Published  02/09/2003

Does Viennese cafe society still exist?

Does Viennese cafe society still exist?

Well, no, not the actual people of the fin de siècle: they are celebrated, 'Traum und Wirklichkeit' (Dream and Reality) inspired, in the art galleries. But half a dozen cafes still exist, mostly populated by tourists rather than architects, painters or writers. At Café Landtmann, once frequented by Sigmund Freud, the newspapers can still be read with no time constraints The Café Sperl, now over 120 years established, offers billiards and forbids mobile phones. The Braunerhof is close to the Hofburg, and in its characteristic booths, intellectual or amorous ambitions can still be fostered. Café Hawelka is still in the control of its 90-year-old proprietors, Josephine and Leopold Hawelka: the bar is open until 2 pm and drinks are served with various Viennese pastry concoctions. There are still works on the walls by artists so inspired by the coffee that the bill exceeded their resources. But Josephine still does her best to put singles together, an advance on the New York help yourself Swingles Bar. The Demel, like the renowned Hotel Sacher itself, is claimed to be the only other place where you can buy the Sachertorte. In architecture, Hans Hollein's now famous Haas Haus, close to the Stephanskirche, exists a contemporary realisation of all this, and more. For one can sit at a table at roof level, overlooking the superb roof of the cathedral. In fact, the architect himself is not infrequently found there, on one of the larger tables, with work in progress. After this probably fruitless quest, but well primed with caffeine, Studio International will seek out the new exhibitions to open shortly in Vienna for full in-depth coverage this autumn.

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