Chapter Notes

Chapter 17: Cafes of the Belle Epoque


La Belle Epoque

The late 19th century saw a flowering of café culture throughout Europe but most especially in France, Germany and Austro-Hungary. This happened in conjunction with the industrial transformation that stimulated a modernisation of the city landscape by a new class of wealthy merchants and entrepreneurs. In both Western and Central Europe,

Cafe Griensteidl in Vienna

It was especially in the cities of the short lived Austro-Hungarian Empire – Vienna, Budapest, Prague – where cafés played a vital role of bringing together the multicultural phantasmagoria that came with the many and various peoples drawn from the steppes of Crimea, Ruthenia, Moravia, Bosnia and the Ukraine.

19th Century Budapest Cafe

As Georges Mikes commented in his splendid introduction to a photographic tour entitled The Coffeehouses of Europe, the Central European coffeehouse wasn't merely a place; it was a way of life.

Worker's Cafe Paris

The smaller workers' cafés stood out in stark contrast to the grand cafés whose well-dressed clientele displayed themselves like haughty peacocks bathed in gas-lit celebrity.

Paris Dome

Parisian bohemia at the fin de siecle created a mythology of paint splattered canvasses exchanged for coffee and brandy by dirt-poor artists living one day to the next at the behest of kind-hearted patrons who subsidised their drinking habits.


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