Vienna at play

Vienna, Austria As this part of the world well knows, May 1 is May Day — Labor Day — a public holiday in celebration of the workers’ movements of the past. And, despite cloudy and sometimes rainy weather, Vienna was out for a fun time.

We picked a great day to go to the Wurstelprater — known as the Prater — Vienna’s famous amusement park. The institution dates back to Austrian Empire, when Emperor Joseph II made the Prater (which had been serving as Imperial hunting ground) open to the public in 1766. Soon the first snack bars, stalls and bowling alleys opened up on the grounds and the Prater was born. I suspect some of those snack bars are still in operation.

 Third Man fans will recognize the Wiener Riesenrad, the Ferris wheel which adds to the chilling atmosphere of the film.

We saw another side to Vienna today – quite different than the café society we have been surrounded by. Lots of children, and lots of different ethnic groups than we usually see — all out doing what families in amusement parks do around the world: trying to keep the kids from eating too much cotton candy. The rides were geared to every age group, and bumper cars seemed to have that universal appeal.

The Prater doesn’t limit itself to just one Ferris wheel or one roller coaster. Oh no.

Merry-go-rounds are, of course, obligatory, so they can be found everywhere at the Prater, as well as real live horses to ride.

And then there are the rides. These ranged from heart-stopping (just to watch) to nice and tame for the kiddies. But there were lots and lots of them.

And then there’s just the general atmosphere of the park to enjoy, including the special entertainment for the holiday, a rockin’ band blasting away to the dancing crowds. A good time was being had by all, despite the occasional shower.

We were very happy to help celebrate May Day, but we started the morning not realizing the significance of the date. Determined to give Mr. Strauss another chance, we were ringing his doorbell eagerly early in the day. No answering buzz, no matter how many times we tried.

Then we deciphered the small German print on the door to learn that the museum was closed three days a year: Christmas, New Year’s Day and — wait for it — May 1. We were a little slow on the uptake. It seemed like a cosmic joke on us for a moment.

Don’s Food Corner

At the center of the park is a vast beer garden called Schweizerhaus. This is the birthplace of Budweiser beer, called Budweiser Budvar here.

While this restaurant, covering several buildings and lots of outdoor seating, can accommodate 2,100 people, we still couldn’t get in without waiting a long time. It was too chaotic to cope with. The featured specialty is a roasted pig’s knuckle. They were huge and we saw them at nearly every table. Since we didn’t get in there for a proper sit-down meal, we noshed on amusement park junk food. In short, there is nothing to report today about food.

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