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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

IN PICTURES: The Vienna coffee shop where phone-less visitors get a discount

Want a brief digital detox? This Austrian cafe employs pensioners that bake delicious cakes and offers breakfast, all with a 10 percent discount if you keep your phone locked away

Austria's Vollpension cafe offers the freedom only a phone in a cage can offer. Image: Amanda Previdelli
Austria's Vollpension cafe offers the freedom only a phone in a cage can offer. Image: Amanda Previdelli

The idea of enjoying the moment without distractions is a popular one, though not easy to achieve, especially with smartphones and screens surrounding us at all times.

To help people return to the days when a good cup of coffee and a delicious piece of pie could be savoured while talking with friends, Vienna’s Vollpension cafe has introduced quite the incentive: a 10 percent discount for those who lock their smartphones in aesthetic tiny cages and vaults during their stay.

“It is completely optional!” the waitress, one of the senior citizens that work in the shop, assures me. 

READ MORE: Cash and Schnapps: A guide to visiting pubs and cafes in Austria

Austria's Vollpension cafe. Image: Amanda Previdelli

Austria’s Vollpension cafe. Image: Amanda Previdelli

‘Grandma’s public living room’

Vollpension is already a well-known establishment in Vienna. The cafe is famous for its cosiness, living room-style decorations but, most of all, their employees.

Breakfasts and pies are prepared and baked by senior citizens, the “grandmas” (Omas, in German) and “grandpas” (Opas), who also serve the dishes and receive the guests. 

The name itself is a play on the cafe’s concept: Vollpension, or “full pension”, in German, refers to the kind of hotel stay that includes meals and the pension that Austrians receive from the government when they retire. 

The cafe calls itself “grandma’s public living room”. It aims to bridge the generation gap by mixing old and new together in one place. According to its website, the company employs 80 people; the youngest is 20 years old while the oldest is 84. 

One of the goals is to avoid the loneliness that many elderly people feel in big cities. Those who visit Vollpension, especially during those busy weekend mornings, can vouch that loneliness will not be an issue there.

Phones locked in cages at Austria's Vollpension cafe. Image: Amanda Previdelli

Phones locked in cages at Austria’s Vollpension cafe. Image: Amanda Previdelli

Enjoying time

The philosophy of valuing time is a big one in the coffee shop. The menus are divided by time rather than by food. 

Guests can order “30min coffees” for €5.90, for example. That would include unlimited hot drinks (coffee, tea, hot chocolate) and cold drinks (homemade lemonade, iced tea, sparkling water with lemon). 

READ MORE: How to drink coffee like an Austrian

Breakfast combos with several options, including vegetarian and vegan options, can also be ordered based on time: 60, 90, or 120-minute breakfast. 

The playful menu, both in English and German, shows a variety of combinations. One thing is for sure, though: the pies and cakes, baked by grandmas and grandpas in the open kitchen areas, are always a hit among guests.

As they reopen after a long lockdown period and pandemic break (Vienna’s 2G rules for gastronomy apply), a new tool to help patrons enjoy their time there. 

The staff tells us that the 10% promotion for those who lock their phones in cages has been a hit. It shows: the cafe, which has indoor (very popular) and outdoor seating (quite empty as temperatures are still low), was packed on Saturday.

Not a cell phone in sight. Wish I could go back (well you can). Image: Amanda Previdelli

Not a cell phone in sight. Wish I could go back? Well you can! Image: Amanda Previdelli

An early morning on Sunday guaranteed us a spot, but by 10am, the place was already filled again, with the grandmas going up and down the tight but cosy Vollpension to welcome, serve, and chat with people.

They were all warm, sweet and funny, but still business-like with their busy shifts and helpful tablets. 

READ MORE: The best spots to recharge on the weekend in Vienna

You can reserve a spot, but only half of the sitting is available for reservations, as they prefer to always be able to have people come in spontaneously.

A perfect place to enjoy Austrian Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) culture on a comfortable sofa and no screens allowed.

The vintage decor in Vienna's Vollpension cafe. Image: Amanda Previdelli

The vintage decor in Vienna’s Vollpension cafe. Image: Amanda Previdelli

Vollpension

Schleifmühlgasse 16

A–1040 Wien

+43 676 637 81 06 (Mo-Fr, 11am – 1pm)

Sunday-Thursday: 08am – 8pm, Fr, Sa, Holidays: 08am – 10pm

  • Some of the staff (including the seniors) speak English
  • Children are welcome
  • Dogs are welcome, are patted and get water bowls
  • Phones less welcome, but allowed
  • Several payment options

Useful vocabulary

Kuchen – cakes

Frühstück – breakfast

Heissgetränke – hot drinks

Aufstriche – spread

Ei – egg

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WEATHER

Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

With violent storms becoming increasingly common in Austria, here’s how to protect yourself (and your home) this summer.

Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

Storms are a regular occurrence in Austria during the summer months, but the strength and frequency seems to be increasing.

Overnight on Tuesday, June 28th, both the Pöllinger and the Treffner rivers in Carinthia burst their banks causing widespread flooding, mudslides and damage across the region.

Reports on Wednesday morning said the villages of Treffen am Ossiacher See and Arriach (Villach-Land district) were still metres under water and several people had been rescued from the deluge.

READ ALSO: Who to call and what to say in an emergency in Austria

According to ORF, emergency services were still struggling to reach some areas and there were unconfirmed reports of missing people.

A Tweet from Unwetter-Freaks said: “Bad pictures from #Arriach in #Kärnten , which was hit by several storm cells last night. According to ORF, the place is currently cut off from the outside world and cannot be reached by the emergency services.”

Earlier this week, rural areas in Upper Austria were also hit by storms (overnight, June 27th) bringing torrential rain and hail the size of golf balls, which caused extensive damage to crops and grassland in the key agricultural state.

READ ALSO: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

The Klaus reservoir had to be drained of 200 cubic metres of water to avoid flooding and trees were brought down across the province by wind gusts – some up to 91 km/h.

The Kronen Zeitung reports the storm caused damage to around 16,000 hectares of agriculture land, with insurers estimating the cost to be up to €6.5 million.

One Tweet showed the size of the hail on Monday night and read: “In the night we had ‘light’ hail.”

Storms then hit the region again on Tuesday night leading to a lightning strike on a hay barn in the Mühlviertel and the flooding of an underground car park in Linz.

With the summer season far from over and the possibility of more wild weather in the coming months, here’s how to stay safe during storms in Austria.

FOR MEMBERS: When and where to avoid driving in Austria this summer

Check the weather report

It might sound obvious, but checking the weather forecast should be at the top of the list of summer storm preparations.

Unlike in the past, weather reports are now typically reliable, and apps like Bergfex and Accuweather are well-known for providing detailed forecasts and weather warnings.

However, long-range forecasts can change quickly, so if you’re planning a camping or hiking trip, be sure to check the weather between 24 and 48 hours before to avoid being caught out.

Additionally, the Österreichischen Unwetterzentrale (Austrian Severe Weather Centre) has regular updates about storms and weather forecasts for Austria and users can sign up for email and SMS notifications.

Stay indoors

According to the organisation, Die Helfer Wiens (The Helpers of Vienna) one of the biggest risks during a storm is being hit by a fallen tree or flying debris.

For this reason, they advise people (and pets) to stay indoors during a storm and close all windows and doors. 

If staying in a tent or campervan, it’s also a good idea to seek shelter in a building (if possible) until the storm has passed.

However, if you are outside during lightning, the Austrian Red Cross says the best approach is to crouch down into a ball to reduce the amount of contact you have with the floor.

READ MORE: How to keep your apartment cool in Austria this summer amid rising energy prices

Stay away from the cellar

Cellars and underground car parks can quickly become flooded during heavy rain – as seen in recent storms in Upper Austria and Carinthia, and last year during violent storms across Austria.

Flash flooding can happen quickly (the clue is in the name), so stay away from cellars and underground spaces during a storm and call the emergency services if you suspect a flood in your home.

Remove plants and furniture from balconies

Having plants and flowers on a balcony is a lovely way to brighten up an outside space, but they risk being damaged during a storm.

To safeguard your pots and lovingly-planted flora, move them inside – especially during a thunderstorm with strong wind gusts and lightning.

The same applies to any outdoor furniture that could be damaged by wind or hail, like cushions, decorative objects and sun umbrellas.

Park cars under shelter

Hail is one of the leading causes of dents to bodywork on cars and damage to windscreens, both of which can be costly to repair.

If hail is forecast during a storm, park a car in a garage or under shelter, if possible. 

If strong wind is expected, then avoid parking a car under trees as debris, or even the tree itself, could end up landing on the vehicle.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: How Austria banned everyone from the forest for 123 years

Don’t go into the forest

Whether walking or driving, the best advice is to stay from the forest or areas with lots of trees during a storm.

While sheltering under a tree can protect from rain or hail, lightning or strong wind can bring down trees. This makes the forest a dangerous place to be in a storm.

But if you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of being in a forest when a thunderstorm hits, stay away from low branches and tree trunks and crouch down low. Place any walking sticks or metal poles away from you and stay away from metal fences.

Avoid risky activities

Certain outdoor activities are especially hazardous if there’s a lightning storm. 

Any activity in an open area or that puts you into contact with water or metal is strongly advised against. So that means fishing, swimming, boating, cycling and golfing are out until the storm is over. 

Keep torches and candles ready

Power cuts are common during storms, so keep a stock of candles and torches ready in case you end up without electricity for several hours.

It’s also a good idea to have a portable USB charger to make sure your phone doesn’t run out of battery during an emergency.

Who to call in an emergency

These are the numbers to call if you need help from the Austrian emergency services during a storm.

122 – fire service (Feuerwehr).

133 – police (Polizei).

144 – ambulance (Krankenwagen or Rettungswagen).

120 – ÖAMTC emergency breakdown service.

123 – ARBÖ emergency breakdown service.

140 – mountain rescue.

Finally, 112 is the single European emergency number, whose operators will direct you to the relevant services. This number can even be called on a locked mobile phone without needing the pin.

Find out more with The Local’s guide on who to call and what to say in an emergency.

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