The amusement park itself is only a small part of the area called the Prater in German. “You see there are trees all around. On an area of six square kilometers, the Austrian emperors originally had their hunting field,” explains Stefan Sittler-Koidl, one of the local attraction operators and also the chairman of their joint association.
“On April 7, 1766, however, Emperor Josef II. decided to open the Prater to the public. Restaurants and cafes started to appear in a place called Wurstelprater,” continues our today’s guide. “There were so many people coming here that they often had to wait a long time for their food. That’s why the operators prepared wooden attractions such as slides and later merry-go-rounds,” we learn. Gradually, an amusement park was created, which today is known all over the world.
A symbol of the new era
“In April 1945, at the end of the Second World War, the Pratr burned down. For example, only the steel structure remains of the observation wheel, the symbol of this park. After the war, however, it was decided that the amusement park would be restored as a symbol of a new beginning,” adds Stefan Sittler-Koidl.
“People often ask me how much is the entrance fee to the theme park. There is no charge,” says our guide. People can come here, enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy fancy dress parades during special events such as Halloween and not pay a single euro. Those who want more can choose from 250 attractions, restaurants and cafes.
“They are run by family companies with a long tradition, some of them have been taking care of their attractions for two hundred years. I myself am already the fourth generation of operators and I live right in this part of the city – not in a Maringottka, of course, but in an apartment,” smiles Stefan Sittler-Koidl. However, living next to a roller coaster and carousels is not for everyone.
“When it’s high season, from mid-March to the end of October, the theme park is open from morning to 11pm, seven days a week. In the off-season, it depends on the weather and other circumstances,” says our guide and encourages us to try out the local attractions.
Meeting the Emperor
We cannot leave out probably the most famous attraction of the Prater, the giant observation wheel. During the ride, the cabins reach a height of less than 65 meters, and those who want a higher dose of adrenaline can try this year’s novelty. The so-called Platform No. 9 is a steel platform with a glass floor that, like the cabins, turns around. Those interested are secured by straps and according to the operators, they can enjoy the same feeling that only the builders of this Viennese symbol experienced before them.
While a regular ride costs 13.5 euros (approx. 330 CZK), you have to pay extra for the platform, it costs 89 € (over 2100 CZK), and it is only offered on weekends and after prior reservation on the website (wienerriesenrad.com).
We save the platform for next time, but coincidentally we are offered a different experience – a meeting with Emperor Francis Joseph I, understandably with the actor who portrays him. The wheel was raised in 1897 to commemorate the upcoming fifty years of this monarch on the throne (he ruled from 1848). If you put the numbers together, you will find that just this year 125 years have passed since the famous wheel was built. During the week we visited the Prater, the emperor greeted passers-by and introduced them to the story of “his” bike.
We also learned other interesting facts, such as the fact that this attraction starred in the film The Third Man (1949) with Orson Welles or in the Bond movie Breath of Life (1987) with Timothy Dalton. Those who prefer romance can book a dinner in a cabin with a view of Vienna.
Recently, the operators also announced a competition, the winner of which spent the night in a specially adapted cabin with a bed. People from all over the world participated, including Brazil, but in the end, a contestant from Germany won. At least he didn’t travel far for the experience…
We gradually try various attractions, roller coasters, shooting range and autodrome cannot be missing. A favorite is the Freifallturm, i.e. Tower of Free Fall, the name says it all in this case. Strapped to the seats, we rise to a height of eighty meters, the attraction turns around with us for a while, so that we can see Vienna from all sides.
Subsequently, the machine stops and the voice from the loudspeaker begins to count down: three, two, one, now! We fall down in the seats and only when relatively low above the ground do we begin to brake sharply. An experience that many will remember for the rest of their lives will cost five euros.
The same price is paid for another favorite place in the Prater, the chain carousel, which rises to a height of 117 meters and spins us at a speed of sixty kilometers per hour. A ride on another observation wheel, the flowery Blumenrad, is a welcome relief.
Czech is also heard here
Every now and then we hear Czech in the park, for example from the operator of one of the mountain railways. We also talked in Czech with the owner of the famous local Schweizerhaus restaurant, Karl Kolarik, his grandfather came to Vienna from southern Bohemia.
They also have the Railway Kingdom, headed by Matěj Horn. He also runs a similar attraction in Prague’s Smíchov. One day may not be enough for those who want to enjoy the Pratr with everything.
|Česká dráhy goes to Vienna, the journey from Prague takes less than five hours, from Brno about an hour and a half, price from about 730 CZK, or 350 CZK.|
|Masks are mandatory in Vienna on public transport, including the subway.|
|It is possible to buy a discounted public transport ticket for 24, 48 and 72 hours for 8, 14.1 and 17.1 euros.|
|Lines U1 and U2 of the Vienna underground have a common stop at Praterstern, from where it is only a short walk to the amusement park.|
|Entrance to the Prater is free, individual attractions are charged.|