vienna coffeehouse conversations

Visitors to the Austrian capital now have an opportunity to get to know the Viennese from a totally different angle. Informal Vienna Coffeehouse Conversations bring together locals and tourists for an evening meal and coffee accompanied by stimulating conversation in that quintessentially Viennese environment: the coffeehouse.  (Organizers were inspired by Viennese coffeehouse culture, which was added to the UNESCO list of intangible cultural assets in 2011.) A special “question menu” inspires the newly acquainted companions to talk about travel, friendship, and family as they enjoy a three-course dinner together in one of a pair of Vienna’s most popular coffeehouses, the Adolph Loos-designed Café Museum and Café Am Heumarkt, a bohemian relic from another era. Conversation-based meals have become a quirky trend in travel, having popped up at street festivals and art galleries from London to Singapore in recent years and even finding their way into the world economic forum in Davos. Think of it as a blind date with guaranteed benefits – or at least a great cup of coffee.



Viennese architects Kohlmayr Lutter Knapp have come up with an adaptive new use for the empty retail spaces dotting the Austrian capital: hotel rooms. Mostly around 250 square feet in size, the small disused shops are being converted into street level lofts nicknamed Urbanauts. The master plan calls for different Urbanauts clustered together in one neighborhood making up a decentralized hotel, with services dotted around the area: the coffeehouse next door is the breakfast room, the hammam across the street is the spa, and the hotel bar is that trendy watering hole around the corner. Amenities and local tips are plotted on a map provided in the room. And the lobby? It’s the whole city. The concept is designed to offer guests a real feel for the surrounding urban space, and an alternative to the run-of-the-mill tourist traps. Guests step out of their room right onto the sidewalk, but the spaces still offer a private and convenient retreat for travelers. Guests can decide how much of the view outwards – and inwards – to reveal, using a clever blind system. And as part of the emphasis on locality, artists from the immediate environs are invited to design the rooms. Rates top out at around €120 per night per Urbanaut, including breakfast and the use of two bicycles. Space helmets not included.


wish list: in vino vibrato

Sonor Wines is the brainchild of Viennese food and wine expert – and horn player – Markus Bachmann. His pioneering method exposes wine to music during fermentation – a process that, according to its inventor, refines the finished product. Bachmann explains that once in the steel fermentation tanks, a biochemical reaction is set in motion by the tiny vibrations triggered by sound waves. He also believes that varieties of wine which have been treated using this technique contain less sugar, have a fuller flavor and are more drinkable. Different genres of music are also said to give the wines different characteristics. In principle, this means any type of music can be used, from symphonic works to hunters’ classics, waltz and polka melodies and even Viennese folk sounds like Schrammelmusik. The process has been put to the test in Vienna’s Wienbauschule Klosterneuburg on a Grüner Veltliner, but no reports yet on whether it bears similar results to playing Mozart in utero. However, a number of leading growers have taken the plunge and put the new approach into practice, including Vienna-based producers Peter Uhler and Franz-Michael Mayer, who have already bottled the first generation. If music be the food of wine, I say, play on.


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