Europe’s grand old theme parks
Prater Park’s amusements also include a toboggan slide from the 1950s and the Praterturm, the world’s highest carousel swing ride, twirling guests 117m in the air. But the use of live ponies in a merry-go-round-style carousel, a traditional ride from the beginning of the 20th Century, is one of the less charming historical features, drawing criticism from those who see using live animals as out-dated and cruel.
However, what remains most significant about these parks is that they exist at all. Most of Europe’s amusement parks survived extreme circumstances: the Prater Ferris wheel was slated to be demolished but the city ran out of funds to level it; Tibidabo survived both the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939) and bankruptcy.
The 20th Century was not kind to Europe. The Great Depression and two World Wars shook the continent to its core, and rapid industrialisation and urbanisation saw the need for space in cities at a premium. The survival of these antique, vintage and old-school parks is evidence of a society’s need to preserve a sense of fun and also the public’s nostalgia for a simpler age.