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This Old Coffeehouse, Vienna

by Darrell Hartman

This Old Coffeehouse, Vienna

The Viennese coffeehouse Sperl.

While away the hours at an old-fashioned coffeehouse in Vienna, the birthplace of the coffee clutch. Darrell Hartman and Orlando Gili capture the spirit of the Austrian institution.

AUSTRIA – This is a film we shot last summer in Vienna. I directed and produced, and brought a great cinematographer named Orlando Gili over from London to shoot it. We had an awesome time soaking up the atmosphere in Austria's old coffeehouses, and retiring to our room at the beautiful and very modern Park Hyatt, smack in the middle of the historic center.

Long before this trip, which was my first to Vienna, I'd heard wonderful things about the city's old coffeehouses. Vienna is a city that holds onto its past: a grand, civilized past of symphonies and operas, waltzes and Christmas markets. There's something a little less grand and occasion-making, but just as special, about the coffeehouses. There they sit, unchanged, open to everyone. There's no music, just the hum of espresso makers, echoes of hushed voices, clinking of spoons on ceramic cups. It really is like being transported into another world. You're drinking, reading, texting, whatever, within a living monument, not some museum where everything's simply on display.

I love that these places keep up the tradition of offering daily newspapers available to read, even though it must cost them heaps. We shot in three different coffeehouses: Hawelka, Sperl, and Centrale. Gunther Hawelka (of Hawelka) and Manfred Staub (of Sperl) were our characters. It was a real pleasure to hear their stories and learn about the dedication it takes to keep these old-fashioned places running. 

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Darrell is a freelance writer based in New York City. His articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Departures, Afar, Travel + Leisure, and other outlets. He is co-founder of the website Jungles in Paris. He travels for mental stimulation and for a change of air.

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