In Anglo-American cafes you can find great coffee, friendly baristas, tons of laptop-attached freelancers and students - but they don't have the same panache as the Viennese writers' haunts. I did visit one modern-style cafe in Vienna where laptop working was more acceptable, but it felt blandly western after the elegance of the traditional places. The sense of history, of an almost lost way of life, is palpable in the old cafes' architecture and attitudes. Historically, they functioned something like English old boys' clubs, filled with famous men reading the newspaper. However, cafes were always more democratic of entrance, and today anyone with the leisure time - though still an exclusive group - can sit and enjoy.
Clinking and conversation are the sounds of the cafe, punctuated by occasional crashes from the back. You sit, read, relax, write. Drink. Give yourself over to the newspapers on sticks, the formal banquettes, the German menu - or lack of one. In the world of the cafe, waiters and patrons are constantly moving, but somehow the pace remains slow; sedate. I found I could even savor the cigarette smoke on one cool outdoor evening, I was so enraptured by the world-within-worlds I had found. The best cafes have an atmosphere that lends itself to pondering, and - hopefully - to contentment.
In the cafes and the city at large, you have to accept the rhythm of the place – in one location I saw a number of visitors sit down, get up, and leave before the waiter ever came out again. You need patience, an ability to sit through the discomfort of uncertainty, and hope that someone will arrive to take your order. (They eventually will, in continental Europe. In England, just go to the bar.) That's half the fun of travel - not expecting things to work on your terms, but rather learning how other people and cultures function, and adapting to that. You learn who you are when you're not in your accustomed circumstances.