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Cafes of Vienna

I have learned a very interesting story about how coffee became known and popular in Vienna. It all started in the 17th century, when coffee arrived in Vienna during the Ottoman Empire’s siege of the city (1683). People in Vienna found the coffee bean sacks left from the Ottomans, and they thought they were some kind of food for camels. Afterwards Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki, who was an Austrian soldier that was captured by the Ottomans, processed the beans just as he learned from them. He opened up the first coffee shop in Austria.

Austrians have loved coffee since the 17th century. The cafes in Austria became very popular in the 19th century thanks to the intellectuals, writers and musicians that liked gathering in cafes and spending time inside. After the 1950’s, due to the popularity of TVs and espresso bars, the cafes of Vienna started to close down one by one. There are still some very old and popular cafes in Vienna and we tried to visit them all.

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Cafe Central was the one we have visited every day, either for breakfast, or lunch, or just for a short break. It was opened in 1876, and had frequent visitors like Sigmund Freud, Leon Trotsky. It is said that when someone was looking for the famous poet Peter Altenberg, the answer they got was “He is either at Cafe Central, or on his way there.” Apparently he loved this cafe so much that he stated his address as Cafe Central for his mail, and today in the cafe there is a table with his statue on.

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Cafe Hawelka was one of the most remarkable cafes in Vienna. It was opened in 1939 by Leopold Hawelka and his wife. He passed away in 2011, when he was 100 years old. Today his children have taken over the business and they say that Leopold came to the cafe every day and welcomed visitors until he was 90 years old.

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We have eaten Apfelstrudel almost every day. The one we tried at Cafe Residenz, which is the cafe of Schönbrunn Palace, was really good. Another remarkable pastry of Vienna is Sachertorte. We tasted the best one in Cafe Griensteidl in Hofburg which opened at 1847.

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Cafe Maria Treu at Josefstadt was one of the cafes we visited by coincidence when taking a break in between museum visits. It was a great cosy place to warm up with good coffee.

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The thing I love about the cafes in Vienna is that they are not just places to drink coffee or meet friends, but the culture themselves. There is no rush to enjoy your time in there, no matter how long people are waiting in the queue to get a table. There are newspapers and magazines in every cafe, and you can sit inside as long as you wish. This helps people to spend valuable time in there and be creative. I appreciate this slow and calm cafe culture a lot.

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