Wheel of time

Wheel of time

10 June 2022 Off By Facto Edizioni

/ One of the most famous giant wheels in the world turns 125 years old /

It is one of the hallmarks of Vienna’s skyline: the Wiener Riesenrad giant wheel in the Prater amusement park is one of the not-to-be-missed sights in the Austrian capital, a beloved symbol for citizens and tourists alike. And it has been so for a long time, 125 years to be precise. Built in 1897 (just 4 years after the original Ferris’ wheel in Chicago), it is currently the oldest giant wheel in operation. A 125th birthday is a date to remember and celebrate, and the Prater and the city of Vienna have risen to the occasion.

The Riesenrad was originally built to mark the Golden Jubilee (50 years on the throne) of Emperor Franz Josef  I. It wasn’t an easy feat, not least because the whole idea of giant wheels was so new, and the project so bold. The city’s authorities initially raised objections to its construction, and only after professor Johann Brick of the Technical University of Vienna had examined the project did it receive a building permit. While well received and loved by the public, it was not a success for its builder, the English engineer Lieutenant Walter Bassett Bassett, who died a decade later almost bankrupt.

The Riesenrad kept going and attracting people, but it was almost demolished in 1916, when a demolition permit was issued and only a lack of funding saved the wheel. Then it was destroyed by fire during the Second World War in 1944, only to be rebuilt in 1945, at the same time as St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the State Opera House, and the Burgtheater. At that time only 15 of the original 30 gondolas were put back on the wheel (8 of the lost cabins would be later found in 2002 and used to host the Panorama Museum at the foot of the wheel). Since then the Riesenrad was only out of operation in 2020, due to the pandemic, and this year it is celebrating its 125th birthday with flair.

Celebrations include new experiences as well as events. Since April, there is a new way to experience the Riesenrad: on the brand new Platform 9, adrenaline-junkies can ride not inside a cabin, but freely standing on a glass platform, with no walls around them (don’t worry, though, they will wear safety harnesses). 

In another initiative created in partnership with…

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