It’s said of Vienna’s cafés that you consume time and space, but only coffee appears on the bill. These are places to think and contemplate, to sit and read, to discuss the weighty matters of the day over a cup of coffee and a slice of cake.
One cup is enough.
The waiter will not hurry you, will not bring the bill until you ask for it. Sit here all afternoon, among the shabby, romantic grandeur, next to the billiard table, surrounded by the world’s newspapers and nobody will notice.
Dream, discuss, write, plot, conspire, just as Freud, Mozart, Stalin, Klimt, Wittgenstein, Schubert and the rest did before you, many in the same cafés, in the same booths, eating the same food and drinking the same coffee.
There’s a very real sense in Vienna that the course of world history, particularly in the twentieth century, pivoted around those streets. I feel this in Berlin, too, where a glance downwards catches a brass plaque bearing the names of Jewish people who used to live at that address, sent to their deaths at the hands of the Nazis. In Vienna, the same thing happens, a scene feels familiar, too familiar, and a quick Google reveals that you’re standing under the balcony from which Hitler addressed 200,000 people in 1938, a time when things fell apart.
There’s an eternal quality to Vienna. It’s seen horror and bloodshed, but it’s also shaped some of the world’s greatest thinkers and artists, a creative catalyst fueled by the murky grey waters of the Danube, and fermented in those wonderful cafés.