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Photo of the Month - exploring the Story behind the Image...

Riesenrad Ferris Wheel in the Prater

Riesenrad Ferris Wheel in the Prater

Year: 2012, Month: April

Austria > Wien > Vienna

Whilst on a brief visit to Vienna, I couldn't resist going to see the Riesenrad - a large Ferris wheel situated in the Wurstelprater, a large park that encompasses grassy meadows, woodlands, and an amusement park. The Riesenrad was built in 1897, and has largely survived two world wars to continue delighting the public to this day. It has been a setting in many films, but is especially famous from its appearance in Carol Reed's film of the book by Graham Greene: 'The Third Man'.

'The Third Man' External link opens a new Browser window, starring Orson Welles as 'Harry Lime', and Joseph Cotton as 'Holly Martins', is one of my favourite movies. Filmed entirely in black and white, and cleverly using wet streets to reflect light for many of the nightime scenes, it is a story of an American writer, Holly Martins, who travels to the divided city of Vienna just after WWII to find his friend Harry Lime. Initially it appears if Lime has been killed in a traffic accident, but Martins is suspicious that the clues fit together too neatly, and starts sniffing around. He finds that Lime is still alive, and hiding in the Russian sector of the city. They arrange a meeting in the Wurstelprater, and Lime takes his friend into one of the Ferris wheel's red cars, to talk discreetly about his life. Martins voices his suspicions that Lime's business is a dirty one, and that people are dying due to his activities. Lime attempts to justify himself, and during the speech adds an impromptu line that wasn't in the original script, but has sinced passed into movie history:

"You know what the fellow said in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

The Riesenrad is 65m high and takes about 20 minutes to rotate its 430 tonne weight one complete circle, offering great views of Vienna. Though the day of my visit was cloudy with occasional rain, I could not resist buying a ticket to ride on such a famous movie icon, and took a few photographs to remind me of the film. The original wooden cars were all destroyed during WWII, but were rebuilt shortly afterwards as an encouragment for the rebirth of the city and a huge lift to the morale of the beleaguered population. These days there are only half the number of cars that once were mounted on the wheel, but the views are still as good as they ever were, and the wheel continues to draw large numbers of visitors for the 9 Euro ride. If you are in the area, ride the Riesenrad as well, and share a bit of unique movie history.

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