Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Quieter Side of Vienna’s Prater

Part of the reason Vienna has been named as one of the world’s most desirable places to live is the amount of park land in and around the city—nearly 50% according to one City of Vienna employee. At six million square meters, Vienna’s largest park, the Prater, is larger than New York’s Central Park. Once used as exclusive imperial hunting grounds, it is now enjoyed by all—babies to seniors—year-round.

An amusement park located on the grounds features the famous Wiener Riesenrad, the Giant Ferris Wheel built in 1897. For more than 60 years it was the world’s tallest ferris wheel. It was bombed during World War II but rebuilt in a year with half of the cars.

You stand in most of the big cars but can rent some of them for unusual dinner parties complete with tables, chairs, white linen tablecloths, bouquets of flowers and candleabras. Waiters serve another course every time your car reaches the bottom. Just make sure they haven’t forgotten a fork!

The park is full of joggers, walkers, bike riders and, in the summer, skateboarders and skaters. I saw only one girl skating in the snow on this day. The skate rental hut appears to be closed for the season.

The Hauptallee, or main alley stretches for 4.5 kilometers and is lined with beautiful horse chestnut trees. The annual Vienna City Marathon winds through here. If you want to represent your country as a "VCM Friendship Runner" next April, applications are due 15 January 2010.

Hauptallee is bounded on either side by two narrower paths if you prefer a quieter, smaller scale.

The waltz in stone is part of the Carl Michael Ziehrer monument. Ziehrer was a fierce rival to the 'Waltz King,' Johann Strauss II. The waltz is still important in Vienna and is taught in dance schools all over the city. It is part of the education of being Viennese.

One of the many bird feeders in the Prater:

A quiet pond:

An abandoned bicycle stands alongside a stream:

A reminder of times long ago:

What gorgeous horses...

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