My Trip to Vienna: A Sampling of Tortes

By: Martha Goss (JD, ’13)

As soon as I heard about Wake’s study abroad destinations, I knew which city I would choose: Vienna.  My well-travelled grandmother always named Vienna as her favorite city in the world so it had been a goal of mine to visit for years.  The city’s rich history and culture, as well as the opportunity to take classes alongside Viennese law students, appealed to me.  Another plus is that nearly everyone in Vienna can speak English.  In preparation for living in Vienna, I read several guidebooks, researched the city online, and watched shows on the Travel Channel.  I noticed a common statement reappearing in the travel guides: Vienna is known for its “coffeehouse culture,” which means great coffee & desserts, especially tortes!

Every Viennese café I visited offered a signature dessert and usually a signature coffee drink.  I sampled the Café Central torte and Café Central coffee inside the elegant Café Central (shown in photos), the Mozart torte and Mozart coffee on the patio at Café Mozart, and Landtmann’s feine torte and The Landtmann coffee in the glass sunroom at Café Landtmann.  Notice a pattern here?  While the names given to specialties at the various cafes reveals a consistent naming model, each coffee shop has cultivated a distinct atmosphere for relaxing and enjoying Vienna.

My favorite café in Vienna was Café Hawelka, located in District I at Dorotheergasse 6.  With its dim lighting, wood paneling, and art collection, this coffee shop felt the most authentically Viennese to me.  The founder of the Café Hawelka turned one-hundred years old this past April, but still occasionally comes to the café to greet the patrons.  The café is now run by his son and grandsons.  The Café Hawelka’s nearly illegible “menu” is scrawled on a chalkboard so I ordered the Wiener mélange, which is served basically everywhere in Vienna and is similar to a cappucino.  At 10 o’clock sharp every night, the café serves fresh buchtein, a fluffy roll-like pastry filled with plum preserves.  Delicious!

The quintessential Viennese dessert is the famous Sachertorte, a chocolate cake with apricot jam between the layers.  The Hotel Sacher and Café Demel fought a 9-year legal battle, which ended in an out-of-court settlement, over the right to claim “The Original Sachertorte”.  The Viennese take their desserts seriously!  I enjoyed a slice of “The Original” at the Hotel Sacher.  It’s served with a generous helping of whipped cream to complement the dry torte.  I did not try Café Demel’s version since I deduced that I am not a Sachertorte fan, but there were many other delectable tortes to choose from, so there is definitely no need for torte reform in Vienna!

-Martha Goss

Martha Goss is currently a Wake Forest University School of Law J.D. candidate, and will graduate in 2013. She participated in the Vienna Study Abroad program in the summer of 2011.