Viennese Coffee Culture & A Journey By Metro From Viking Odin

Visiting Viennese Coffee Houses

Viking Odin offered a broad selection of included tours this morning in Vienna. Our guide Wolfgang took 14 of us by metro from Viking Odin to Vienna’s city center, where we enjoyed a guided tour. Metro tickets were included in this excellent, complimentary tour. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Viking Odin offered a selection of included tours this morning in Vienna. Guests could choose from city walking tours of different paces, each prefaced by a one-hour bus tour — or we could do a guided Metro and City Tour. I opted for the latter.

Our personable and professional guide Wolfgang Hofler took 14 of us on the Vienna Metro from the ship to the city center, where he led us on a guided walking tour that lasted for about an hour and showed us to some of the city’s most significant sights.

Visiting Viennese Coffee Houses

Before returning to the ship by metro, we had an hour of free time, which allowed me to fulfill my goal of visiting a few of the Viennese coffee houses.

Visiting Viennese Coffee Houses

The facade of one of the oldest and most popular coffee houses in Vienna, Café Demel. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

I dropped into Café Sacher, home of the Sacher-Torte, arguably the world’s most famous chocolate cake. I had been there before and consumed too much of the cake on that visit, however, so I thought I would check out a few others.

I visited Café Demel, which boasts some of the best pastries in Vienna. It looked inviting, but I continued on.

I settled on Café Hawelka, which appealed to me because it had been written up as a meeting place for writers and artists. If only I had brought along that beret I bought in Paris.

Visiting Viennese Coffee Houses

Looking for a coffee house a bit less touristy than Cafe Sacher or Cafe Demel, I made my way to Cafe Hawelka, a gathering place for writers and artists. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

I found Café Hawelka down a small side street. The entrance was certainly less flashy than those of Café Sacher and Café Demel.

From appearances, in fact, I wasn’t even sure that the café was open. With some trepidation, I pushed the wooden door, which opened into a room so quiet that it made me feel as if I were interrupting something significant.

My fear of having blundered was broken when a waiter in a black jacket and bow tie welcomed me and invited me to have a seat at any open table.

Visitng Viennese Coffee Houses

At Cafe Hawelka, I enjoyed a Melange for €3.80. The coffee was delicious and staff professional and friendly. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Yesterday, on Viking Odin, the cruise director (his official title is Program Director) Marek gave a short presentation about Viennese Coffee Houses. Thanks to him, I felt confident ordering a Melange, which is like a cappuccino, dusted with either cinnamon, coco powder or coffee powder. I could also have ordered a Klein (small) or Groß (large) Braune (brown, with milk) or Schwartz (black, without milk).

Visiting Viennese Coffee Houses

I enjoyed the unrefined, cozy, atmosphere of Cafe Hawelka. There was no pressure to vacate tables. I could have stayed for hours. I was told that many Viennese do just that. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

A distinguished-looking man sat at a table reading a newspaper. At the table behind him, a young girl wrote intently in a red Moleskine notebook. At other tables, patrons talked in hushed voices over cups of coffee on silver trays. The setting was all that I had hoped it would be.

In Marek’s presentation yesterday, I also learned that more than 2,800 coffee houses have been opened in the Austrian city since the second Turkish Siege in 1683.

As I sat in Café Hawelka, I reflected on how happy I was to part of the Viennese coffee culture. It was not yet noon, and already, mine had been a wonderful day in Vienna — with so much more to come.

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