Perhaps one of the more shocking discoveries I made on my return visit to Vienna (I lived there as a student between 1993-1994) was the seemingly ubiquitous Starbucks Coffee bars. I counted at least four in the city and they were always crowded. But why? Vienna, after all, is the cafe capital (at least after taking the beans from the invading Turks in 1683) of Central Europe. In fact, I had a luscious Wachauer Torte at Cafe Central, where Trotsky had spent many hours plotting. How could a mocha latte ever compete with a Wiener Melange?
Some observations: The Austrians (and other Europeans) love the comfortable couches found at any Starbucks. They're big and PoMo and it probably reminds them of Friends. Coffee-to-go is still a relatively novel idea. Normally one sits at a cafe and a waiter brings you a metal tray with a melange on a saucer, some sugar cubes, and a glass of water with a teaspoon balanced on top of it. Then you read the newspaper, one page at a time, using one of those wood-framed newspaper holders. But as Europeans begin copying American habits like coffee on the run, Starbucks has filled in that niche (as did McDonald's for many years). And according to Bernadette, a student waitress working at the Starbucks on Kärntner Strasse, everyone loves the Frappuccino.
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