Travelling Suitcase: Coffee, Kafka

Travelling Suitcase: Coffee, Kafka

A look at some of the world’s most well-known literary cafés.

Café Louvre, Prague, Franz Kafka’s home,  Národní Trída (National Avenue), Bohemian Jewish novelist
Sipping on words: Franz Kafka used to frequent Café Louvre in Prague. (Source: Divya A)

Café Louvre, Prague

A small walk from Franz Kafka’s home leads you to the busy Národní Trída (National Avenue), which houses Café Louvre — where the celebrated Bohemian Jewish novelist used to sit on most evenings and measure his life in coffee spoons. The doors of the café opened in 1902. Since then, history has marched through Národní, and friendships, associations and novels have been created at its café tables. Though the pace of the times has quickened, at Café Louvre, they are not keen on testing any new items on the menu. Even today, one can enjoy the leisurely atmosphere of a historical, grand café, as Franz Kafka, Albert Einstein or TG Masaryk knew it. Long queues notwithstanding, the waiting staff here is in no hurry to serve you fast and bring the next set of customers to the table. Everything takes it own sweet time — even if it’s a cup of Maria Theresia (large espresso with orange liqueur and whipped cream) or even a 1/2-litre helping of tap water (for CZK 29).

Must Try: Home-made puff pastry sticks, mini dessert plate.

Café Louvre, Prague, Franz Kafka’s home,  Národní Trída (National Avenue), Bohemian Jewish novelist

Café Central, Vienna

While walking towards Michaelerplatz, the most touristy area of the city featuring the ruins of an ancient Roman wall, a large crowd can be startling in a city otherwise known to mind its business. It’s lunch time and the queue is building up for entry to Café Central, the most famous haunt for coffee lovers in Vienna since the time of Sigmund Freud, Leon Trotsky and Adolf Hitler. For coffee, cake and the odd cigar, some of the greatest poets, philosophers and storytellers have frequented this attractive kaffeehaus, which opened in 1876 in what was once the Vienna Stock Exchange. It is said that Café Central is the real centre of Vienna — and not St Stephen’s Cathedral — as many believe. The city’s best-known sights and museums and shopping streets — Graben and Kärntner Strasse — are all within easy walking distance. The menu includes a broad selection of classic Viennese dishes, traditional coffee specialities and sweet treats from the in-house patisserie.

Must try: Kaiserschmarrn, Wiener Schnitzel.

Café Louvre, Prague, Franz Kafka’s home,  Národní Trída (National Avenue), Bohemian Jewish novelist

Literaturnoe Kafe, St Petersburg

Established in 1816, Literaturnoe Kafe (or simply the Literary Café) is said to have been frequented by the likes of Fyodor Dostoevsky and Nikolay Chernyshevsky. No other restaurant has survived St. Petersburg’s dramatic and ever-changing 300-year-old history save this place. The café is also where celebrated Russian poet-novelist Alexander Pushkin had his final meal in 1837, before dying in a duel. So, it’s only fitting that the elegant two-storey building features a bust of Pushkin, along with the menu items that the late poet would often order. Literaturnoe Kafe is located at a walking distance from the St. Petersburg State University, crossing the Neva river and the Winter Palace.
Must try: Pancakes with salmon, lemonade.

Also visit: El-Fishawy Café in Cairo, Egypt; Caffe Reggio in New York City; The Elephant House in Edinburgh; Caffè Pedrocchi in Italy’s Padua; La Biela in Buenos Aires; La Rotonde in Paris.