Prater Amusement Park (Parcul de distractii Prater)

One of the main attractions in Austria is located in Vienna and goes by the name of ‘Prater Amusement Park’. Such parks are usually associated with having a good time and as long as these specially arranged areas offer people quality entertainment, nothing else really matters. But the amusement park under discussion in this article has quite a history and while this might not be particularly of interest to its visitors, it is definitely worth finding out how the region has come to have such a famous park.

The first documented source which puts an emphasis on this specific area dates from the 12th century, when the surface designated for the present park was woodland. This region would later on be transformed into the hunting grounds for the imperial family. However, the area was soon available to the general public and starting in mid-18th century, several fairs had set ground in the region. Amusement businesses, which included merry-go-rounds and all sorts of enjoyable activities, flourished in the period, their purpose being that of entairtaining the community.

But Prater Amusment Park did not solely encompass what one might consider trivial activities designated for the amusement of the visitor. On the contrary, the park also organized educative events. In accordance to the general trends of the time, the park included in its ‘repertoire’ various facilities in which the accent fell on cultural development. These were museums, theaters and galleries, each created with the purpose of emphasizing the importance of art, history and culture in one’s life.

The older version of the Prater amusement park managed to incorporate these two aspects of life, or more accurately the two types of leisure activities one can get engaged in. Many were intrigued by the so-called ‘freak shows’ in which they got the chance to see up close individuals with distinctive characteristics, such as midgets, hairy people and Siamese twins.  But while at the beginning the fascination with the ‘other’ was what brought people in large number to Prater, this changed in time as the industrial revolution brought about the advancement in engineering and the result was the development of roller coasters and giant ferris wheels.

Prater changed in accordance with the technological and cultural evolution of the city. Each of the innovative machines that appeared where instantly brought to Prater. Thus the amusement park was home to the grotto railway which was electrically operated, the first ghost train (in 1933), and the “mini railway,” which was a miniatural version of the steam train, etc. The beauty of this park is that it never remained the same, having constantly changed its appearance in conformity with the general demand and with the natural evolution brought about in various fields with the passage of time.

But it is important to underline that Prater has still preserved much of its original structure due to the fact that visitors are still fond of the ‘old rides.’ Even if these are nothing compared to the twisting and twirling roller coasters, in terms of the adrenaline rush they offer, the machines are still popular with many of the tourists that come to Prater, which can mean only one thing: these specific rides will never be excluded from the Prater Amusement Park.

But the park should not be envisaged as an amalgam of carousels, trains and ferris wheels, where people come in crowds, thus giving one the sensation of not being able to breathe, of being caught in the crowd. The adjacent area to the park resembles an oasis. Those who want to escape into nature are given this opportunity as the Praterau is charactrized by woodland which include medows and lakes.

The amusement park was badly damaged during World War II, but it was not left to chance. Prater was resurrected to become a defining feature of Vienna’s culture.

The park can be visited from the middle of March until the end of October, in the interval 10:00 – 13:00. However, a segment of the amusement park is opened throughout the year, but this is mainly characterized by restaurants or food stands. Visitors can enter Prater without having to pay an entrance fee, but in order to enjoy the multitide of rides available one has to cover a certain tax.