Vienna's Famous Ferris Wheel

We ended our day by visiting the popular Vienna Ferris Wheel after seeing St Stephen’s Cathedral.

I mentioned in my previous blog that Trevor had tried the bank to exchange dollars in to euros. The reason that we had dollars is that, after our short cruise on the Sinfonia in November 2016, we had US$100 left. We originally considered exchanging this for euros before we left but the value of the Rand had weakened to such an extent that we felt it would be better to exchange in Europe. In an earlier blog about Prague, there are a number of exchanges, most asking for no commission, in Prague and we had expected the same in Vienna and the other towns we would be visiting. Definitely not so! NOTE: the smaller shops and facilities in non-Euro countries do not take Euros and many do not accept credit/debit cards either. This is one disadvantage to travelling on a river such as the Danube where less than 24 hours is spent in one city or town or country.

We continued up the hill to St Stephen’s Square and saw the Cathedral dominating the area. We are always in awe when we see the incredible amount of work done in the construction of the early church buildings and without much of the equipment, such as cranes, as is available today. The detail in the mouldings and decorative wall finishes is just amazing. And it is not just one or two sections with this level of commitment but the whole building. Added to which, most of the churches and cathedrals built at the time had up to 10 spires (St Stephen's has 18) of varying heights. The Cathedral, like many buildings in Europe which were influenced by the Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, is topped with a beautiful roof colourful roof tiles were laid to create the Royal and Imperial double-headed eagle and the coat of arms of the city of Vienna.. Today a building goes up in a matter of weeks whereas those took years to finish. What are the chances of these modern buildings being in good condition in 400 years?

St Stephens Cathedral and round spireSt Stephen's Cathedral with a round spire

Station of the cross on St Stephens cathedralOne of the Stations of the Cross sculpted on to a wall of the Cathedral

We wandered all around the Square and admired not only the Cathedral but many interesting little shops and passages. How many of the tourist type shops with thousands of trinkets and souvenirs of every kind survive financially is difficult to imagine. There are so many souvenir type stores and most are actually managed (maybe owned) by foreigners. It was an extremely busy place with large vintage cars and horses & carriages as well as hundreds of pedestrians. We noticed a sign on the side of one of the vintage cars which take tourists for rides cost €1500 for an hour for up to 4 passengers. Methinks they were taken for a ride in more than one sense! From there we continued walking to the National Opera House where we would find the terminal for the Hop-on Hop-off buses. And there it was – the ONLY Money Exchange in Vienna, just before the Opera House. Trevor went in and discovered that they wanted 30% commission. We decided to stay with our earlier decision.

Vienna only Exchange in the cityThe only Foreign Exchange in Vienna?

It was now after 3:30pm and we had to be back on the boat by 5:50pm to sail at 6pm. That might seem plenty of time but the bus had 12 stops on course to the quay but we wanted to get off at the famous Ferris Wheel before returning to the boat. We saw some of the places of interest that we had seen earlier but there were a few new ones as well. The inner city of Vienna is beautiful with many Baroque design buildings, beautifully maintained parks and gardens and wide streets. One of the most interesting buildings was the Parliament which is built in Grecian style as a declaration of democracy. It was also special to hear the voice of a young man from the Vienna Boys’ Choir giving us information via the bus’ voice-guide.

Church clock tower and old castle on the hillChurch clock tower

Austrian ParliamentAustrian Parliament Building with a statue of Athena

HochstrahlbrunnenThe Hochstrahlbrunnen Fountain in Centrao Vienna

The Wien Hauptbahnhof (Vienna Main Train Station), has undergone a complete refurbishment and upgrade and was clearly a very big project with up to 1000 trains and 120 000 passengers a day projected for 2025. All around the station area there was still plenty of construction as a new residential area was being developed with 5000 homes being built. A high rise building to serve as the Office of Österreichische Bundes Bahn (ÖBB) was recently completed as part of 550 000sqm of commercial space. Just driving around it in the bus was quite an experience.

State Opera House and gardensThe State Opera House

Another interesting thing we saw on our return journey was a boat converted to a large swimming pool berthed on the Wien River, which flows through Vienna. As it was a rather chilly day there was no one swimming in the pool but it was a very different sight to see. When I say chilly, I mean for us  South Africans. Just a degree or two higher and we would probably still have found it too cold for a swim but Europeans probably would not.

As we approached Stop 9 we saw the Ferris Wheel loom large in front of us. We were not concerned with the time as we got off the bus as we were only going to take a closer look and then get the next bus to the boat. We were in for a huge surprise! The Wheel is just one of many things to see in the Prater Amusement Park which was developed in 1845 and was a delight. We were so sorry that, suddenly, we realised we needed much more time than we now had available. THE Wheel was on the right and quite interesting, as the ‘cars’ were small replicas of old train carriages. In front of us was a Madam Tussauds (yes, in Vienna) and at the entrance gate a life-size statue of Basilio Calafati who had been the first to hold entertainment activities at the Prater. Then we started walking and there was just so much to see.Instead of writing all about it I shall give you a small idea of the amusement park in pictures.

MadameTussaudsMadam Tussads 

Ferris Wheel 2The Ferris Wheel

basilio GalifatiBailio Califati

funphotoatthefairA clown brightens things

Platform for start of slidePlatform for the speed slide

Sadly, after about 45mins we realised that we had to get to the bus stop so as to be on board the boat before it sailed. We are still wondering why tourists are not told of this real gem in Vienna. There was one more unexpected sight as we arrived at the boat. On the quay is a group of 8 small fountains and scootering through these were two young Orthodox Jewish men and they were quite unconcerned that their clothes were getting wet. We agreed that it was a fun end to an interesting day in Vienna.

Jewish boys in fountain2 fellows scooting in the fountain

We were back on board in time to bid farewell to Vienna as we continued down the Danube.


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About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

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