The Third Man Ferris Wheel vs. The Crazy Weird Vienna Pony Carousel


“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 500 years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

–  Harry Lime, The Third Man

The truth was goofy; I’d traveled a long way for a Ferris Wheel. But this wasn’t any damn Ferris Wheel, a city’s underwhelming version of the London Eye, which, I hear, is underwhelming itself; this was THE Ferris Wheel, the one Orson Welles made his famous cuckoo clock speech on in the classic film “The Third Man.” Welles ad-libbed the speech during filming, and as it turned out, was completely erroneous – the cuckoo clock was invented in Germany. But ask anyone who has a passion for black and white movies where the cuckoo clock comes from, and I’ll bet you a hundred bucks they say Switzerland.

So when I learned that The Third Man was shot in Vienna, Austria, I decided I had to make a pilgrimage out there. On my last day in Vienna, I went up to The Prater, Vienna’s oddball amusement park, with my heart set on riding the Ferris Wheel, which is called the Risenrad. And I did. I bought a ticket, and I rode it.

And that’s it.

There’s no story here. Nothing. I’m not sure what I expected to think or feel. What were my expectations? Did I think I’d be transported back in time a la Midnight in Paris, so I could go and have schnitzel with Joseph Cotton?

I wasn’t sure and, to be honest, I don’t even like schnitzel or Joseph Cotton all that much. After riding the Risenrad, I felt satisfied. “Okay,” I said to myself. “I can say that I did that.” I had nothing else to do all day, and I lazily walked around, looking around the Prater for nothing in particular.

It was after some time that I stumbled upon something I’d never seen before. Passing numerous amusement park rides, suddenly my nostrils flared with the strong odor of manure. “Jesus!” I thought. “Where is that coming from?” The smell led me to a carousel. A big green sign stood atop the structure. “That carousel smells like shit!” I keenly observed to myself. I walked closer, got a good look, and instantly figured out why.

Instead of wooden horses, the “Wiener Ponny-Caroussel” had real ones. About six horses stood there, harnesses on them, hooked up to a big wheel. I looked at my watch and saw that it was two o’clock, the middle of the day. There weren’t many people at the park. Luckily, a married couple and their son happened to come by while I was standing there. The boy apparently wanted to ride the Pony Carousel, and so they paid and he was put on one of the horses. The corny organ music fired up, the boy looked around confused, his parents watching him with bored looks on their faces. The horses didn’t move. A few seconds passed, and then the man working there took a whip and smacked the boy’s horse right in its ass, hard, and that got the animals to start going around and around. The horses looked miserable, and so did the boy. I left before the ride was over, wondering if the Pony Carousel actually makes any money.

“Business has been slow,” the owner might say to one of the horses. “I’m sorry, but we can’t afford to keep you here. It breaks my heart to do this to you, but we’re going to have to set you free.”

And then the horse runs around joyously, because it’s the happiest day of its life.

I left Vienna the next day. I’ve told some people about how I rode the Ferris Wheel from The Third Man. Truth be told…nobody seems too impressed. I’ve also told people about the horse carousel, and how they had to whack the horse on its butt to start the thing. People typically laugh and seem interested.

For those keeping score, that’s Third Man Story 0, Horse Carousel 1.

That’s cool. The outlying details in a day are typically more interesting than the main activities anyways. Just like how riding a wooden horse, sometimes, can be more magical than riding a real one.



10 thoughts on “The Third Man Ferris Wheel vs. The Crazy Weird Vienna Pony Carousel

  1. Oh Man! You won’t believe it, but something about how your post began made me think of MIP, and there it was—you mentioned it too! The pony manure thing just brought me back from my golden-age reverie back to real world where we drive cars and have internet. I prefer it this way!

    • Hi Aparna! That’s funny about Midnight in Paris. Woody Allen should do his next Euro-movie in Vienna. It was actually one of my favorite cities…although Paris was definitely the best.

      Yeah, a little exhaust polluting the environment is far preferable to having to shovel up horse crap. With you all the way on that one!

    • Hi Ren! I liked Vienna a lot. Great art there, very laid back, and I got to see my first opera. That said, it functioned better as a little break from the major cities and tons and tons of tourists. So I think you can proceed to live a happy life without having gone. Greece is on my wish list, and sometime I’d like to go back and explore more Eastern Europe. It’s rainy here in Korea right now and it’s almost 1 pm and I’m just getting out of bed. What a bum, eh?

      • Hello there! Missed u my friend…missed your blog too…hehe….been busy with work and personal life…been a mess for the last few wks…still here in the Philippines but considering working in Saudi hehe…good to hear you had a great time there in Europe 🙂

  2. Glad you popped by my site and glad I got to read your story. The ponies may seem to have a bad deal, but is it any worse than the one most of us have. Don’t we too work in monotony and have bosses that give us a kick in the butt every now and then. Not so different, are we? All joy today. HF

    • Haha – wonderfully said! We certainly are like the ponies in the carousel, going through the motions day by day. That’s kind of a sad outlook…but I like it.

      Thanks for swinging by. I think your post is over on my right hand side, so I hope if other people stop by, they’ll go check you out. Peace!

  3. Grizzlybear

    Finally, the “1. Wiener Ponny-Caroussel” has shut down after 129 years, following endless protests of animal rights activists. Oh, and it’s the “Riesenrad” (as in “Riese” = giant).

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