’t expect the Austrians to join you in harmony.

 5)      Do mention Vienna’s High Quality of Life

Vienna Museum of Natural History

Vienna Museum of Natural History

In 2014, for the fifth consecutive year (!), Vienna ranked the world’s number one most livable city. Yeap! Number one, not two, not three, not four! And Viennese are rather humble about this but will definitely appreciate your knowing it. http://www.cnbc.com/id/101423558. Perhaps it is a good little secret like the second district and Karmelitermarkt once used to be.

 6)      Do mention soccer and beloved Austrian player, David Alaba

“How about that soccer game.” He plays as defender for Bayern, Munich, and the Austrian national soccer team. His charming smile is bound to disarm you just like his attacking prowess does his opponents. He stars on billboards, in commercials and all over the place. The Austrians LOVE their Alaba. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Alaba And if you know Hans Krankl and Cordoba, then you are really good and the Austrians will soon be buying you the beers.

 7)      Do Know the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra

Famous for a reason. The Austrians are understandably proud of their Viennese musicians. And in a place that has served as the breeding ground for centuries of musical talents, one would expect nothing less. Viennese audiences are notorious for their strict standards. Artistic pieces celebrated the world over often prove just good enough for the Viennese audience. And every New Year’s the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra rings in the New Year to a sold out house at the Musikverein in Vienna. Brush up on your concert facts and impress your country hosts: https://www.wienerphilharmoniker.at/new-years-concert/history

 8)      Do know your coffee

Melange in Kleines Cafe, Vienna, Franziskanerplatz

Melange in Kleines Cafe, Vienna, Franziskanerplatz

This means do not even attempt to order a decaffeinated coffee in the world capital of coffeehouses. And should you eye a Starbucks, that is NOT a traditional Viennese coffeehouse. They have cool souvenir mugs and great chocolate chip cookies but are incomparable to the centuries old Viennese institution. Check out more on my blog post on Viennese coffeehouses.

 9)      Do smile at their Fipsis

Viennese love their dogs. Smile at their dog as you pass by and I guarantee the owner will smile back at you. Smile at the owner and the chance of a return smile reduces to about 50/50. Trust me on this. And if you want to engage Viennese in a conservation or meet the locals, try taking a dog for a walk. Come to think of it, maybe the city should offer rent-a-dogs to increase chance encounters between visitors and locals.

 10)   When you see someone you know, stop, say hello and shake hands

Austrians are more formal than a pass and greet though this is starting to ease up a little. So if you see someone you know, you actually walk up to them, shake their hand and greet them. Simply ducking your head or waving can be construed as rude. And if an Austrian greets in the breakfast room of a hotel or an elevator please do yourself a favor and greet them back loud and clear. They get annoyed when these friendly overtones are ignored. And rightly so. That being said, neighbors you can simply greet but be sure to actually do so. So remember, when you

Leopoldsberg - Vienna

Leopoldsberg – Vienna – the perfect place of a Sunday walk

get into an elevator at a smaller office or hotel, it is not uncommon to greet the others in the elevator and also say good-bye as you leave. The tricky part is knowing when to do so and when not. If you notice others doing it, then do it too. In the countryside, if at a small shop, greet when you go in and say good-bye as you leave. Always err on the side of politeness.

And if all else fails, invite them for a Grüner Vetliner (and be sure it’s Austrian – probably Wachau and a “young” wine).

Print This Post
Find this interesting? Please share
Share

Vienna and her Coffeehouses – Sit Back and Smell the Coffee

Cafe Museum

Einspänner (small mocca with whipped cream) at Cafe Museum

“The Viennese go to coffeehouses, because they do not want to stay at home but also don’t want to be outside, because they want to be alone, but in the company of others.”
– Jörg Mauthe

Vienna and her coffeehouses are inseparable and it’s one of the things I love most about this city.

At the turn of the century Vienna boasted over 600 coffeehouses. Today many of these traditional places still thrive and provide a living room away from home for Vienna’s business people, students, artists, intellectuals and international guests in the same way they did over one hundred years ago. Many Viennese then and now, have one particular coffeehouse they like to frequent, their so-called Stammcafé and sometimes even a particular table where they like to sit, their Stammtisch.

Not only do the waiters, dressed in a black coat and tails, even today, look the picture of etiquette and grace of a bygone age, they still act it too. If you want a quick coffee and to get on your way again, be sure to ask for the tab once the coffee is brought, otherwise you might wait a while because in a Vienna coffeehouse, no one expects you to drink and run.

In today’s world of multitasking, fast food, speedy service, instant delivery, finding a retreat in the middle of the city that not only allows you but expects you (!) to take a few hours to sit back and smell the coffee is balsam to the soul.

Some of my favorite coffeehouses:

Bräunerhof: especially on a Sunday afternoon when they often host musicians around 4 pm. I love it here because you walk in and feel like you have stepped back in time and could look over at the neighbor table and see Thomas Bernhard scribbling notes for his next novel in his beloved Stammcafé  . You can sit in Bräunerhof for hours reading the papers, a book or writing and no one would ever dream of hurrying you along.

Cafe Central

Palais Ferstel, Home of Cafe Central

Café Central: for a lunch menu during the week (the food is wonderful) or for a late afternoon dessert. The Klimt Torte is particularly decadent. And I love bringing out-of-town guests here and watching their faces light up in tormented indecision as they study the savory contents of the dessert vitrine. Usually I end up suggesting desserts for the table so everyone can try a bit of everything. Café Central can get crowded especially at lunchtime so reservations are recommended. But once you are seated, you no longer notice the hustle and bustle. In fact, it adds to the experience.

Don’t overlook Peter Altenberg who keeps vigilant watch by the door. When my book finally gets out, English-speaking readers will learn more about the beloved poet who used Café Central as his home address.

If walls could speak!

Café Central has been host and Stammcafé  to so many philosophers, writers, poets, politicians and artists over the years that it is almost impossible to list them all. A few: Adolf Loos, Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Hugo von Hofmannsthal…And the list goes on and on.

Once when a coffeehouse waiter asked Peter Altenberg if he knew who died, Herr Altenberg responded, “Everyone is fine by me.”

Café Diglas: Years ago, I used to frequent Café Diglas rather often. Nowadays less so but it hasn’t lost any of its ambiance or charm and has a great location right across from the book store Morowa on Wollzeile. It is open 365 days a year, from 7 am till midnight. Now the place is famous for its funky toilet doors. They are transparent until you close them, then they cloud over. Don’t take my word for it, see the youtube video here: Cafe Diglas’ Magical Doors

Café Landtmann: Now a place for politicians and business people have meetings, they have a wonderful breakfast selection and you might be interested in knowing that this was once Sigmund Freud’s Stammcafé.

Peter Altenberg and Lina Loos adorn the frontpage of Cafe Museum's Cake for the Ball of the Coffeehouseowners

Peter Altenberg and Lina Loos adorn the frontpage of Cafe Museum’s Cake for the Ball of the Coffeehouseowners

Café Museum: Last time I stopped by for an in-between hour at Café Museum, when I asked the waiter for the bill, he started reciting the damage: “a bottle of champagne, a serving of caviar” and he stopped and I smiled. “Just a mélange” I replied. And he raised his eyebrows as if sharing a secret. “Ahh yes. Perhaps we’ll save another day for the rest then.” I love Café Museum and not just because it was once designed by one of the main characters of one of my books – Adolf Loos.

I love it because you come here and feel relaxed and welcome. As soon as you take your seat, you feel a integral part of the place rich with history and culture and you know you can sit for hours without a hurry or worry.

Cafe Hawelka

Table free outside of Cafe Hawelka

Hawelka: Right off of Graben is where all the actors and artists loved to hang out. Amazing Austrian authors like Friedrich Torberg, HC Artmann and Hans Weigel liked to come here. Famous for its legendary Buchteln (sweet pull apart rolls often filled with jam and served with vanilla sauce), they are still made fresh in-house. The tables are situated in such a way that you feel like you are being discreet when you come here.

Cappuccino at Kleines Cafe

A Cappuccino at Kleines Cafe at Franziskanersplatz

I had the good fortune one day several years ago of spending a few hours with Leopold Hawelka, who opened the coffeehouse in 1939 with his wife, Josefine. I walked over to his Stammplatz, situated by the entrance where many an out-of-town visitor moseyed on by him unaware of who had just welcomed them in and I asked if he would mind if I asked him some questions about the Café Hawelka. I think I made his day. He clambered his 93-year old body down from his stool and fetched some books and photo albums and joined us at our table. As his wife, Josefine, buzzed around their guests, still directing the workings of the coffeehouse at age 91, Herr Hawelka proudly shared with us pages upon pages of newspaper clippings, photos and articles about their coffeehouse. And every few minutes, his stories would revert back to tales of his wife as he lovingly looked up at her who had no time to waste for such idle talk. Though both Josefine and Leopold have since passed away, their son has taken over the coffeehouse and still makes the Buchteln according to his mom’s famous recipe.

Kleines Cafe

Kleines Cafe at Franizskanersplatz

Kleines Café: What’s not to love about Franziskanerplatz? In summer, Kleines Café moves its table onto the square and though you are just steps from the busy Kärntnerstrasse you feel like you are in another world. “Kleines Café” means “Little Café” and the place is indeed small. Fans of the Ethan Hawk  and Julie Delpy film “Before Sunrise” (which I definitely recommend) will be happy to know that this is the place Jesse and Celine were having a coffee when a gypsy woman came along and read Celine’s palm and then told them not to forget that they are both stars.

Coffeehouse quotes:

The Viennese go to coffeehouses, because they do not want to stay at home but also don’t want to be outside, because they want to be alone, but in the company of others.
– Jörg Mauthe

People go to the coffeehouse to rest, to read newspapers, to work, to speak about important things, to see friends, to finish correspondences, to be close to beloved beings and those who should become such, people go for these and countless other reasons and go above all quite mechanically, out of habit, as a constitutional condition, as a reflex, without a particular occasion (which according to Karl Kraus proves signs of “nomadic domesticity”), occasionally people even drink a coffee in a coffeehouse, but that’s not the reason one goes there.
– Hans Weigel

The coffeehouse is a home with all the advantages and none of the disadvantages. You can leave it anytime. That is why you like to go there and hate to leave it. You have social possibility, so many, that you do not need to engage in them all. Company is available, talk, and you are a poised gentleman over chance. If you get bored, you can pay and leave –try doing that once when you are a guest or host in a home.
– Hans Weigel

 Auf Wiedersehen in Cafe Central  If you are Viennese and want to share the coffeehouse experience with a guest to the city, sign up to participate in the Vienna Coffeehouse Conversations from the end of September 2013 until the end of November 2013.

Print This Post

Check out this cool post on the Vienna coffeehouse from Nicholas Parsons, October 2012, “The Ballad of the Wiener Kaffeehaus” as an ode to Vienna’s cafe culture.

Find this interesting? Please share
Share