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Drink up, Vienna style!

Sam Stryker | Tuesday, October 4, 2011

When students studying in Europe think of travel destinations in the month of October, one usually pops up: Oktoberfest in Munich. However, to the south of the popular Bavarian destination lies another city with an equally rich beverage culture — Vienna.

Vienna is home to two institutions centered on social drinking: the heuriger and the kaffeehaus.

Heurigen are wine producers, specializing in a type of wine called “sturm,” which is in the fermentation stage. “Heurig” actually means “this year” in the Austro-German dialect. In addition to wine, heuriger serve traditional Viennese fare, such as wienerschnitzel and apfelstrudel. Unlike regular restaurants, heurigen are not run every day of the year. Rather, they indicate they are open for business by hanging conifer or fir twigs over their entrance.

Traditionally, Heurigen are located outside of the main city, however my friends and I went to Zwoelf Apostelkeller, located in the main city. Architectural foundations of this heuriger date to around 1100.

Kaffeehauses are very different from the stereotypical Starbucks in America. Customers stay for hours, and waiters even bring cold water unrequested, so guests should not feel obliged to hurry along to leave for another patron. The first Viennese Kaffeehaus was opened in 1685, and by the late 19th and early 20th centuries the leading writers, artists, and thinkers of the time, including Gustav Klimt, Theodor Herzl, and Leon Trotsky met to write and exchange ideas.

The kaffeehaus we decided to sit down at, Café Sacher, is not known just for its drink but also for its food. Since 1832, the café has been churning out the legendary Sacher Torte, two layers of chocolate cake with apricot jam inside, coated with chocolate icing. There are only four locations in the world selling the original, and we were lucky enough to try the real deal!