October 10, 2013
Located in the second district of Vienna, the Leopoldstadt, is the famous Vienna amusement park known as the Wurstelprater or to most locals simply as “The Prater”. The large amusement park holds one of Vienna’s most recognizable landmarks the Wiener Riesenrad or Viennese giant wheel or just the Ferris Wheel. The huge wheel sits at the entrance to the park and has become for many a symbol of Vienna, because it has been made famous by appearing in many films and because it has survived for so long after many near brushes with destruction.
We wanted to see and ride the famous wheel and to check out the Prater and enjoy the amusement park so we took the metro to the prater stop and made our way the short walk to the park. The park is open year round, is free but you have to pay for each individual ride individually and of course the Wiener Risenrad is the most popular attraction.
It was sort of cool and somewhat surreal to wonder around the mostly desolate amusement park, which nonetheless was fully open and operational while we were there. In addition to the huge wheel, the park also features various rides, bumper cars, carousels, roller coasters, shooting galleries, ghost trains, a Madame Tussauds wax works cabinet and much more. Apart from the rides, the park features various famous traditional Viennese restaurants (such as the Schweizerhaus and the Walfisch) and souvenir shops.
The park dates back to the time of the Austrian Empire, when Emperor Josef II. made the Prater (which has been serving as Imperial hunting ground until then) open to public in 1766. Soon the first snack bars, stalls and bowling alleys opened up on the grounds and the Wurstelprater was born.
A permit for its demolition was issued in 1916, but due to a lack of funds with which to carry out the destruction, it survived. It originally had 30 gondolas, but was severely damaged in World War II and when subsequently rebuilt only 15 gondolas were replaced. The wheel is driven by a circumferential cable which leaves the wheel and passes through the drive mechanism under the base, and its spokes are steel cables, in tension.
The Riesenrad famously appeared in the 1949 post-war film noir “The Third Man”, and also featured in the 1973 spy thriller “Scorpio”, and the 1987 James Bond film, “The Living Daylights.” It also appears in “The Star of Kazan” by Eva Ibbotson, Max Ophüls' “Letter from an Unknown Woman” and its Generation X counterpart, Richard Linklater's “Before Sunrise”, and “The Glass Room” by Simon Mawer.