What’s in a Name – an Awful Lot of History
Größenwahn. The German word for megalomania. But there’s no need to worry before visiting us whether you’re letting yourself in for an encounter with what is the most productive side to the human psyche, as the one or other has claimed down through time, or in fact simply our most destructive side. Because “Cafe Größenwahn” is simply a standing term. It’s long since been part of the vernacular and has a long-standing history dating back to the late 19th century, when the locals used the label to describe Vienna’s “Cafe Griendsteidel”, which stood directly opposite the Hofburg. The locals found it most appropriate as a name, because the “Griendsteidl” was frequented, indeed was soon an infamous water-hole of the titans of Austrian literature, who debates or argued until deep into the night, dreaming up new worlds, or losing sight of them again in the coffee cup or wine glass. And the list includes Arthur Schnitzler, Karl Kraus, Hugo von Hoffmansthal, Fritz Kreisler, Arnold Schönberg and Stefan Zweig. Sadly, in 1897 the Griendsteidl got torn down, and there was suddenly no megalomania left in the Austro-Hungarian Empire…
The name stuck, albeit elsewhere. In the early days of the 20th century, Café Stefanie was for Munich what Café Griendsteidl had been for Vienna. And here too the locals found their name more apt that the official one to describe a place popular with the likes of Graf Keyserling, Frank Wedekind etc. But in Munich, World War I swiftly brought an end to the coffee-shop heyday of Größenwahn. The last pre-War Café Größenwahn opened in Berlin – and of course was not called that according to the signage: no it was Café des Westens. Although the Berlin café was the last of those to have the title bestowed upon it, it endured longest, albeit at different locations, As “Cafe des Westens” then moved and morphed into “Romanische Café”, where its real heyday came in the late 1920s, with the regularly including Bertolt Brecht and
Billy Wilder, to name but two of the heavyweights. Half a century of bleakness followed, with there being no “Cafe Größenwahn”. Until, in 1978, we decided to found a new one – and instead of waiting for the locals to give us the name, adopted it from the start. As the lineage seemed fitting for a café that opened in the wake of the Student Movement, where people could sit and argue endlessly over a beer – or three. The idea and the name definitely fitted our intentions at the time: what we wanted was not to change Frankfurt cuisine but to change the world. And to this end we came up with what is our motto to this day: “Time the world became a more feminine and gayer place!” – We felt then as now that gay rights and women’s rights are the yardstick for the degree of freedom a society offers.
To return to megalomania – we simply concur with Sigmund Freud, who defined it as the gastronomic virtue par excellence. To his mind, megalomania is regression to an early phase in childhood development and thus has nothing to do with a wish to rule but with a sensation – with the child’s feeling that it has everything it wants and is thus in a state in which it is perfectly satisfied. Perhaps one good reason why our Café Größenwahn can now look back on a restaurant history that goes back 35 years, and has therefore survived a lot longer than its predecessors, is the fact that we do our very best to keep our guests perfectly satisfied.