Nostalgia: The Prater around 1900
As early as 1403, the "Pratter" appears in official documents. In 1766, Emperor Joseph II donated the area to the Viennese as a public leisure center.
The emperor also allowed the establishment of restaurants and snack bars – small wonder that it didn’t take long until the precursors of today’s Wurstelprater appeared on the edge of the former aristocratic hunting grounds: Innkeepers, coffee brewers, and gingerbread bakers (Lebzelter) hung out their shingles; seesaws and merry-go-rounds as well as bowling alleys were not far behind. The World Exhibition of 1873 on today’s trade fair grounds also gave a great boost to the Prater.
Where the Waltz King Performed
In 1895, the amusement area "Venice in Vienna” was established, in whose midst one of the landmarks of the city, the Riesenrad, appeared in 1897. The Prater became a place where everyone finds enjoyment. The "better” class of people came here in their horse-drawn carriages, military cadets and laundry girls met on secret dates, one found barrel organs, Heurigen singers and ladies orchestras – and some of the great composers of their time, such as the Waltz King Johann Strauss or the composers Joseph Lanner and Carl Michael Ziehrer performed here.
“Calafati” Lives ...
Many Austrians poets and writers, among them Adalbert Stifter und Peter Altenberg, were inspired by the lively activities in Prater.
Today, the memory of the old Viennese Prater lives on in the figure of "Calafati" – the giant statue of a Chinese man in the center of the amusement park. Originally the 27-foot-high statue, which has become somewhat of a modest landmark of the Prater, was the central figure of a merry-go-round owned by the magician and restaurant owner Basilio Calafati (1800-1878) in the middle of the nineteenth century. At the Prater Museum near the Planetarium, you can still admire Prater artifacts from around the year 1900 ...