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The story of the Cafe Griensteidl

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Karl Krauss and Arthur Schnitzler. Camillo Sitte and Stefan Zweig. Politicians, artists and musicians all did the same. And so did many others: they all were there. During the 1848 revolution, it was renamed the “National Café” and later it became known as the “Literaturkaffeehaus”. We are talking about the famous Café Griensteidl, located in the Michaelerplatz, just meters away from the Vienna Hofburg.

The Café Griensteidl opened its doors in 1847 in the ground floor of the Dietrichsteinpalais (build in 1815). The owner of the Café was the pharmacist Heinrich Griensteidl who never owned a pharmacy in Vienna, but had a permit to own a café. During its lifetime, the Café Griensteidl became the meeting point of many writers and intellectuals. It also became famous for its large number of newspapers. However, the Café Griensteidl closed its doors in 1897.  Not voluntarily, it seems. The Dietrichsteinpalais changed ownership and its demolition was decided. In 1899 the new Herbersteinpalais opened its doors, but without the Café Griensteidl.

This event prompted the young Austrian writer Karl Kraus to write a series of essays in 1896/1897 entitled “Die demolirte Literatur” that started with the famous sentence “Wien wird jetzt zur Großstadt demolirt” (“Vienna is being demolished into a major city”). Krauss stated that with the fall of the old houses the last memories are also gone.  He also complained that literature was now homeless, as the Café Griensteidl had been the literary hub for all writers and intellectuals.

But after a little bit more than 90 years, like a phoenix, it rose again: in 1990 the Café Griensteidl’s doors were re-opened. This time its lifetime was shorter, however, as after only 27 years the Café Griensteidl will close once more on June 28, 2017. An expensive rent is mentioned as the reason for this decision. When the Café Griensteidl closed its doors for the first time 120 years ago, some of its frequent visitors found a new home in the Café Central. It is likely that, for the second time, customers will also find a new place to visit. Unfortunately, Vienna loses once again a historical café. But not all is lost. Perhaps, in 90 years the Café Griensteidl will make another come back, as phoenixes tend to do.