On a recent trip to Vienna, my friend Dorothy and I went on a Café-Crawl, and experienced the divine nature of the ‘Kaffee house’ culture in Vienna.
Café Elies, on the outer part of Vienna near the Rathauspark, has become our regular breakfast place. It sits across from the Mercure hotel on the corner, with big white blocks and a highlighted blue cursive ‘Cafe Eiles’ over the door. It has become a safe place in Vienna. We walk across the street in the hazy morning for a breath of free wifi and a coffee. The first morning, I ordered kaiserschmarrn, a famous Austrian dessert, and filled myself with powered sugar.
The cafe is beautiful, with its sixties-style décor. Its flower-fabric booths, the dank black wood chairs and minimalist chandeliers with the gold arm, and a single white bulb make me feel awake. There are black and white photos of famous Austrians and authors, and to quote the waiter, ‘some you may know, some you may not’. And there are poinsettias on every window.
And these cream colored walls with brown arches and tiny coat racks and plants that are rough, green, and alive. It’s very 50s — overly preserved, magical, and our breakfasts have been amazing.
I look out the window with my ‘kaffee’ and see a view of an intersection with the buses on wires and six-story buildings with crown-molding finishes, and I feel like, ‘yeah— maybe I could live here’.
Café Leopold Hawelka
This beautiful café, just off the main plaza of Vienna, is a haven. Café Leopold Hawelka is timeless. Sitting in my worn-out chair, admiring the dark wood, the marble round tables, the artistic sketches, and little yellow lamps, I feel like life has not changed in seventy years. The suited waiters speaking German, the father and mother and daughter reading with coffees and cakes, the old man drinking his coffee and reading the newspaper, it is so homely. I feel inspired.
There is only one menu on a blackboard near the entrance, listing cakes, coffees, beers, and sausages. I order a sausage and a beer. It foams over beautifully, and I am more than ever in love with Vienna. I feel inspired, and take out pen and paper, and as I sip my beer, I let the words fall off the page. All the while, there is an old Clock on the wall that has seen it all.
Late on a Sunday night in Vienna, I slip out of the hotel room, and whilst wandering the streets of Vienna, I find the most regal of cafes in Vienna, the Central Café. Alone, with just a book and my journal, I wander in through the doorway, and am in awe. The ceiling is that of St. Stephen’s church, a beige marble-vaulted ceiling with blue, green, and pink ribboning designs. And the selection of cakes right by the door is simply beautiful.
A man in a suit (all of the waiters in the cafes of Vienna wear suits) politely allows me to sit wherever I like. I sit at a small round table near the cakes, eyeing them from my seat. There is a suited bald man performing ‘Candle in the Wind’ by Elton John on the piano, and other classics. I order the ‘Central Café’, as I firmly believe that if they are going to name it after themselves, it’s probably going to be fantastic, and soon I am sipping it. It is a small mug of coffee with Apricot liquor, and is quite bitter with a beautiful whip of cream and a tiny chip of chocolate that says in elegant, eatable print, ‘Café Central’.
For nibbles, I have a trio of petit-fours. Petit-fours are my favourite — I like to call them ‘Sammy Size’. Each one is exciting and delightful, popfuls of paradise: a tiny cupcake with a lemon crème topping and a blue berry, a mini fruit tart, and a layered hazelnut bite. Bliss.
I sit there for an hour savoring the memory of lively piano music, the inspiring echo of conversation, the lovely morsels of sugar, and the busyness of suited waiters. For a moment, I could believe that Sigmund Freud and Leon Trotsky were sitting just over there.
Cafe Sperl, just outside of the city center, sits elegantly perched on a street corner. Peeking through the yellow drapes, I see a magical world of piano music, jostling groups with coffee and conversation, and high ceilings lit by a beautiful chandelier. Walking in, it is like being hugged by a beautiful, Austro-French lady from the 50s. Dark wood, with dark arching coat hangers, rich yellow textured walls, and a high ceiling with a beautiful crown molding. She is gorgeous.
I wander over to meet up with my friend, and we sit at a tiny round table on a maroon couch, and a little wood chair. I soak in the atmosphere, looking out over three pool tables, one covered in old magazine readers. This café is exactly as it had been in the 1950s. There is even a photo of men playing pool in 1948, and the room has not changed at all. Neither has the atmosphere. It is like walking into to a different time.
I decide to walk around the café. The elegant waitresses in their lady-suits go from table to table taking orders and serving lovely cakes. I am surprised by their age, all matronly women who looked like they have been working at the café for at least twenty years. At small, round tables sit single ladies with single glasses of wine reading single books. I empathise with them, and feel proud.
The food is scrumptious as well. I have a well-seasoned pumpkin soup with an interesting sauce on top, and a meringue red current cake for dessert. My friend has a cheese cake, which is not as sweet as the New York cheesecake, but still delicious.
This cafe is glamorous; it is a beautiful moment, and as I sit taking tiny bites from my cake, I wish I was wearing an elegant long dress, a pearl necklace, and discussing the most recent publication with gentlemen.
Image Credits: Sammy Evans