001It’s one of those things that had been on my list since before we arrived in Vienna, but I’d never gotten to it — riding on the Riesenrad, the giant Ferris wheel at the Prater amusement park.

I can’t exactly remember why we haven’t been on it.  We went to the Prater once, early on in our stay here, but we didn’t ride on the Riesenrad.  I think we’d been told by someone (can’t remember who, and it turns out that it isn’t true) that small children weren’t allowed to ride on it.  But I might be mixing my memories — maybe the line was really long or the boys didn’t want to go.  Regardless, we didn’t go that day.  Since then, just about every friend and family member who has visited has wanted to go, but still, we haven’t gone.  Some of them have visited in the winter, when it doesn’t run, and with the others . . . I’m not sure, we’ve just never done it.

006Our friend, Krishana, is back in Vienna for a month before she moves back to the US, and between packing her apartment and getting together with friends, she’s been wanting to knock a few “to dos” off of her own Vienna tourist list.  She suggested that we go together, and it was just the motivation I needed, because today, I went!  We’d been planning to have the whole family go, but the boys slept late during nap time (which almost never happens — I blame the time change) so Dan stayed with them and I met Krishana for a ride on the big wheel.

011We started out with a little tour through the museam, which was a bunch of detailed and animated dioramas showing the history of the Vienna and the wheel, depicting everything from the Roman period through the reconstruction after the devestation of World War II.

And then, it was on to the ride!  It was really fun — a little expensive (9 Euro for a 12 minute ride) but fantastic views and truly a unique perspective on the city.  We could see everything from St. 013Stephen’s to Dan’s office buildings to the mountains north and west of the city.  We could certainly have seen my street, but I couldn’t orient myself quickly enough to identify it.  It was a fantastic view of the whole Prater park (both the amusement park and the green Prater).  It’s a really big wheel — we got up very high! — but I was glad to find that I wasn’t bothered by it at all . . . although we were both glad it wasn’t a very windy day today (and I was somewhat comforted by the lack of any kind of door handle on the interior of the car).

It was a lot of fun, and a really iconic (if touristy) part of being in Vienna.  We’ll definitely have to plan a time to go back (kids and all) in the near future for another great view.






009Our weekend kind of got away from us, and after a day full of organizing and cleaning yesterday, and a morning full of visiting with an old friend of Dan’s and walking around downtown Vienna, we decided to be briefly adventurous and go explore somewhere neither Dan nor I had ever been:  the Prater.  The Prater is a big park in Vienna — it has a “green” section (what you’d think of as a park) and an amusement park section . . . which is almost exactly what you’d expect from an amusement park.  It’s full of everything you’d expect in an amusement park:  wild rides, water rides, games, balloons, bad-for-you food and tons of people.

028There are two weird things about the Prater amusement park.  First, much like the playgrounds here, they aren’t as worried about potential lawsuits, so they take the kinds of rides we have in the US and make them more extreme.  They have things that don’t exist much in the US anymore in those types of parks, too:  like go-carts and pony rides.  The rides are really very much like what you’d see at an amusement park or a carnival . . . but faster, bigger, wilder.  There were rides that looked like they were a direct ticket to whiplash and vomiting (some at the same time).  There was a “swings” ride that went about 100 feet in the air, and a ride that seemed to consist of a bench seat on a pair of bungee cords (maybe you had to be there).

031But the other weird thing about it . . . is that it’s in Vienna.  The Viennese are generally quite conservative, proper, restrained.  This is nothing like that.  This is a very “American” seeming amusement park:  excessive, indulgent and uninhibited.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a collection of Viennese people seeming so un-Viennese!  No one was dressed particularly carefully.  Many of the children had uncombed hair (gasp!).  And, in general, the crowds were more boisterous than we’re used to seeing here.  Of course, the average age was pretty young, as well, which changes the dynamic a bit, but it’s definitely a different demographic than we’ve been seeing near our place in the first district (or anywhere else we’ve been so far).  We seem to have found where the Viennese go to unwind.

We didn’t stay long — it was late afternoon when we got there, and we have a big day tomorrow, so we had to get home.  We’ll go back.  Many of the rides are too grown up for Benjamin (most of the rides, actually) but it was a fun atmosphere, if a little surprising.  We promised Benjamin a ride on the fire truck ride the next time we go, and I think he’ll hold us to it.