If you close your eyes and start thinking about what might be typically Austrian, then it won‘t be long before you hear the discreet clinking of coffee cups on saucers, become aware of the aroma of fresh cakes, pastries and jam, or the tempting smell of a freshly cooked schnitzel. Cities full of cultural highlights, such as the much-loved operas and classical concerts performed to the highest standards behind imposing baroque edifices. Historical arenas that evoke a range of emotions from visitors on account of the tragedies they have witnessed, or simply because of their beauty. All things that come to mind whenever people think about Austria. But the country has much more to offer apart from its wonderfully imperturbable culture or the combination of creaking wooden floorboards and rustling of old newspapers.
Austria is a multi-faceted country in which the generations wage an inconspicuous but bitter cultural struggle. No matter that the locals would rather not face it, but it‘s a fact that Austria is not immune to the constant pressure for change. This is evident in many areas of life, none more so than in Austrian coffee- house culture. It was this very culture that made the Alpine country world famous in 2011 when it was awarded world heritage status.
The unwavering coffee-house culture
The start of the coffee-house culture is steeped in legend; for many years, no one really knew when it all began. But now, with the help of historical documents and much painstaking research, the mystery has been solved. The first coffee house was opened by an Armenian in 1685. Shortly thereafter, the Greeks obtained the monopoly to serve coffee. The black gold went down very well amongst Austrian gentlemen and the well-known coffee- house culture began to emerge. For a long time, coffee was not ordered using today‘s familiar terms such as „Melange“ or „kleiner Brauner“, but by its colour. The salons became famous for their characteristically smoky atmospheres and the popular card or dice games that coffee drinkers amused themselves with as they whiled away the hours.
They developed steadily and unobtrusively over the centuries; many Austrian celebrities were avowed coffee-house philosophers, among them Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Leon Trotzky. However, even they were unable to halt the march of time. The coffee houses started their sad decline in the 50s. The demise of the traditional culture was offset for a while by the emergence of modern espresso bars. Some of these cultural treasures have managed to successfully defend their preserves through to the modern day. With the rustic fixtures and fittings of the traditional coffee house, and a head waiter sporting a tailcoat, many visitors enjoy being transported back a couple of centuries whenever they cross the threshold of such an establishment.
The younger generation of Austrians has developed its very own style. Not for them the gloomy furnishings and gentlemen in tailcoats, but enthusiastic support for young, local entrepreneurs who have taken the plunge into self- employment and follow the latest trends. For Austrians, however, the coffee house will always remain a place where one can sit for hours over a single cup of coffee. Engrossed in a pseudo-philosophical discussion about one‘s neighbours or lost in thought while gazing deeply into the frothy milk. Notwithstanding the coffee culture of the towns and cities, which changes with the times, a quite different type of culture has evolved in the mountains and valleys of Austria.
The villages and their attachment to their traditions
Like Austria’s towns and cities, its villages also harbour their own traditions. Some of these customs are fading quietly into the past, others are enjoying a remarkable comeback.
Many everyday heroes, who master their daily challenges attired “in a shirt or a blouse”, have a secret passion (one that is perhaps not as secret as it might be). As soon as the working day is behind them, they strip off their respectable disguises and slip into their superhero outfit: the traditional costume of their music society. This is like a second skin to many Austrians and something of which they are very proud. The affinity that many young Austrians in particular exemplify is an important pillar of national culture. The traditional costume itself stands in stark contrast to the gaudy dirndls and “lederhosen” that visitors like to buy for events. Traditional costume in this sense has nothing to do with fashionable trends or glitter, it demonstrates very clearly the deep solidarity with the native country. However, this solidarity does not stand in the way of change, a change that has manifested itself in even the smallest villages in the remotest parts of the country. Players take up their cornets and flutes with a sense of pride, regardless of whether it’s to play at a traditional festival in the village or at the hugely popular folk music festival, “Woodstock der Blasmusik” [the “Woodstock of brass band music”]. As soon as the call of the horn is heard, the brass band fans are up and on their way. It soon becomes clear to a visitor that this community is akin to a huge family that shares a common passion, one that is frequently enjoyed with friends and neighbours, and any number of Austrian specialities.
The Austrian’s food and drink
Austria has much more to offer in addition to the familiar favourites of roast pork, schnitzel and apple strudel. Especially in the tranquil wine-growing areas. Wine-growing has a rich tradition in Austria, particularly in the eastern parts the country. However, this tradition has also seen changes and improvements over the years. Prior to the 1980s, wine was mass-produced and sold in 2 litre bottles. More and more winegrowers then decided to put the emphasis on quality, a decision that has been amply rewarded. Their vines are now reaping the fruits of this success in the shape of international renown and a growth in the tourist trade. However, anyone who enjoys a tipple of the finest red or white wines will be very familiar with the “Heuriger”. The Heuriger culture in Austria is unique and extremely popular, as it is well known for its unpretentious and relaxed approach towards cooking. The “Buschenschank” was originally an open stall where growers sold their own wine. It quickly became apparent that anyone who wanted to drink more wine also needed something to eat in between times. An enormous range of regional, home-cooked meals were produced, each based on local recipes. The small but distinctive differences between the various “Buschenschanken” were determined by the respective regions in which they were located. The best regional wines will be found in the traditional wine taverns, although there won’t be any in a “Mostheuriger”. These traditional taverns will only be found in the fruit growing areas, as what they specialise in is apple cider and perry (or juice for the joungsters). These specialities are particularly in demand in the states of Upper Austria and Lower Austria. What remains unquestioned is the tradition of the “Heuriger”, local wine taverns in whose blossoming gardens Austrians like to spend a significant part of the summer. They are the glue that brings neighbours together to share the traditions and become part of the community, be it in the smallest villages or in the suburbs of the cities. In the centre of the country, where tradition, culture and scenery unite in the most beautiful fashion, lies the world of the complete machining centres of WFL Millturn Technologies.
Traditional Austrian coffee house in Linz, Upper Austria
(Rufling 31, 4060 Leonding) Classical tavern
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