Berlin continues to enjoy Victorian ‘coffee and cake’ culture

Cafe Leon in Hasenheide in Neukoln, a famed spot for a cake and coffee in Berlin

IN THE EARLY part of the 20th Century, visits to the local coffee house became more and more popular with the traditionally sociable Berliners.

Drinking strong, very bitter coffee and watching the world go-by became part of the daily routine for many in the metropolis.

Next to the well-known establishments like Cafe Bauer, Cafe Josty and the plus Kaiserhof, new cafes sprouted up like mushrooms around the turn of the century.

A connoisseur of the coffee house scene writes about the “Certain Something”, the Berlin cafes opposite the Viennese coffee house.

“In Berlin large halls with stucco columns, colossal mirrors and wall paintings were built for the Viennese cafe … But Berlin has its own kind of Cafes, these are the ones that were originally Konditoreien and that are still associated with such. The Berliner always loves to eat a piece of cake for coffee or tea … That is quite foreign to the Viennese,” he said.

Indeed, in the cafes, the good natured Burgundians sat with their daughters, leafing through the weeklies, licking cakes … and every now and then, a lover was involved in a secretive rendezvous… At the turn of the century, the famed Josty at Potsdamer Platz was the place for the ‘smart’ rendezvous.

Near Steidl, in the confectionery district, pompously dressed men in elegant coats and costumes meet for food…and plenty of it.

Cafe Josty had an important story, as it became an  important meeting place for artists, especially of the movements of Expressionism and the New Objectivity.

Paul Boldt described the appearance of the cafe in a well-known 1912 sonnet. Erich Kästner used the cafe as the setting for an important scene in the children’s book Emil und die Detektive.

The cafe closed in 1930, and the building was destroyed in World War II. In Wim Wenders’ film Wings of Desire, an old man attempts to find the location of the cafe but fails.