In Secrets of Paris, Vernon Coleman writes, ‘London invented coffee houses but abandoned them. Today, only Vienna has cafes which match those of Paris.’ Well said, Vernon – I shall take a brandy immediately, to fortify myself for the day ahead.
First stop, Cafe Leopold Hawelka, a dimly lit cafe in central Vienna. It’s perfect for a brief, four-hour morning respite from sightseeing. Aah, the swirling curlicues of a mixed drink; the charms of elbow-worn sofas; a proper rest. By the way, I prefer to call it meditation, not sleep.
Aha! The bow-tied waiter returns, noting my nebulous figure in the gloom and turns on the overhead reading light. Bollocks, it’s more of a spotlight and rapidly puts paid to my furtively eyeing the heavily rouged woman at a nearby table. Still, there is a splendid selection of newspapers instead.
I rather fancy myself as a proper writer sitting here, you know. A poetical doodle here, a contrarian scribble there. But such highbrow sentiments are quickly supplanted by a realised need to pay the mortgage. Back to the lorry, then, and c’est la vie. Oh, well.
Now, you’ll be pleased to know – if you puff like a coal power station – that smoking is allowed in most places in Austria. Restaurants, bars, you name it – it seems to rival Vegas. If you don’t – and hate washing jumpers each morning – then I’ve deliberately picked two establishments that are non-smoking: Cafe Hawelka and Jazzland, a little club on the Danube.
The latter is where I was lucky enough to catch Hans Theessink, a Dutch bluesman. Wow, what a voice that guy has. Regardless of who’s playing, though, the black and white photos of jazz legends adorning the walls is more than enough to warrant entrance…
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