GIANT FERRIS WHEEL OF VIENNA
The Third Man and the 100 Year Amusement Ride
It has been a Vienna landmark for over 100 years, built in 1897 on the grounds of an amusement park on the outskirts of Vienna to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Francis Joseph I. Vienna’s Giant Ferris Wheel, the Wiener Reisenrad, was for the longest time the world’s largest riding wheel, not designed by Ferris, but by the English engineer Walter B. Basset, who had built other wheels in Blackpool and London. The giant wheel in Vienna with it great views of the city was made a world famous landmark of infamy when the character of Harry Lime played by Orson Wells in the movie “The Third Man” justified his villainy for marketing a counterfeit polio vaccine in postwar ravaged Vienna by pointing to tiny figures of people far below and asked “would you really care if one of those dots just stopped moving?”…
The Giant Wheel in Vienna is located at the entrance of the Prater, the play park of amusement rides now just two subway stops from Vienna’s old town tram ring. The Prater was first opened as a leisure park for the people of Vienna on the former Imperial hunting grounds of the emperor in 1766. Before that it had been a soggy flood plane of the Danube River where the Polish Cavalry came to Vienna’s aide in turning the Turks away from Vienna in the 1600s. The Prater became the sight of the Worlds Fair of 1898 and a model city of Venice was built complete with canals, and the Prater became known as “Venice in Vienna” with an early roller coaster ride through a mountain long before Disneyland' Matterhorn. Two world wars took their toll on the Prater, rather but the Giant Ferris Wheel survived. Most of the original cabins of the wheel were burned in bombing and fires, with the current cabins built in 1947. The wheel now turns with only 15 cabins instead of the 30 it was designed for. The cabins can hold about 20 people standing. Six of the cabins have been furnished in luxurious style for outing rental, birthdays, romantic dinners, marriage proposals or children’s parties.
Underneath the Giant Ferris Wheel of Vienna in the entrance kiosk are some of the original cabins not remounted on the wheel, but displaying the history of the wheel and the Prater with miniature models, hundreds of hand made figures and a panorama of old Vienna. There is also a restaurant, gift shop and photo booth with the wheel view of the city as background. The Reisenradplatz is a modern center built around the wheel’s base for restaurants and entertainment venues. Cost to ride the wheel is 8.50 Euro for adults, 3.50 Euro for children 3 to 14. Family tickets are available. Entrance to the Prater Park is free. The rides from merry-go-rounds and miniature train rides to roller coasters and game casinos, all you’d expect of a modern carnival amusement park along with the historical attractions, range from 1 euro to 10 euro depending on the ride. The park season is from March to October, with many of the rides closed from November to February, but the park and the Giant Wheel are open all year (see Wiener Wiesn - Vienna's Oktoberfest). The subway stop is the Prater-Stern on the U1 line.
For fans of The Third Man film based on the Graham Green novel of postwar Vienna, the giant wheel is the most recognizable symbol to visit in Vienna, but many more locations still exist. A Third Man Tour offers a trip into the sewers where one of the most famous foot chases of film history took place, part of it in the canals of the Esperanto Park. The Third Man Museum houses a collection of images and memorabilia from the movie. It is a bit out in the suburbs and only open on Saturday from 2pm to 6pm or Tuesdays 6pm to 8pm by arrangement. The film itself is shown at the Vienna Burgkino (not to be confused with Burger King) every Friday at 10:45pm and Sunday and Tuesday afternoons. © Bargain Travel Europe
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