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Vienna Diary 4: The Prater (1824)

(Added 9 July 2008)

“The Prater of Vienna is the finest public park in Europe – for it has more rural beauty than Hyde Park, and surely the more varied and natural arrangement of its woods and waters is preferable to the formal basins and alleys of the garden of the Thuilleries[sic] […]
The principal alley, the proper drive, runs from the entrance, in a long, straight line, for about half a mile. Rows of trees consisting chiefly of horse-chesnuts[sic], divide it into five alleys. The central one is entirely filled with an unceasing succession of glittering carriages, moving slowly along its opposite sides, in opposite directions; the two on each side are filled with horsemen, galloping along, to try the capacity of their steeds, or provoking them into impatient curvettings, to try the effect of their own forms and dexterity on the beauties who adorn the open calêches. The two exterior alleys are consecrated to pedestrians; but those of the Viennese who must walk, because not rich enough to hire a hackney coach, are never fond of walking far; and, forsaking the alleys, scatter themselves over the verdant lawn which spreads itself out to where the wood becomes more dense and impenetrable. The lawn itself is plentifully strewed with coffee-houses; and the happy hundreds seat themselves under shady awnings, or on the green herbage, beneath a clump of trees, enjoying their ices, coffee, and segars[sic], till twilight calls them to the theatre, with not a thought about to-morrow, and scarcely a reminiscence of yesterday. But though the extremity of this main alley be the boundary of the excursions of the fashionable world, it is only the beginning of the more rural and tranquil portion of the Prater. The wood becomes thicker; there are no more straight lines of horse-chesnuts[sic]; the numerous alleys wind their way unconstrained through the forest-maze, now leading you along, in artificial twilight, beneath an overarching canopy of foliage, and now terminating in some verdant and tranquil spot, like those on which fairies delight to dance; now bringing you to the brink of some pure rivulet, which trickles along unsuspectingly, to be lost in the mighty Danube, and now stopping you on the shady banks of the magnificent river itself.” – “The Prater of Vienna (from Russell’s Tour in Germany),” in “Manners, Customs, &c.,” The Annual Register of World Events: A Review of the Year 1824, eds. Edmund Burke and Ivison Stevenson Macadam, (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1825) 227*.

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