Charm is an elusive quality, a mix of beauty, setting, an appeal to the heart. Something precious. Even in Vienna, it should never be taken for granted.

Hence the fears over the fate of the Café-Restaurant Cobenzl on the Kahlenberg. Longtime manager Olaf Auer was finally evicted by the City of Vienna in March, after a protracted legal battle, and the project has been put out for bid.

“We want something more in step with the times (zeitgemäß),” city councilor Ulli Sima (SPÖ) told the press.

Auer was furious, calling accusations that the building was “dilapidated” unfair: “This assessment is something she just imagined, without once visiting the place,” he complained to Der Standard. In reply, the councilor’s office replied tersely that “dilapidated is an understatement.”

In a sense, they’re both right. Auer’s Cobenzl presided in faded glory over the sweeping vineyards below, an endearingly shabby alt-Wiener mini-Schloss graced with a broad terrace and balustrade and stone steps down to a garden. Yes, it had gone to seed a bit but, handled the right way, such a place has ineffable charm. And then there’s the wretched glassed-in 50s disaster at the side that deserves any fate the city has planned for it.

Vienna loyalists are praying that Fr. Sima’s idea of zeitgemäß won’t end up with a monster like the Modul University-Kahlenberg Hotel building, flopped like a beached whale on a once a gentle picnic spot and public outlook, trading Würstelstand for fast food, Gasthaus for gourmet that few visitors can afford.

District Commissioner Adolf Tiller (ÖVP) is equally concerned and is watching developments closely. “Don’t worry,” he told Metropole. “Nothing will happen to the Schloss. We would never allow it.”

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Dardis McNamee is the Editor in Chief of METROPOLE. Over a long career in journalism she has written for The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler in New York, the Wall Street Journal Europe and Die Zeit in Vienna, as well as having been a speechwriter to two US ambassadors to Austria. She was awarded the 2007 Kemper Award for Excellence in Teaching for her work at the Department of Media Communications for Webster University Worldwide. In 2010, she was granted Austrian Citizenship of Honor (Ehrenstaatsbürgerschaft) for outstanding contributions to the Austrian Republic
  • Brian

    Not to mention Leopoldsberg. The cafe and church have been closed for eight years. There is now erosion, by ‘convenient access’ and lazy, half baked commerce, over the quiet, rustic charm of winding ancient walkways. A well earnt coffee or snack at the end of a rigorous, reflective walk was once the order of the day. The region is in the process of becoming a fun park.