Austria

Let go at Vienna’s Magical Amusement Park

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After visiting Dr. Freud’s home and discovering just how many women — who were left out of the history books — helped him make the psychology discoveries he became famous for (check back soon for that post), we decided to look beyond the museums and historical landmarks and do something not so typical.

We hopped onto the U-Bahn (subway) and about 10 minutes later arrived at a place we stumbled upon while browsing our map: Prater, Vienna’s magical amusement park.

Alas, we failed at being atypical because, as it turns out, Prater is a hearty part of Vienna history. This is what I love about Europe: History is everywhere.  Just when we think we’re being different, we end up doing one of the most Viennese things a person can do.

According to Schweizerhaus website, Prater has been a favorite place for recreational excursions since forever, like the 1400s.  However:

…it was not until 1838 that the Wurstelprater hosted the first railroad game, later the steam carrousel, then there was a ring game with live horses, a shooting range, a bicycle school. A sensation for the audience later became a stuffed whale, reptiles and crocodiles…  

As I walked through the gates towards the brightly colored, fantastical, imaginative structures, the smell of candy, sounds of giggling children, and the roaring of the rides… I felt like I was at a state fair meets Great America meets your crazy uncle who’s had too much beer to drink.  Colorful, clean and fun.  We were overjoyed with our decision to be “different.”

No other place radiates so much energy and joie de vivre as the Vienna Prater. Which translates to exuberant enjoyment of life. – Prater Wien site. 

 
ride tokensMarianna Moles | The Meandering Mole

Even the ride tokens have the word “fun” on them.

Aaaannndd… it’s free to enter. Yee-haw!  Say what? That’s crazy? This deserves its own paragraph!  Similar to a boardwalk, state fair or maybe most amusement parks not in the USA, each ride has its own fee and the rest of the park is free to walk around and experience.  This was perfect for our group since we could decide individually what to go on and stay within our own budgets.

 

We each paid 5 euros per ride, which is well worth it. I swear these rides are five times longer than typical amusement parks.  Vienna really has a competitive side with wanting to break world records.

 

roller coasterMarianna Moles | The Meandering Mole

Check out Tegan covering her eyes. This rollercoaster is wild. But not so wild that I won’t first snap a photo.

May I have a word of caution with enthusiastic amusement park riders?  I’m a seasoned, adoring roller coaster aficionado. Game for whatever. Hands down this place offers up some of the most thrilling rides I’ve ever ventured.

Another added thrill is, umm, well let’s just say the amusement park ride safety laws in Vienna compared to the USA are, well, that’s like comparing a glass of no pulp orange juice to a screwdriver with a twist. The rides have a little extra “thrill,” if you catch my drift…

Really gets the fear pumping. And the screams screeching.  Or the laughs rolling (I tend to laugh really hard when I’m simultaneously fearing for my life and having a blast.  Hey, if I’m gonna die on a roller coaster, I’m gonna go out feeling great about it!).

Keep in mind, this was just my experience with the rides I chose.  I’m attracted to the craziness. There are so many rides for people of all ages, plus fun-houses, play parks and really whatever your thrill level. There’s fun to be found for everyone.

 

children's ride at prater parkMarianna Moles | The Meandering Mole

How adorable is this?

 

super torpedo prater parkMarianna Moles | The Meandering Mole

If I get to go back, I’d try my hand at this fun house.

 

First, we prepared to get soaked riding Wild Alps, a world record-breaking wild water rollercoaster ride for “the entire family.”  Kids as young as four years old are allowed.  My advice is to hold onto them tightly. Not joking. 

It was both scary and spectacular, as we moved swiftly on this quick-turning water rollercoaster ride, going way too fast at way too high an altitude. We all feared for our lives at one point. Really gets the blood pumping. And of course, true to form, I couldn’t stop laughing.

 

At one point we were 25 meters high (82 feet), which is about four times as tall as a giraffe or one-and-nine-tenths times as tall as a Brachiosaurus (take your pick on the measurement that makes sense for your brain).

 

As you might imagine, at this height we were greeted with an albeit brief, startlingly-nerve-racking grand view of the park, all while not wearing seat belts or restraints of any kind.  A child’s dream, an adult’s nightmare. So if you’re looking to rekindle the child in you…

 

That being said, I would ride it again in the flutter of a heartbeat. Rides are supposed to be thrilling to the death.
dinosaur ride prater parkMarianna Moles | The Meandering Mole

Even this may have been a more tame experience; although who’s to say when two horned velociraptor-looking dinosaurs are guarding the entrance?

 

We dried off on Praterturm (Prater Tower).  Reaching 117 meters high, it’s the tallest flying swing in the world (just picture a football field reaching to the sky — it’s a little taller than that, or two  Leaning Tower of Pisa’s stacked on top of each other.). As with most tall buildings, it’s never quite so clear just how high they are until you find herself swinging from the top with no way to get down.

 

I swear I had a bird’s eye view of all of Austria.  I don’t have a fear of heights, but this ride had me a little nervous.  I’m the type of person who lines my toes up with the edge of a cliff, such as the Grand Canyon, to “get a better view,” while my nervous father is standing about a block away, his knees shaking, asking me to please step back from the edge.  I don’t waver easily, but this ride…

 

Laughing ensued once again because I couldn’t believe how fast and high and long the ride was. Instead of panicking, which I almost did as my anxiety had reached new heights (too on the nose?), I made a conscious decision to instead embrace this moment that I would probably not experience again, and took in the breathtaking view, more breathtaking than normal seeing as I was already finding it hard to breathe.

 

I deep breathed throughout the majority of the ride, nervously laughing, but it was totally worth it.  I do advise everyone to sit next to a good friend to hold onto for dear life (I was sitting alone). You’ll be asked to remove your shoes unless they’re glued to your feet. If one of my flip-flops flew off it would have traveled at warp speed and knocked out anyone standing in its path.

 

 

In a neighboring town.
statue at prater parkMarianna Moles | The Meandering Mole

One of the many statues. I think that’s a gnome…err. Not sure.

With a couple more rides under our belts and visits to a few statues, we decided to pay a visit to the beer garden.  A moment of silence please for whoever thought of putting the words beer and garden together… what a genius.

me with a beerMarianna Moles | The Meandering Mole

Beer. Garden. I’m a happy camper.

 

Schweizerhaus, around since 1766 and then known as The Swiss Hut and not accessible to “the common people,” is now quite possibly the most famous restaurant in all of Vienna and swarming with common people. Take that history.

 

Beneath the string hanging lights and endless shade of walnut and oak trees, not a single sad face could be seen.  Just rosy cheeked people clinking their mugs of thick-foamed Budweiser Budvar.

 

The thick foam, called a “foam glove,” sitting atop each beer mug resembles what the fisherman drank in the Smurfs (the original cartoon, not the remakes).  I always wanted to try a beer like that and finally it was in my hands, all mine. Thank you Vienna!

 

This spiral of fried meat was being served to what seemed like every surrounding table, so we decided we wanted a taste too. We asked for “the thing of meat,” which we discovered has an actual name that none of us can pronounce: Hinter schweinsstelze (translated to rear pork saddle). It was a perfect, crispy, greasy addition to our beers, which we toasted to our spontaneous, light-hearted “non getaway getaway.”

 

Cheers to you if you ever stumble upon Prater, the heart of Vienna.
group shot in beer garden at praterMarianna Moles | The Meandering Mole

Steve, Sophie, Tegan, Monica and me enjoying an ice-cold mug before heading to dinner.

Keep meandering,

Marianna

 

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