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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Waltzing through the Grand Cafés of Vienna - Page 3

Written by John M. Edwards
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    Somehow Siggy and I had landed at one of Vienna’s most famous and  

atmospheric cafes, the Café Sperl (11 Gumpendorferstrasse), built in  

1880 with a Waspy yellow-and-black exterior facade—all smoke and  

mirrors, on a difficult to pronounce thoroughfare. This Belle Epoch  

building topped even the tacky Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn. I felt  

like a character from Graham Greene’s “The Third Man” (1949)--also a  

classic film with Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles, which made the iconic  

“Big Wheel” (built by British architect Walter Basset in the 1880s)  

justly famous. We both ordered cheesecake and café du lait, recommended  

in my guidebook.


    But unfortunately, I had to give the “Sperl” an unhurried hurl and a  

vigorous Holy Roman Emporer’s thumb’s down: poisoned!


    “Now we go very important Platz!” Siggy enthused, laughing at my  

coughed-up “Type II diabetes”- endangering sweet yuck. “Yes, we go to  

only the best next!”


    Of course this next-best coffee stop turned out to be the  

tourist-mobbed “Café Demel” (14 Kohlmarkt: 00 431-5351 7170), the only  

café, really a confectionary, that might require a phoned-in  

reservation in advance. Even so, we settled down after a long wait for  

some “Mohr Im Hemd” (chocolate soufflé pudding), “Lakronene”  

(macaroons), and ginger hot chocolate.


    I didn’t mind paying for everything up to so far, but the bill was too  

steep to cover on my own. I politely asked for a donation and Siggy  

handed me a crushed-up ball of euros.


    “Nein Deutschmarks!” Siggy bruited.


    Switching to native white “Gerwertzentraminer” (dry white wine), I  

realized that it was kind of fun to be lost. . . . In fact, the  

Kaffeehaus poet Peter Altenburg often gave up his personal address as  

“Vienna I. Café [blank],” as an ode to way opulent monumentalism and  

romantic historicism.


    After ducking into the Diglas Café (10 Wollzeilestrasse), with,  

believe it or not, see-through toilets, for a touristic bathroom break,  

I sanitized my hands before ordering their signature vanilla custard  

and a cuppa. Not bad, but not good enough for my Must-See List.


    Ditto, the “Adolf Loos”-designed Café Muzeum (1899), Egon Schiele’s  

favorite pit stop for high-octane fuel. Although we just barely stepped  

into its shadows, Siggy assured me that for the Preis (all nouns in  

German are capitalized) of a single espresso you could stay here for  

hours undisturbed, writing postcards.


    Then as a joke (I wasn’t laughing), Siggy pointed out one of the  

city’s local Starbucks (49 Kartnerstrasse), with free Wifi. At least,  

this chain is preferable to the Indian-owned “Coffee Day,” which  

lingered around the city off-puttingly  like butt-stinky curry or stale  

cigar smoke.


    Somewhere around the impressively forbidding Gothic Schoenbrun Palace  

(architect: Fisher von Ehrlich), I lost Siggy in the crowd of en vogue  

boulevardiers and fashionistas with ponytails while I continued my  

architectural waltz past monuments such as are covered in my Berlitz  

Guide. And at last I started waltzing back to my “Zimmer” (private  

room) in the Centrum, whose “comedia dell arte” common room served  

5-euro coffee and “Streissekooken” for mostly impecunious backpackers  

and Roma (gypsy) musicians, even though it didn’t make my Top Twelve  

List. . . .

(Page 3 of 6)
Last modified on Friday, 02 May 2014

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