When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by the album cover of the Boston Pop’s Viennese Nights, because the photo was of the most enormous ferris wheel I’d ever seen. My father told me it was located in Vienna, and it was largest ferris wheel in the world, with cars that held about 20 people. One day, he said, he would take me to Austria and we would go for a ride on it. Life circumstances interfered with that little plan, but although we didn’t get to ride the Riesenrad (the great wheel’s official name) together, he did make sure I got to it when I went off on my post-college backpacking trip with Hope, Ellen and Heather.
Two weeks into the trip and we finally made it to Vienna. The Riesenrad was a Holy Grail of sorts for me. Thanks to the guidance of my father’s friends, the Eggers, (remember them? I talked about them when I wrote about the Sound of Music Tour) who we visited on our first afternoon in the city, we found our way to the Prater. The quest became even more significant, because when we were at the Eggers' house, I made a phone call to Papa, only to discover he was in the hospital, recovering from a mild heart attack. I was told there was no need to come home – but at that moment, I was tempted to catch the next flight. Instead, at the urging of all, we went to the Prater and rode on the wheel. I sent this postcard to my father:
If you can't read it, it says:
Dear Papa and Jan,
I finally got to ride on the big ferris wheel. I've finally fulfilled my childhood dream. We've also been to the Spanish Riding School, but couldn't get in - only saw some of the horses. The highlight of Vienna was our afternoon with Herr und Frau Egger - absolutely lovely people! We had a swim in the pool and then were invited for dinner - probably the best meal we've had in two weeks! After this experience, my travelling companions are very eager for me to call all your other friends, and I certainly will! We've decided to add Brugges, Belgium to our trip if there is time. There is so much to tell you, Papa, so get well quick for me. I love you! Francoise.
How often do we get to realize our childhood fantasies like that? I’m not even sure Hope, Heather and Ellen realized what a big deal it was for me to finally make that wish come true. The view at night was amazing. Well worth the effort if you ever get the chance.