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Photograph © Wayne Lorentz
Another one of Vienna's treasures, the giant Ferris wheel is a leftover from more genteel times, much like the city itself. This wheel was one of a handful built around the world. Three were built in Europe -- one in England, a second in France, and the third in Vienna. The English and French wheels have since been dismantled. Another one was erected at Navy Pier in Chicago. At 200 feet, these wheels are much larger than the ones in most of today's amusement parks. Each capsule can hold dozens of people as the wheel turns at just 2.5 feet per second. The goal here is to elegantly thrill audiences with the view, not scare them to death. To that end, some of the capsules are formally decorated and can be rented for weddings, dinners, and other occasions. This is appropriate because Prater, the park where the Ferris wheel is located, was once the exclusive domain of the emperor. The island in the Danube was his personal hunting ground until 1766 when Joseph II opened it to the public. Some of the children's rides have been in service since the 1920's. But the Ferris wheel, built in 1896, is the oldest of all. The amusement park is more popular at night than during the day when the lights and sounds from the rides and games seem more vivid. The Ferris wheel was featured in Graham Greene's 1949 classic film "The Third Man." It was again used in the 1987 James Bond flick "The Living Daylights." Though this mode of transportation may seem quaint to the untrained, it is considered a "proper" means of recreation, and may even be making a comeback. In 1999 the Millennium Eye was erected in Westminster (London) to mark the turn of the century. That construction has been hailed as a success.
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