I always feel cool drinking coffee in Europe.
When I arrive in a new place, I pay attention to the coffee culture – checking out where the locals go and listening to what they order. Do they stand at a casual coffee bar and rapidly sip espresso like in Rome? Do they enjoy cortado in trendy cafes like in Barcelona? Or do they slowly savor mélange in historic coffee houses like in Vienna?
When I get the hang of ordering and drinking coffee in a new place, I get a sense of temporary belonging. It’s probably an artificial feeling, but when I’m not goofing up coffee by doing something silly – like ordering cappuccino at any time except breakfast in Italy – I feel pretty cool.
But I really flubbed up in Slovakia.
Actually, it wasn’t all my fault. I’m a grown woman, but I’m going to blame this, in part, on my mom and dad. Because they were there.
I’d met my parents for a short holiday in Vienna. One morning, we took a spontaneous hydrofoil trip along the Danube to Bratislava, Slovakia. After a leisurely walk from the pier, we arrived at the main square in the heart of historic old town.
The grand Café Mayer sits at a corner of the main square. Its patio offered a view of the lovely Old Town Hall, so we eagerly took a seat. Shortly afterward, something went wrong.
Maybe our order got lost in translation. Maybe the waitress made a mistake. Or maybe we just got confused by the elaborate Slovak menu.
In any case, we thought we ordered coffee. We got ice cream.
And I don’t mean modest little scoops of ice cream. I am talking about big obnoxious sundaes of ice cream, complete with sprinkles, straws and those cutesy little cookie cylinders on the side.
For a moment we didn’t know what to do. We looked wide-eyed at each other, wondering if this was some kind of Eastern European coffee trick. The waitress had suddenly disappeared.
So, suppressing our giggles, we began to sip from our silly straws. The ice cream scoops were floating on a layer of rich and hot coffee, which became more creamy and delicious as the scoops melted. My dad’s sundae was the best, because it was drizzled with a dreamy egg liqueur.
For that morning, among the suave and sophisticated European regulars at Bratislava’s Café Mayer, we were decidedly uncool. But we ate our ice cream coffee floats like cheerful little kids, and we enjoyed every heavenly scoop.