There are a thousand reasons to visit the ancient capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire: its churches, palaces, museums, opera and the famous Musikverein concert hall. And, of course, its cafes, once the center of intellectual life, which are experiencing a successful renaissance.
From our special correspondent
This winter morning, Vienna shudders. It's an invitation to take a break, hot, in one of the famous historic cafes that have made its reputation. And so to enter the Central Cafe, as our steps took us to the Palais Ferstel. After having made a name in 1856 thanks to the neo-Gothic votive church (Votivkirche), the architect Ferstel would have distinguished himself thanks to this historic-neo-neo-Roman building, intended to house the Austro-Hungarian bank and the Vienna Stock Exchange. These two institutions have been moving for a long time. Since 1876, Café Central is located at number 14 in Herrengasse. Beige curtains, antique lighting, soft lighting, cozy atmosphere …
Once sitting on a Thonet chair, in front of a marble table, you just have to order (read opposite) and for fun, taking all the time to chat, meditate, daydream, read – a wide range of foreign newspapers is available – or just watch.
It seems that nothing, or almost nothing, has moved into this bar that was the Viennese intelligentsia a century ago. The poet Peter Altenberg is still close to the main entrance in the shoes of … a cardboard paste sculpture. As you listen a little, you think to listen to the voices of Victor Adler, Leon Trotsky, Adolf Loos, Oskar Kokoschka, Stefan Zweig, Franz Kafka, Egon Erwin Kisch. And we imagine them playing chess, dominoes …
Altenberg has spent his days there. He had his table and sent his mail to the cafe whose address was on his business card. This says a lot about the past role of these institutions, as classified by UNESCO because they "They are a place where time and space can be consumed, but where only coffee is charged". in The world of yesterday, Stefan Zweig also cited "A sort of democratic club open to everyone for a modest cup of coffee". Without being home, it seems like home in the cafes of Vienna.
Their origin is still debated. According to some, it dates back to the second seat of Vienna by the Turks. The latter were defeated after a spy of Hungarian origin, a certain Kolschitzky, brought information of primary importance to the Austrians. "As a thank you, he received the citizenship and 500 bags of coffee forgotten by the Turks in their flight, he was the one who opened the first coffee in 1685"says Susanne Holper, guide in Vienna. "But this is a legend, she adds carefully. The first coffee was opened in 1685, but by an Armenian named Johann Diodato, at number 14 of Rotenturmstrasse. " A site occupied today by the trendy cafe Daniel Moser.
Anyway, continues Susanne Holper, "Vienna was built around its cafes in the second half of the nineteenthis century. With the advent of industrialization, the city has gone from 500,000 to 2 million. It was therefore the capital of an empire of over 50 million inhabitants. The new rich built palaces along the Ring and the intellectual life was boiling. "
Architects, decorators, artists – Klimt, Schiele, Wagner, etc. – are therefore known by decorating the new buildings and depicting the rich bourgeois, who appreciate their stylistic audacity. Since 1899, many have been meeting at the Café Museum. At that time, Vienna saw the cafes multiply faster than in 1856, following the example of the French Café, they admit … ladies.
In the years 1960-1970, many of these cafes will close their doors, dethroned by the fashion of espresso and television. It was in the 80s that they began to reopen, restored in their original style, with Thonet chairs, padded benches, marble tables and waiters in tuxedos … "These cafes are once again very fashionable, and the reasons for frequenting them have not changed much" continues Susanne Holper. The Viennese love to have breakfast there and the business men have lunch there with their customers. And then there are tourists, of course …
Since 2010, the Café Museum has regained its former glory. Next to the Burgtheater, Café Landtmann is a favorite for artists and politicians, with its flowered benches, cozy atmosphere and classic menu. In front of the National Opera, the Café Sacher once again demonstrates its elegance. But if you want to play pool, you will go to Sperl.
"At Café Central or Schwarzenberg, there's music – piano, quartets – in the afternoon and on weekends, as before" says Susanne Holper, ready to point out that in winter, during the season of balls, coffee, the famous and elegant Kaffeesiederball, attracts 4000 waltz lovers for the imperial palace …
If you prefer a more bohemian atmosphere, you should, without hesitation, push the door of the Café Hawelka onto Dorotheergasse. It has not changed much since 1930. Still marvelously rundown, it remains an "artist's coffee", notes Susanne Holper, who attended when she was a student. "Mr. Hawelka – who died at the age of 101 – was still sitting at a table in the far left, putting his clients together at the same table, adding all the necessary chairs. brought to weddings. "
Naturally, these coffees now coexist with trendy establishments, such as the Kaffeefabrik on Favoritenstrasse (coffee is sold all over the world), Akrap Espressobar in Königsklostergasse, Caffe a Casa (which sells its toasted coffees). in the Servitengasse. Or the Wiener Rösthaus that looks like an old colonial grocery store (the grapes are roasted here). In Phil, young people like to settle down with a telephone and a computer.