Tag Archives: Prater

Ode to Spring

The Prater is Vienna’s version of Central Park—a massive, path-laced green zone that lies, depending on your perspective, either frustratingly outside the tourist part of town (i.e., the first district) or conveniently near the city center, in the highly-accessible second district (where I live, FYI). (The second district is the best of all the districts, but we can talk about that some other time.) Put another way, the Prater is located between the canal (previously an arm of the Danube) and the Danube itself (which actually is a redirected/reshaped arm of the river) (and yes, we can talk about that some other time, too)…..

Well. I seem not to be making much progress here. So, in short, the Prater is a giant park, with a straight pedestrian road—the Hauptallee—up its center, where carriages and joggers and cyclists and flaneurs and all manner of folk go up and down. There are restaurants and a giant ferris wheel (the Riesenrad) and a miniature train and an amusement park. Some amount of this last consists of relics from the 1873 World’s Fair (more about that some other time too—coinciding with a stock market crash and a cholera epidemic, it was a colossal failure). A lot of it is recent additions and new constructions. It changes often, and also remains very much the same. In the summer it’s a key attraction, and when warm weather (finally, finally!) comes, I’ll be going there in the evenings fairly often (miniature golf! beer garden!) and will write about it again.

But in the meantime, I wanted to share some pictures of how the amusement park looked a few weeks ago, under heavy snow. Part of the motivation here is that the (please, God) last snow of the year fell over the last three days and is just now starting to melt. Let me use these pictures as a farewell to Vienna’s atmospheric, austere, beautiful winter, and a greeting to spring.

Spring! Where the hell are you??

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Call Me, Maybe?

Over the last few weeks, I ‘ve seen a number of people in Vienna using cell phones in what strike me as very funny conditions. Everyone loves their cell phone (“Handy” auf Deutsch), but here they are a way of life—I get the (unsubstantiated) impression that there are fewer smart phones but a whole lot of actual talking and old-school, press-the-buttons texting going on.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I was walking through the Mexikoplatz and saw this little girl, dressed head to toe in pink and bundled up against the cold, strolling down the sidewalk by herself looking extraordinarily self-possessed. Five or so years old, and not an adult to be seen—I looked up and down the street, surprised. She paused, pulled a cell phone out of her pocket, and, in the most casual of ways, made a call. She then wandered back and forth a bit in a relaxed pacing pattern as she did whatever the hell business a five-year-old has to conduct by cell phone in the middle of a busy city.

It was simultaneously adorable and terribly alienating.  Here, see for yourself:

Hey, Mom. What's up? Listen, can you fill me in on the status of those TPS reports?
Hey, Mom. Glad I caught you. Listen, can you fill me in on the status of those TPS reports?

The relative hugeness of her pink backpack is a clue to how little she was.

The following week, snow struck. Vienna was covered—in fact, it was angezuckert (read more about that here). I was very proud of myself, the intrepid American, for going jogging in the midst of the storm in the Prater, Vienna’s equivalent of Central Park, despite the difficult conditions and the falling darkness. “Nicely done, ” I said to myself. “That’s the American spirit right there—never give up!” And in general the Prater was as quiet and empty as you would expect a park to be at 5 PM on a snowy early-evening. In Austria. In February.

Except for this woman, easily in her late 60s, sitting casually on a bench along the Hauptallee, sending a text message:



Now, that is the spirit of not giving up! American independence has nothing on Alpine stoicism, it seems.

Of course, I hate the phone and prefer to send emails rather than text messages. This makes it nearly impossible to get anything done here. But more on that another time.


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