You all know me. Not that I want to brag about it. It’s just a fact, whether you live in Transylvania or in the back of beyond. And especially if you were born and raised in Vienna. I am an iron structure weighing 403,05 tons. A technologically perfect marvel.
I was designed by a British engineer. A certain Walter Basset. Chief designer Hubert Cecil Booth was responsible for my construction. I was built incredibly fast in just eight months. I did not realize that. Only when I was properly set in motion on the 3rd of July 1897 and people admired me during my festive inauguration did I awake to life. Since then, a lot has happened.
I had a height of 64,75m from the very beginning. 30 wagons adorned me. Till today people love to whisper sweet nothings to each other in one of the wagons, to enjoy the panoramic view of Vienna and to celebrate events. Oh yes, I am a landmark of Vienna. I nearly forgot to mention that. It should be said for the sake of completeness. The Prater would be unthinkable without me. I’m not sticking my neck out with this statement. Whoever rides me shouldn’t stick their neck out either. The Jewish businessman Eduard Steiner bought me in 1919. I surely wasn’t cheap. He soon let me out on a lease. There was no relationship with Gabor Steiner. At my feet Gabor, who was an impresario, created “Venice in Vienna”. He had been inspired with this idea in London in 1894. I existed just in Walter’s thoughts when the theater and amusement quarters opened their gates on May 18th, 1895. “Venice in Vienna” was something like an amusement park within an amusement park and thus a competition for the Wurstelprater. Crazy, isn’t it?
“Venice in Vienna” had a sell-by date. To experience a piece of Venice in the middle of Vienna had drawn people in droves. In 1945, the whole area burned down. It got me pretty badly too. But I was reconstructed and am once more resplendent in my former glory. Nowadays I have no more than 15 wagons. Back then I saw this as a relief. And I am doing continually fine, thank you for asking. I felt terrible when the Nazis aryanized me in 1938. I thought my final hour had come. Eduard Steiner was deported to Theresienstadt on 17th Aug. 1942. He was later moved to KZ Auschwitz and the extermination camp Birkenau. He and his wife were murdered on 18th June 1944. I was restituted to his three daughters in 1953.
I have seen good times and bad times. But I live in the present and view the future with optimism. I love you people! When you board one of my wagons, I give you 15 minutes of adventure you will never forget. Maybe you are so delighted you will want to repeat this experience. That would make me very happy. Please remain loyal to me!
© Jürgen Heimlich 2021-08-23