Vienna: cafe culture amid the poster wars

While I was on my way back from Bournemouth, Rich was still busy with a work conference in Vienna. And this weekend we met up there to enjoy the city on a short post-conference break.

Vienna may be the small capital of a small country, but it has more than its fair share of grand palaces from its imperial past. We enjoyed touring the state apartments and the Sissi museum in the Hofburg, and also visited the Leopold museum of modern art to see the Klimt. I hadn’t realised how much 1918 was an end of an era for Vienna – not just the end of empire, but also the deaths of Klimt, Schiele, and the city planner Wager.

On Saturday night we went to a performance of Brahms’ Deutsches Requiem in the Stephandom. The concert was in aid of the cathedral restoration funds, which made ‘How lovely is thy dwelling place’ seem particularly appropriate….

The weather was dreadful, but that gave us an excuse to duck into lots of different cafes. Café Europa on Karntnerstrasse (the main shopping street) is chic and modern; Café Raimund in the Museumquarter is the opposite – a hundred years old, cosy and wood-panelled. We also enjoyed the Café Oper Wien, in the Opera house, where you can see (though not hear) the current production on plasma screens.

It’s a standing joke that wherever we go on holiday, Rich & I never escape elections; and sure enough, Austria was in campaign mode. The Greens had a marquee outside the Opera house, complete with internet café and bar, while the Social Democrats had heavily logoed cars driving around.

There were huge posters everywhere for the different party leaders. The only woman leader appears to be the LIF’s Heide Schmidt, a refreshing contrast to some of the scary nationalists on offer. Although I’m not entirely sure about ‘love me or LIF me’ as a slogan.


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