Lonely Planet Writer

Long-lost baby penguin statue returned to Vienna cafe after two years

A long-lost statue has been sneakily returned to a Vienna cafe after being swiped two years ago. The stone baby penguin had been standing next to a bigger ‘mother’ penguin statue for decades in the garden area of Vienna’s Café Rüdigerhof.

Cafe Rüdigerhof complete with penguins in 2014.
Cafe Rüdigerhof complete with penguins in 2014. Image by Andrew Nash / CC BY 2.0

When it disappeared two years ago, owner Renate Halper was devastated, as it had been part of the garden’s decoration since she was a baby. She put out a reward of €300 and offered ten large beers to anyone that could find the baby bird, but without success.

The statue finally reappeared this month, with a note attached that just said: ‘Mum, I’m back’. It was found by Halper’s son behind the cafe.

No explanation was given for its long absence, and Halper is still in the dark about why it was taken or why the thief decided to return it after such a long time. “Perhaps the thief felt guilty?” Halper speculated to a local paper. More mysteriously still, the baby penguin was missing both its feet, reported The Local. It’s to be given new feet by a stonemason and then returned to its original spot in the beer garden.

Cafe Rüdigerhof is a traditional Viennese coffeehouse on Hamburgerstrasse, in the Margareten district of Austria’s capital. Housed in a 1902 building, it’s well loved for its home-baked cakes as well as its Jugendstil (art nouveau) decor and is a popular haunt for shoppers taking a break after hitting the nearby Naschmarkt

Vienna is famous for its coffeehouses, which vary from small and cosy to elegant and decidedly upscale. Either way, the range of coffees on offer is usually wide, as is the selection of cakes, and the experience of whiling away a couple of hours in one of these ‘Viennese living rooms’ is a quintessential part of any city break here.