In the late 1890's -- especially in Vienna -- they answered that question this way: "You may study there, you may play, chat, sleep, negotiate, blather about politics, haggle, canvass, devise plots, intrigues and entertainments, read papers and journals." And who were its chief habitués, those it was truly made for? Peter Altenberg, a master of the 'small prose' style of the city and period, put it this way:
"You have troubles, this or that -- to the coffee-house! She can't visit you, for some reason, however plausible -- to the coffee-house! Your boots are torn -- coffee-house! You earn 400 Kronen and spend 500 -- coffee-house! You're an employee and would have liked to be a doctor -- coffee-house! You can't find a woman to suit you -- coffee-house! You're inwardly ready for suicide -- coffee-house! You hate and disdain your fellow human beings yet cannot do without them -- coffee-house! You're no longer allowed credit anywhere -- coffee-house!"
Whether you are one of these or unlike them all, here today and gone tomorrow, or someone who returns from time to time, Welcome . . . to humanity.