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The Great Zo

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  1. Ok, ok, actual suggestions! * Psyke Underground at Walibi Belgium (2016) * Fenix at Toverland (2019) * Boat jump compilations from Potts Park (2016) and/or Duinrell (2019) That was a fun surprise when I saw the Timber Falls video go up a day or two ago. I don't think I realized there was stuff from the 2013 trip that was still out there. Was the best coaster in the Dells!
  2. * Opa at Mount Olympus * Quimera at La Feria Chapultepec * Dragon Coaster at Beech Bend * Perilous Plunge at Knott's * Fujin Raijin II at Expoland * Shoot The Rapids at Cedar Point
  3. Why was half our group not eating them? Too much chicken? Not that I'm complaining... I think I came out on top of that deal. You know, that lady married 1,001 Nacht at Knoebels. Just saying, there's precedent for this sort of thing.
  4. This is the most Oklahoma thing of all Oklahoma things. I once found a combination gas station / casino / Dunkin' Donuts ... across the street from a much larger casino. It was like the nexus of all Oklahoma. Glad to see the La Quinta across from the Judge is still standing!
  5. As I mentioned in the last post, Efteling was open very late -- until 11 PM. That gave me plenty of time to get a few pictures as night fell, before the day's final showing of Aquanura. At around 9:45 PM, I headed out the main gate to get some dusk shots of the House of the Five Senses. The interior lighting under the roof is pretty neat, and you won't be able to catch that in a day-time picture. (Larry, Ryan, Brad, and Chuck are also in this photo, but they look teeny-tiny) It's very purple. Another view from just off to the side. One more from under the canopy on the inside. This is an impressive enough building during the day, but it's even more dramatic at night. Aquanura ran five shows throughout the course of the day. As I got back into the park, the second-to-last show was underway. The first three were in broad daylight, which isn't all that exciting for a fountain show. This one was at dusk, so at least some of the lighting and colors were becoming apparent. I, however, did not need sleep -- and I was waiting for the final show at 10:45 PM. So, to pass the time, I headed over to my favorite little corner of Efteling, the Steenbokplein -- the snack kiosks over by Bob. Much to my surprise, that area had been turned into some kind of crazy party! This guy was leading the dance from his spot on stage with a giant maypole. I confess that I cannot see a maypole without thinking about "The Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats. I wish I'd taken a video of the scene -- there were hundreds of people dancing and singing and clapping. They even did a big conga line thing while waving flags around. I had no idea what was going on at the time, but a bit of searching provided some answers. This guy's a character named Jürgen Freilich (portrayed by Rene Peters). And there are lots of videos of him performing at Efteling on Youtube. Rock on, Jürgen. At last, night falls on Efteling -- as one of the giant frogs watches on. A very blue shot across the pond at Fata Morgana. And now, the fountain show begins. Aquanura, which debuted in 2012, was developed by WET Design. They're basically the premier company in doing water shows -- they're responsible for the Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas, among many others. While most of the Aquanura shows are set to a symphonic medley of songs from Efteling's attractions, this night-time show was different. We got the version of the show called Tiësto-Aquanura -- with loud dance mixes of various Efteling songs, as put together by the Dutch DJ and producer Tiësto. For these pictures, I set up on the north side of the Aquanura pond, facing Fata Morgana to the south. I attached my Gorillapod to the railing for stability, and shot with exposures of anywhere from 5 to 15 seconds. I'm kind of out of caption ideas, so enjoy the pretty colors of Aquanura. Aquanura. Aquanura. Aquanura. Aquanura. Aquanura. Aquanura. Aquanura. Aquanura. Aquanura. Aquanura. Aquanura. The end of Aquanura. This last shot kinda looks like a crown. Fitting, perhaps, because the whole thing is loosely built around the Frog Prince -- "anura" refers to the taxonomic order of frogs. The show ended at 11PM, and the park was closed. Or was it? How about one last visit to the Steenbokplein? A ha, the stroopwafel kiosk is still open! Watch in awe as the gooey warm caramel filling is added to the freshly-griddled waffles. One more stroopwafel for the end of the night. Or two. And now, a few "they haven't kicked me out of the park yet so why not" long exposure night shots. Here's part of Piraña. Another shot of Piraña at night -- with some very nice lighting on the rocks. A final goodnight and goodbye to our dear friend Bob. Bob will be missed, but the dueling powered coaster they're putting in is sure to be a family hit. Goodnight, Carnaval Festival! Goodnight, Monsieur Cannibale! Goodnight, Vogel Rok! One last farewell to our big avian friend... ...but wait, it appears he's picked up a hitchhiker. A boy and his bird. Sorry Daniel, but it's time to go! Goodbye, Efteling. You are a truly magical, sometimes a bit confusing, but nonetheless incredibly spectacular theme park. Someone should probably check in on Olaf and Halina every now and then, though. Just saying.
  6. Thursday and Friday, July 18-19, 2019 Day 7 / Day 8: Efteling Part 2: Showtime The first part of my TR about Efteling covered the coasters, the rides, the overall atmosphere, the Fairytale Forest, and the poffertjes. This part is going to focus on two of the park's biggest shows -- Raveleijn and Aquanura. Plus, I'll add in some other night-time photos as well, because Efteling looks pretty cool in the dark. I'll start with Raveleijn -- a big show that's one part fantasy, one part action, and one part ornithology. It's a huge production with special effects, fight scenes, and fire -- all set in a grand outdoor theater that can hold 1,200 guests. Raveleijn opened in 2011, and received significant changes in 2013, overhauling both the story and the physical set. There's just one problem -- I've now seen it twice, and I have no idea what Raveleijn is about. The whole thing is in Dutch. So, let's ask the Efteling website! "An anxious nation waits for their oldest prophecy to come true. One day five talented riders free the village from years of domination by the evil ruler, Count Olaf Grafhart and his five-headed monster forever. Watch the legend of Raveleijn come to life in this spectacular park show featuring stunt horse riders, a disappearing Princess and a fire breathing dragon." Ah, OK. That kind of makes sense, I guess. Wait, what's this other bit? "Raveleijn is spoken in Dutch, but there are headsets available from our staff where you can hear a translation." Things that would have been nice to know before I watched the show. Oh well. So, I'll look around online and see if I can find a more detailed plot description as I go through the pictures. Or I might just make stuff up. Read the captions at your own risk. Since I've seen Raveleijn twice, in 2016 and 2019, I have two sets of photos -- from two different seating locations. I'll keep the pictures in story order, but I'll use stuff from both years, so I've got two different camera angles to choose from. You may notice the different casts, but the characters and the story are the same. Here's the inside of the Raveleijn theater, which is fairly large. Because of the way the set pieces are arranged, some of the seats have a bit of an obstructed view. The left side of the Raveleijn theater, including the Raveleijn gate that makes up an important part of the story. The middle of the theater, with the giant belfry tower that rises above the city of Raveleijn. The right side of the theater. The Raveleijn restaurant is located on the ground floor over there. So, our story has begun, with four very regular-looking and not-at-all intentionally color-coded people. They're all brothers and sisters, and they're looking for their fifth sibling, who is lost. So, they consult a map. Suddenly, this not-at-all regular looking lady appears atop the tower. Turns out she's the Countess Halina, she can command the power of ravens, and she's stuck in a doomed relationship with her terrible husband. Also, she asks if the regular-looking kids can save her kingdom or something. Suddenly armed with ravens themselves -- and still looking for their lost brother -- the kids head through the magic gate. Quoth the raven: nooit meer! (that's Dutch for "nevermore," he says, explaining the joke) And so, our soon-to-be heroes enter the gate to Raveleijn... ...where suddenly, they are turned into color-coded horse-riding knights! I suppose I should introduce the cast. The guy in green is Maurits, and the guy in red is Thomas. Unless that's the guy in orange, the missing brother -- in which case, it's Joost. The identical twin sisters are Emma (purple) and Lisa (blue). I don't know the name of the horse. Apparently the gate to Raveleijn is a gate to another world, and it turns the siblings into grown-ups who have suddenly acquired armor and helmets. No, I'm not sure it makes sense either, but we'll go with that. So, the five siblings of the Woudenberg family are re-united here in Raveleijn -- but Countess Halina has appeared, and she's not too happy. Because this guy, who is obviously the bad guy, is rising up out of the water. This is Count Olaf Grafhart. He's a terrible, ruthless despot, ruling over Raveleijn with an iron fist. He's also Countess Halina's husband. Seriously. So, he does as any husband does, and ... traps Halina in a glass chamber, and makes her disappear. Perfectly normal relationship they've got going here. Anyway, Olaf's henchmen show up, and we start the first big fight scene. Thomas and Joost square off against Olaf and his goons. You can tell which ones are the bad guys because they're wearing black. Aren't you glad you're reading these captions? Joost is supposed to be the youngest of the siblings, but he's holding his own here. Olaf, meanwhile, may or may not actually be Olaf. According to the internet, the real Olaf Grafhart was locked in the basement of the belfry, and an evil genius named Falco Peregrinus took his place. You'd think Halina would have noticed, but then again, she's kinda been busy playing with birds. The action continues a little closer to the Efteling gate. And then it heads up the tower. Thomas and Olaf square off for a vicious swordfight on the roof. Thomas: "Didn't I see you in Frozen?" Olaf: "Call me a cuddly snowman one more time..." Thomas: "I've got your warm hugs right here!" (I promise that'll be the last Frozen reference of this trip report) The fighting continues up high, as the clock ticks away. If the real Olaf Grafhart is still locked up in the dungeon, he's missing one hell of a fight. The fight continues on near the Raveleijn gate. Lisa finds herself restrained by two of the goons... Lisa's profile on Efteling's website states that she is afraid of mice. Lisa is, apparently, not afraid of Olaf Grafhart. Olaf suddenly finds himself wondering if nose jobs are a thing in whatever alternate universe this story takes place in. Lisa is also described as "introverted but tough." Olaf's thugs are getting a taste of the latter. Emma, on the other hand, is described as "extroverted and spicy." Emma's clearly had enough of this black-jacketed clown. Lisa skewers the opposition. Together, the twin sisters are nearly unstoppable. I mean, if they were stoppable, the story would end too quickly. And there hasn't even been any fire yet. "Hey Lisa, I got one! He's only partially drowning but whatever!" Olaf Grafhart re-appears on the tower, and he is not pleased. "Well, you slaughtered all my goons, and now I'm mad!" "But let's see what you punks think of... ...HORSE ON FIRE!" (laser snake sold separately) Did you know that Horse On Fire in Dutch is Paard In Brand? Now you do. There's just one problem with the horse on fire -- they kinda forgot to actually develop any plot points for him. He just kinda rides around a bit and then disappears. But I mean, who needs plot points when you've got HORSE ON FIRE? "Uh, Lisa, what was that horse on fire thing all about?" "I don't know, Emma, but look at what's coming next!" Meet the great Draconicon. A giant five-headed dragon... ...that breathes fire. Watch in amazement as Olaf summons his most vicious creation from the top of the tower. Olaf's all like "I was doing fire-breathing theme park dragons before Universal ever signed their lives away to JK Rowling!" Besides, the Gringott's dragon only has one head! Oops, zoomed in a little too close and broke the illusion. There, that's better. So, how are our heroes going to beat the mechanical five-headed dragon beast? "Ha ha ha ha ha, you guys will never defeat my mechanical five-headed dragon beast!" Joost: "Uh, I'm the dumb young sibling, you have any ideas?" Oh, right. Water. The fire-breathing dragon doesn't seem to like water. And our heroes have effectively made it rain. Things are no longer looking so hot for Olaf and his Draconicon. "Thomas, we haven't bankrupted our special effects budget quite yet, so why don't you set your sword on fire?" "Great idea, Joost! I'll try not to inflame another horse this time." I should probably mention that as the story goes, the five siblings are not only color coded, but also given special powers based on five elements. It's like somebody watched an episode of Captain Planet, dropped a bunch of acid, and then transposed it into medieval Europe. Thomas, as is obvious, has the power of fire. Joost has the power of earth. Maurits has the power of wood. Emma has the power of metal. Lisa has a giant conch shell for a dagger, which makes sense, because she has the power of water. If you ask me, that makes her most responsible for taking down the dragon, but nobody asked me. The Draconicon's dying breath -- the heroes have won! And look! Countess Halina has returned, and now has the power to stop the evil henchmen in their tracks. Halina's profile on the Efteling website includes the following... "Is afraid of: My husband Olaf." Oh, and this bit: "As countess of Raveleijn, I want the people to be liberated. Even if my husband Olaf locks me up for it." This is not a healthy relationship. "But I am the great Olaf Grafhart! I rule over Raveleijn! Nobody dares oppose me!" "I'm your wife, I'll oppose you all I want." "But what about that time we rode Python together when we were teenagers? You said it was your favorite coaster in the Netherlands!" "I only said that because I hadn't been to Walibi Holland yet!" "Now be gone, evil husband, and your stupid henchmen too." And that ends the story of Raveleijn. I think. I'm still trying to figure out if Countess Halina's actually supposed to be a good guy. She entrapped five kids to fight in a dangerous battle that isn't theirs, and then sentenced her husband to death by drowning. But maybe the ambiguity is part of the intrigue... And now, the round of applause on horseback! Hooray, Joost. Well fought, Emma. Applause for Maurits, who ... kinda didn't make it into too many of my pictures. I guess somebody has to play second fiddle. Or fifth fiddle. Back through the Raveleijn gate one last time... ...on their way to return to the real world. "Fight on, brothers and sisters, and one day you too can help a lonely old woman commit mariticide!" And then, Countess Halina re-appears at the top of the tower, with a flock of birds. (the birds were not particularly cooperative in 2016) Curtain call, 2016 edition! (the guy in red on the end is the narrator) Also from 2016! And in a picture I could not possibly have been better positioned for -- the curtain call from 2019. So, that's Raveleijn! And now, it's dinner time. This is the inside of the restaurant off to the side of the stage. The restaurant is called Het Wapen van Raveleijn. Here's a picture of the first course. Bread, veggies, meats, etc. In two years of eating at this restaurant, I did not get a picture of the main course (roast chicken with vegetables) or the dessert (mini warm apple pies). So, you will have to take my word for it that everything was delicious and that these dinners were, on both TPR Europe tours, among my favorite meals of the entire trip. There are some interactive elements to the dinner ... including the "crowning" of kings and queens who were gifted the task of going and getting the chicken. They said that only strong people could be selected, so I was out. We chose well! And I think I got three of the apple pies, so I can't complain. I don't remember the details, but one of Efteling's higher-up managers or executives came by to our tables while we were enjoying dinner. He thanked us for traveling to Efteling, and chatted with us about some of the park's plans. Always nice to get a visit like that! After dinner was done, another Raveleijn show was starting up. But just outside the Raveleijn gates, a smaller show was also underway. Who wants to learn how to sword-fight? It was a large crowd gathered around, so whatever they were demonstrating was obviously of interest. And now we've got a whole pack of kids ready to fight the five-headed dragon the next time Joost calls out sick! It's all part of the much larger world of Raveleijn, which includes a TV show and numerous books. Based on the response at the park, it seems like it's been pretty successful.
  7. My totally-subjective top 25. Anything I rode for the first time in 2019 is marked with a *. 18 of the 25 (and 9 of the top 10) are made by Intamin or RMC. 1) Millennium Force (Cedar Point) 2) Expedition GeForce (Holiday Park) 3) Steel Vengeance (Cedar Point) 4) Lightning Rod (Dollywood) 5) Medusa Steel Coaster (Six Flags Mexico) 6) El Toro (Six Flags Great Adventure) 7) Outlaw Run (Silver Dollar City) 8) Kärnan (Hansa Park) 9) Untamed (Walibi Holland) * 10) Wildfire (Kolmården Wildlife Park) 11) Fury 325 (Carowinds) 12) Storm Runner (Hersheypark) 13) Skyrush (Hersheypark) 14) Helix (Liseberg) 15) Hyperion (Energylandia) * 16) Phoenix (Knoebels) 17) Lech Coaster (Legendia) * 18) Top Thrill Dragster (Cedar Point) 19) Maverick (Cedar Point) 20) The Voyage (Holiday World) 21) Intimidator 305 (Kings Dominion) 22) Taiga (Linnanmaki) * 23) Colossos (Heide Park) 24) Goliath (Walibi Holland) 25) Banshee (Kings Island)
  8. You know, I think the only reason Efteling does these as a slower sit-down restaurant (as opposed to the walk-up window at Europa) is to ensure people don't eat twice their weight in Poffertjes. Yep, exactly. I mean, I know there's no room to build a second House of the Five Seasons over there, but certainly there's space to make something that's appropriately themed and a little more official-looking. And move the kiddie toys elsewhere.
  9. If I were a more responsible adult, I probably would have said "hey, don't slide down yet, there are kids running around" but honestly this was funnier. So much almost-airtime! Even some almost-almost airtime! Yeah, this report is such a great look into how we all just enjoy ourselves and act like kids on these trips. There will be more of that to re-live as this trip report continues! I totally get that it's probably an important part of the park's history. Sort of like with Python. I wouldn't in a million years have thought it was a good idea to completely re-build an otherwise-mediocre loopscrew, when you could have built a better, brand new thrill coaster instead. But Efteling knows its clientele better than I do, and I'm not in the theme park business.
  10. Great work AJ. I'm not too surprised to see Untamed at the top! It's a spectacular ride. Congrats to Bandit for being completely terrible! And thanks for the reminder that Tulireki ... exists, for some reason. Some lists I'd be interested in seeing: top coasters in overall ridership numbers, and top-ranked coasters by opening year.
  11. I never fail to learn new things while reading these trip reports.
  12. The north end of the park (near Droomvlucht and the poffertjes restaurant) has several of the park's older and more traditional rides and experiences. We'll continue with those in the final segment of this report. This is the outer facade of Efteling's Stoomcarrousel (Steam Carousel). The Stoomcarrousel dates back to 1895. That's not a typo. It was brought to Efteling in the 1950s after operating at fairs. It's an amazing old carousel -- it's small, but with incredible detail, and you know the upkeep is good because it's Efteling. Here's what drives the whole thing -- a steam engine. On the left you can see the organ, playing from sheets. This thing is quite the antique. As for the ride experience? It takes a while to get up to speed, but it moves pretty good once it gets there! Inside the same building as the carousel is Efteling's Diorama. The Diorama is one of those little details you'll miss if you're going through the park too quickly, but it's such an amazing accomplishment that you'll want to see it. The Diorama is a huge miniature world -- and if that sounds like an oxymoron, well, the circumference of the showcase that houses it is 60 meters. And the entire thing is this detailed -- houses, hillsides, bridges, waterways, lights. It's got train stations with working trains. Villages, churches, and livestock. There are working boats! And working cable cars! The diorama, opened in 1971, was designed by Anton Pieck. If you haven't heard that name before, it's one any theme park aficionado should be familiar with. He's responsible for designing just about everything for Efteling in the park's early decades. He's just as important here as Walt Disney was to Disneyland. OK, the moment you've all been waiting for. You're here for the donkey. Why are you here for the donkey? And why is Ryan staring at its arse? Because the donkey poops souvenir coins. The problem is that the donkey is sort of, err, irregular. Sometimes the coins fly out. Sometimes they plop down. Ryan missed this one because their trajectory is almost impossible to predict. The way it works is like this -- you put some small number of Euros in the coin slot, the donkey raises a tail, and a coin flies out. David is ready and waiting for his shot at glory. AJ picks his up on the short hop. Daniel goes all Bill Buckner on his. Colin gives it his best try, but also misses. Barry lines up for the catch... ...but soon finds his attention drawn elsewhere. Steve, perhaps our most athletic contestant, is ready for the challenge. When the coin plops out softly, he makes a dive for it... ...now that's some dedication to the craft. For the record, I failed to catch mine. It's not easy! So there you have it -- the latest entry to the long-running chronicle of TPR and the Pooping Donkey. The donkey is part of the Sprookjesbos -- the Fairytale Forest. I've called this section of the park the heart of Efteling, and I don't think that's overstating it. This part of the park is just as busy as the rides and attractions. Locals have been visiting this area for decades, bringing their kids to see the animated scenes of fairy tales they explored when they were children. As best as I can count, the Fairytale Forest has around 30 different fairy tale scenes, with new stories added every so often. I'm not gonna try to post all of them -- just a selection of photo highlights from both 2016 and 2019. For one thing, there are several anthropomorphic trees. We meet these kinda creepy ladies... ...and are then introduced to the emperor, who is, of course, clothes-free. The Gardener and the Fakir is the story of this guy, who rides a magic carpet... ...crosses to the other side of his palace... ...and plays a flute to make the flowers grow. Little Red Riding Hood is a story known to all. Her grandmother has clearly seen better days. Tom Thumb, that little thief, is working over the boot of this sleeping giant. An old lady does the laundry. Mother Hulda shakes out her pillow -- and makes it snow. Langnek is one of the Six Servants -- one of the fairy tales that isn't as well known in the US. This is De Indische Waterlelies -- The Indian Water Lilies. It's a short little musical animatronic show with dancing water lilies that come to life. Snow White and a few of the seven dwarfs, who -- in this traditional interpretation of the story -- appear much older than we're used to. The dragon! It blows smoke! It may have escaped from the GCI woodie at the other end of the park! Rapunzel in her tower. There are no restrooms underneath this one. The Little Red Shoes -- tap dancing on the table all on their own. Pinocchio's been swallowed... ...will you help get him out? It's so interesting to see non-Disney versions of some of these classic stories. They're all a little darker, a little more grim, a little more unsightly... ...well perhaps except for their version of The Little Mermaid, for obvious reasons. Near the Fairytale Forest is the Volk van Laaf -- the village of the people of Laaf. The people of Laaf live in Lavelaer. It's a kids area themed to a small village, with a bakery, a windmill, a monorail ride, and various play areas. Allow Daniel to demonstrate Bench: The Ride: The Self-Powered Carousel. See-Saw POV! There are rocks to skip over, and we all made it through unscathed and un-wetted. Here is a fantastic shot of AJ almost demolishing a young child at the bottom of a slide! (To be fair, this was not AJ's fault!) "Hey kid, you want some of this?" Ready for a ride on the monorail! We soar over the village of Lavelaer. The monorail goes through several creatively-designed buildings, many of which are supposed to be the homes and workplaces of the villagers. Meanwhile, you'll enjoy views of yet another spectacularly-designed section of Efteling. I'm not sure most visitors make it back to this part of the park, but it's proof that there's always something new to explore at Efteling. For one brief moment, the monorail peeks over the wall at the edge of the park and out into the real world. It's sort of like a low-key version of the Disneyland monorail running alongside Harbor Blvd. It breaks the spell, but not for too long. There are a few other kids rides near Lavelaer, including some swings. David and Daniel gave the swings a go. There's also another carousel, and I know there are carousel enthusiasts here, so I made sure to include this one. Efteling's history museum is also in this section of the park. This map, from the park's early years, shows that the layout has actually not changed all that much. Well, this collection of heads in the museum is a little creepy. One more museum piece for the coaster enthusiasts -- a piece of the old Python! According to the sign, this is a "track piece of the old Python with one of the many nuts." Ladies and gentlemen, I have found one of the many nuts. Alright, last ride for the day is the Gondoletta boat ride. Here's a 2016 picture I had to include -- on that trip, we rode the boats in a downpour! Much better weather this time around. Colin and Caroline are laughing at something. It's probably Barry. These tow boat rides are peaceful and relaxing. Watch the fish and the birds swim up to the boat. Enjoy being guided around a pond and under the magnificent stone-arch bridges. Just relax and enjoy the scenery. As far as scenery goes, Efteling is hard to beat. We'll let Colin and Caroline end this post with a great big "thanks for reading!" (OK, I'm not actually sure /what/ they were doing, but it works.) Hope you enjoyed the post. If you're looking for some sword fights, stunts, and fire-breathing dragons, check back soon for Efteling Part 2...
  13. All those coaster rides sure worked up an appetite. Time for a lunch break. We'll stop at one of my favorite spots in Efteling -- the little assortment of snack huts just outside the entrance to Bob. Or, I guess, the entrance to Max & Moritz for anyone visiting in 2020 or later. We'll start with a very fancy-looking bratwurst sandwich... ...continue with a fried spiral-cut potato... ...and end with a stroopwafel. No one would be shamed for also starting with a stroopwafel. Or basically just eating nothing but stroopwafels. The Pagode observation platform is a "flying island" -- a tower that entirely raises and lowers on every ride. That way you can have an observation platform that doesn't require a fixed tower high above the ground, spoiling the untouched treetops. It's called Pagode, because it looks like a pagoda. Views from the top include the House of the Five Senses. In the distance, the arena for the park's big Raveleijn show -- which you'll see in next week's post. A view over an open field that is used for festivals and things. In the distance... ...is the Efteling hotel, in all its fairy tale majesty. The corner turrets are home to some of the hotel's heavily-themed suites. Even the regular rooms are quite nice, though! Looking down from the Pagode at the park's Gondoletta pond. The Gondoletta tow boats are very scenic, very relaxing, and very European. That hole in the ground is where the Pagode comes to a rest. From the looks of the queue, you can tell that it wasn't an especially busy day at Efteling. There's Vogel Rok! Oh, and since writing the earlier sections of this post, I learned that Rok refers to "Roc," a legendary bird of prey from Middle Eastern mythology. A view toward the cluster of coasters, which are mostly smashed together at the south end of the park. Python crests the lift. The church steeple in the background is outside the park. Baron looks quite nice from up above. This turn is fun, especially on the outside seats. Picture from 2016: looking down from the Pagode at what used to be one of Efteling's main open plazas. It was heavily under construction for one of the park's biggest investments ever... ...and in 2019, that same plot of land was now Symbolica, a massive and immersive dark ride. And given that it's right underneath the flight path of the Pagode, they did a good job heavily theming -- and solar-paneling -- the roof. Some kind of show going on just underneath the Pagode, next to Symbolica. The Efteling insignia on the roof of Symbolica. Why not head down and take a ride? From ground level, the Symbolica castle looks very impressive. Inside, you'll meet this very stately, stuffy herald. He's reading something important in Dutch. I believe we're awaiting his instructions on making a visit with the king. However... ...as we're waiting, he's interrupted by Pardoes, Efteling's court jester mascot! Like any good mascot, he's up to a little bit of mischief, and we're along for the ride. There's an awesome effect in that pre-show room where the staircase opens up to present our path forward through the queue, but I couldn't get a clean shot of it. I did get this view going down the staircase on the way to the ride station. You get to choose one of three different ride experiences -- the Muziektour (Music tour), Heldentour (Hero tour), or Schattentour (Treasure tour). 90% of the ride is the same no matter which option you pick, but there's a part in the middle with some interactive stuff that is different for each version. I think I did the music tour and the treasure tour, so the hero tour will be on the agenda for next time. No pictures from on the ride, since it's quite dark and you're constantly moving around. I wouldn't have even wanted to try. Symbolica is amazing -- you just want to soak in how beautiful everything looks, even if you're not totally sure what's going on. Continuing with the rides at Efteling, we have Monsieur Cannibale. It's a teacup ride, but instead of teacups, you're being cooked in big anthropomorphic pots... ...presumably to be eaten by Monsieur Cannibale. Yeah, I'm not so sure about any of this. Right across from Mr. Cannibal is Carnaval Festival! It's basically Efteling's version of Small World! It has frogs! It has birds! It has tropical scenes. It has Parisian love. A British jail. Possibly a drunk driver. A look at the Swiss Alps. Life in Italy. A trip to Japan. An oft-pictured, truly bizarre representation of sumo wrestling. Silhouettes of kites. A polar plunge. A south-of-the-border fiesta. A luau! And a closing scene with a little bit of everything. Just like on Small World, the music changes a bit from scene to scene, but the main melody keeps on going. Say Aloha to Carnaval Festival! TPR enjoys the final scene of the ride. It's true that the ride was changed slightly during some downtime between 2016 and 2019. I have pictures of both versions and when I have some time I'll post pictures with the changes in the main Efteling thread. There's also a river rapids ride called Piraña, themed to pre-Columbian civilizations. Not so fun fact -- I did not ride, but other friends from my group did. I went and got set up to snap some pictures of them. But they got through the queue quicker than expected, and I didn't get their text that they were boarding because the wifi was acting funky, and I stood around taking pictures of other random boats for 20 minutes. Oops. Well, I did get some good views of the ride. It's actually quite nicely themed. And like many European rapids rides, the boats are sort of set free to head downriver at their own pace, making collisions not just a possibility but an inevitability. There are some waterfalls... ...but the boats don't go completely underneath them. That said, people still react to them rather strongly. It's just a bit of water. Pretty sure you're not supposed to do this! Efteling has a train! We rode a half-circuit to get from one end of the park to the other. Here's our whole group on the train! Well, minus one, because I'm the guy behind the camera. The fun part of these trip reports is I get to post a whole lot of pictures of other people, but never any pictures of me! What's up next? Poffertjes. Sweet, glorious poffertjes. We split three different versions -- strawberries and cream, banana nutella, and apple cinnamon. If these look absolutely decadent and ridiculous, it's because they are, and we should have ordered more. From there, we headed to Droomvlucht (Dreamfight) -- another dark ride that moves too quick for good pictures, but that is such an important staple of the Efteling experience. Oh, I guess I should post one thing we /didn't/ do in 2019... This is Spookslot. This picture is from 2016. I am posting this picture to prove that I experienced Spookslot in 2016. I advised the group not to experience Spookslot in 2019. There were no objections.
  14. On to the pictures. There are a lot of them. Along the way, I'll mix in some photos from the 2016 trip, just because I had a few things I didn't get pictures of in 2019. The Efteling Hotel -- designed to look like a floating castle. You never know what you're going to run into at the hotel. Perhaps it's storytime with an old wizard. Or maybe you'll meet some characters -- quite skilled bilingually -- while eating breakfast! AJ and David catch the latest from these royal visitors. Or maybe you'll be crowned king for the day at dinner. Enjoy the best seat in the house, Steve. The House of the Five Senses -- Efteling's grand entrance. We didn't actually go through the main entrance -- I'm just sticking these pictures here anyway since they seem like "start of the TR" pictures. I don't have any pictures of the hotel guest entrance, but that's one of my few complaints about the park -- it's terrible! It dumps you out in a playground for toddlers! But anyway. The main entrance is fantastic. Go see it, even if you're staying at the hotel. Trash is never a problem at Efteling, because their characters will eat it with a vacuum-like efficiency. Papier Hier! Hey, you might just run into a giant frog while you're out and about. But we're here early this morning for some coasters! Python is up first -- and TPR is ready for some filming. AJ and Daniel are showing off the latest in Vekoma restraints. Actually, the new trains were already installed back in 2016, even before the coaster was re-tracked. They're fairly comfortable. Python drops. Python drops some more. Coming out of one of the two vertical loops -- among Python's four inversions. We've reached the "screw" part of the loop screw. Python was originally created in 1981. In 2018, it was almost completely re-tracked. Some of the track on the non-intense parts of the ride was kept. The end result does not look too painful. Actually, I think we were all pleasantly surprised. Python was enjoyable. Next up is De Vliegende Hollander -- The Flying Dutchman. Here's the outside of the station. The inside of the station has a real Pirates of the Caribbean feel, which makes sense since this is basically a ride on a ghost ship. I couldn't get pictures from the inside section, which is extremely dark and rather damp. However, the outdoor section -- unexciting as it is to ride -- is quite photogenic. The clean early morning reflection was soon to disappear as soon as boats started running. The splashdown follows just a small hill, but kicks up a good bit of water. Then, the boat floats along a guide path on its way back into the station. The small hill at the end of the outdoor section. The rest of the outdoor part is just a few little turns and shallow drops. Catching the start of the splash. It does kick up a bit of water, so if you're on an outside seat, you'll get a bit wet. If you sit in the middle of the boat, you'll stay mostly dry. Baron 1898 sneaks into my De Vliegende Hollander shot. De Vliegende Hollander was opened in 2007. It did have some problems, opening a year later than originally intended. Intamin took over for KumbaK and finished it up. More splashes. That's the dueling GCI woodie, Joris en de Draak, just behind. Rider reactions! A few more views from the other side. The 3-4-3-4 seating is a little odd. Splash... ...and the splash gets bigger... ...and a rainbow! It's a water ride, don't act like you're surprised. Front row seat at the Church of Efteling. The boat gets some tilt as it decelerates. A closer look at Boat #6. Efteling's insignia -- and the ride logo -- at the back of the boat. So, next up was supposed to be Baron 1898, the B&M dive coaster... ...but that got delayed. Things break, and things have to be repaired, so we got our instructions to keep in touch with the group in case it opened back up. In the mean time, let's head out to the rest of the coasters -- including our final rides on Bob. Bob opened in 1985 and had a 34 year run, closing in September 2019. Hey guys, I see you on the lift hill! With Bob's demise, there are only two more Intamin bobsleds left in the world -- La Vibora at SFOT, and Alpine Bobsled at Great Escape. How was your ride? Next up is Vogel Rok, which translates to Bird ... something. Vogel Rok is a Vekoma-in-a-box, and the entrance is graced by a giant statue of a mythical-looking bird! Inside the queue, you'll find one of the bird's eggs. I wouldn't recommend disturbing it. This picture is an accurate depiction of the Vogel Rok ride experience. Hope you're good at hanging on. The dueling GCI is up next -- this is Joris en de Draak, or George and the Dragon. Pick your side -- Water or Fire. The station theming on Joris is fantastic. When the winning train pulls in, these banners on the ceiling unfurl, and a fanfare is played. When the losing train pulls in, a soundtrack of boos and jeers is played instead. Dumb luck to get this shot of Joris and Python -- I was going for one of the coasters, and the second just happened to skate on by. Joris opened in 2010. It's smaller than your typical GCI -- only 72 feet tall. A not-so-fun fact is that Joris was actually /broken/ at the beginning of both the 2016 and 2019 TPR visits to Efteling. It re-opened in time for some rides the morning we departed in 2016, and was open for most (if not all) of the second day in 2019. There /is/ a big dragon near the end of the coaster. I couldn't find a good spot to get a picture of it, but Larry and Chuck did, so such a spot must exist. Which train usually wins? It seems like it's probably based on the weight of the trains -- so mine seemed to lose a lot. Both Joris trains complete the turnaround as they race to the end. Look close for a bonus cameo from De Vliegende Hollander. And then ... Baron 1898 opened! This is a 2016 picture, from a rainy day, but I love how it's kind of a moody photo -- it matches the theme quite nicely. Baron's post-drop course is relatively short, but it's more fun than the over-large, drawn-out elements on rides like Valravn. The wheel at the top of the lift hill is constantly spinning. If the theme all looks kind of steampunk, it's not exactly supposed to be that way -- it's actually designed to be like a fantasy version of a turn-of-the-20th-century gold mine. The Baron 1898 station, and the start of the story. So, it seems this old Baron owns a gold mine. The Baron sends his workers into the mine. See the tag board at the left side of this picture? Mine workers grab their tag when they go in for one of the three daily shifts. If someone doesn't put their tag back at the end of the shift, you know you've got trouble... The baron, Gustave Hooghmoed, speaks from the balcony in the pre-show room. He wants his gold, but there's just one problem. The spirits of the mine don't want the gold to be disturbed, and they're willing to take drastic measures to protect it. Will you enter the mine for the baron? This shot is of an empty Baron 1898 station in 2016, but ours was quite full in 2019. As the ride opened several hours into the park's operating day, a queue had already built up when the TPR group assembled. Efteling was fantastic, though, and let us use one train for a few rides for filming purposes, while loading the other guests on the other trains. We got some good shots, we all got a few rides in, and everything went well! I got very few shots of Baron in operation -- that's one thing I wished I could have spent more time on, especially because there are some very good photo angles. So, I'll share a couple, and take some more next time I go back to Efteling.
  15. Thursday and Friday, July 18-19, 2019 Day 7 / Day 8: Efteling Part 1: Around the Park Efteling is a very immersive, extremely large park. So large that I'm splitting up this trip report into two parts. This post will contain a big overview of the park and the rides as a whole, while the second part (which I'll post next week) will cover the shows and some other extra stuff. Let me start out by saying that I love Efteling. I really liked it in 2016, but liked it even more in 2019 -- better weather, lighter crowds, and a little more time to explore. It's as heavily themed as any top-tier park in the US, but with a less overtly-commercialized, very Dutch take on the whole fairy tale / theme park experience. That means you're getting versions of the stories that are much closer to their European origins than to their cleaned-up, Disney-fied iterations you might know from elsewhere. And that's a huge part Efteling -- the Fairytale Forest (Sprookjesbos) is the heart of the park. Throw in a few thrills (most of which are heavily themed) and a whole lot of great things to eat, all nestled into a beautiful forested setting, and it's not hard to see why Efteling is such an amazing, world-class park experience. Here's how it worked for the TPR group. We started the day in Amsterdam on the 18th, gathering the few stragglers who didn't go to Bobbejaanland with us the day before. We arrived at Efteling in the afternoon, and had a couple hours in the park before it closed. We stayed on-site at the Efteling resort hotel, and most of us got dinner at the hotel's restaurant. We had a full day at the park on the 19th, and it was a very full day -- outside of a quick stop back at the hotel, I was in the park from 8:45 AM until just about midnight. That still wasn't enough time to explore every little pathway and scenic view and attraction at Efteling, though between both visits in 2016 and 2019, I think I got pretty close. We did some filming on the morning of the 19th, and Robb's posted one video from . Be sure to check it out. This is one of those parks where the rides are really second in importance to the overall experience, but I'll review some of them anyway. Bob: I'll start with the coaster that is no longer with us. Efteling's classic Intamin bobsled gave its last rides not long after our visit. It was a good ride, almost completely hidden by the trees, and I'm glad I got one more go on it before it disappeared for good. Baron 1898: I liked Baron in 2016, but liked it even more this time -- perhaps the warmer weather had it flying a little quicker through the course. Baron is one of the smaller B&M Dive Coasters, and its short overall layout is maybe not the absolute best, but it's still quite good. The theming on Baron is the real draw, as it's one of the best-themed large coasters in the world. If you've been there, you can probably still hear the banshees wailing in the pre-lift room. Baron is probably my favorite B&M Dive Coaster outside of Sheikra and Griffon. It's a million times better than Valravn, so don't even go there. Joris en de Draak: A fun slightly-small-sized dueling GCI woodie. If you like Lightning Racer, you'll enjoy this one too. It's not particularly intense, but it's action-packed from start to finish. I give it a solid B+. Quite fun, but not as good as the GCI at our next stop at Toverland. Python: I got to ride the "old" Python in 2016, and the almost-completely retracked version in 2019. If you've ever wondered what a standard Vekoma loop-screw would feel like if it were un-coathangered and engineered properly, ride Python! It's still not a great ride, since the layout is just not all that inspiring, but it's perfectly comfortable and even re-ridable. Plus, if you ask the local fanboys and fangirls, it's the most important coaster in the country. Vogel Rok: It'd be a forgettable coaster outdoors, but this Vekoma-in-a-box is actually pretty fun! The lighting and soundtrack effects were recently upgraded, and the overall experience is one worth riding at least a couple times. De Vliegende Hollander: The problems getting this ride constructed (Intamin taking over for KumbaK) are an interesting side note, but I really like this one. It's a heavily-themed ride that is part-coaster, part-dark water ride, and it's the dark ride section that is far and away the best segment. It's so good I'm not sure I want to spoil it, but Efteling makes outstanding use of some very simple fog and lighting effects, and then throws a few tricks in just before the lift hill. The coaster portion and splashdown are nothing special, but that's not why you ride this. Symbolica: Wow, this is good. Efteling's huge investment for 2017, it's a trackless dark ride, and clearly the best of the three that I've been on -- the others being the pretty enjoyable Ratatouille at DLP, and the abysmal Antarctica at SWO. Symbolica's an absolute dream of a design, and a visual feast in every single one of the spectacularly-themed rooms. The fact that they do just about everything with practical effects, sets, and lighting is even more impressive. This is easily one of the best dark rides I've ever been on. Droomvlucht: This is old-school Efteling at its best. A suspended dark ride on a rail (note: not a coaster) that goes through scene after scene of forest nymphs, trolls, fairies, mushrooms, and other fantastic elements. The final scene -- as you complete a huge spiral down and around the forest -- is quite the experience. Fata Morgana: An older dark ride -- it's basically Pirates of the Persian Gulf, with less drops than the Disney version, but more recreational drug use. Villa Volta: A Vekoma madhouse. It's kinda fun. I never remember that much about these when they're over. Carnaval Festival: Efteling's take on Small World, with a stupidly catchy theme song, and a whole bunch of interesting depictions of foreign cultures. Spookslot: Spookslot is a thing that exists. That's it. That's the review. Pagode: A "flying island" observation tower, it's worth the ride just for the uniqueness. The views are good, but since much of the park is forested, you can't see a lot. Gondoletta: Every theme park should have a tow boat ride. Why do no theme parks in the US have a tow boat ride? Or are there some that I can't recall? There should be more. Absolutely should be more.
  16. Florida still has no statewide stay-at-home (or similar) order, but Orange County just issued one today.
  17. Gonna add to this report, because as promised, I've got some 2016 pics I'm gonna be sharing along the way with this TR. I don't have much from Bobbejaanland in 2016, since it was a busy day and the weather wasn't great, but here are a few. I was sad to learn that Bobbejaanland removed their wind turbine some time between 2016 and 2019. It lined up nicely with Typhoon. (photo from 2016) Ah well. There are plenty more wind turbines in the Benelux. (photo from 2016) Typhoon was one of our big ERT/filming sessions in 2016! We also rode/filmed on Dizz (now Naga Bay) and Revolution. (photo from 2016) Rode Sledeghammer in 2016. It was quite good. And since I only had one picture of it from 2019, here's two more. (photo from 2016) Frisbees are great. (photo from 2016) A look at the train on Revolution / Mount Mara, which is ... insanely long. (photo from 2016) Oh yeah, we braved King Kong in 2016! Stacy is afraid for her life! (photo from 2016) And I rode Oki Doki in 2016 also, so I got a better view of the front of the clown... (photo from 2016) ...and the rear of the clown. (photo from 2016) Ah, best for last -- the 2016 day at Bobbejaanland (also the first official park on that trip) was my first experience with FEBO! Sadly I think the thing was empty when we walked by on this trip! (photo from 2016) So, best I can tell from my pictures, the wheel/drop were still physically there in 2016, but they had been bypassed with the current course that simply went under the drop hill. In 2019, the structure had been removed entirely. I don't think I caught the upgrades, aside from maybe the flat-screen TV with the scores at the end, but I'm at least glad they are keeping this thing going. It's quite the ... artifact, I guess. Oh it's all yours! Thanks! And yes, it was. Real gem of a ride, and hope it's caught the notice of some smaller parks over here. Oh, absolutely. And I do like the theme of the whole thing -- the queue is pretty nice, too. I skipped it this time, though, so I don't recall all the specifics. My gift to the group after dealing with 5 days of junky weather on my own.
  18. More pictures! Down from the Ferris wheel, and hopping on board the monorail for a spin around the park. Kind of an interesting mix of theming here, but you have to appreciate the cowboy hat canopy over the horse-themed pedal monorail vehicles. Oki Doki from the monorail. An indoor kids area at the east end of the park. The Oki Doki station -- and the one shot I have with a good view of the clown on the lead car. I don't know off-hand what language this is in, but "DANGER DE MORT" is pretty easily translatable. Oh yes, the El Paso Special. We'll come back to this. The arch at the entrance to Bob Express. A view over the flume. How much do you /love/ this Ferris wheel? Here is a random obelisk near the Land of Legends. Is it a monument? A gravestone? I do not know. Like many European parks, Bobbejaanland has a nice, gentle boat ride. It is well-landscaped and very relaxing. Typhoon is not as relaxing. There are some nice views of Typhoon from the monorail. Typhoon heads up the second hill after the vertical loop. The Typhoon station, which isn't accessible from this side, which is a little bit awkward. Typhoon and Fury from a distance. The monorail goes a little ways outside the park, through the rather busy parking lot. The monorail also goes right past King Kong. King Kong is fun to take pictures of, which is at least something, since it's not fun to ride. Hello, Kong victims! The monorail station's exit platform contains a small museum of old park memorabilia -- and models of several rides. Here's a model of Oki Doki. Bob Express and the log flume. Speedy Bob -- which was once a pair of mirror-image mice, before one was removed. Typhoon. Mount Mara, with a view inside that big building. Back on the ground and continuing the lap around the park. This is the lift hill for the pedal monorail. The big clown on the roof of the kids area is ... unsettling. He just kind of looms over that end of the park. Did you know that Bobbejaanland has a beach? It also has an Indiana river. Sadly, I have been to Indiana. It is not very exciting. Its rivers are especially not very exciting. Alright, let's get this out of the way. The El Paso Special. Some ride details on the El Paso Special. I didn't realize it was built all the way back in 1988. The name of the game: ride 'n' shoot. Brad and Chuck are ready to ride 'n' shoot their way through the old west. On your bench-like chariot, you'll journey through many southwestern scenes... There are people playing the guitar. Figures in masks... ...and dancing ladies in colorful garb. And I think you're supposed to shoot all of them. Now we have entered the den of sin and iniquity ... the local bar and gambling hall. Care for some Panther Piss Malt Liquor? There is abject inebriation. There are paintings of unclothed ladies on the wall. There's a pianist who is tipped only in swill, and a gentleman in the corner booth who probably didn't pay too much for whatever service he is about to receive. There are dancing skeletons and bank robbers. Fighting dogs, angry condors, and ... a guy in a noose. And I think you're supposed to shoot all of them. Folks in dire straits in the old missions... ...a native on the roof... ...and a minstrel band to wrap things up at the end. And I think you're supposed to shoot all of them. The El Paso Special is a ride that defies all explanation. It is a glorious window into days and mindframes of yore, and a cultural WTF on a degree that my feeble little mind is powerless to process. There's my score in the top left corner -- the 4,750. I lost to Stacy. I think losing at the El Paso Special is actually winning. At least that's my story. Let's continue the cultural appropriation tour of Bobbejaanland with a look at Dream Catcher! Here is the Dream Catcher station. Here is the train. Late in the day, they pulled off the VR, and the line finally started moving a little quicker. Dream Catcher is a Vekoma Swinging Turns. There are only two other coasters of this type operating -- one in Japan and one in Thailand. I remember it being kind of fun, and the swinging was interesting, but I wasn't going to wait in a long line to ride again. Dream Catcher swings over the station. Up the lift! Around the curve. And now, after waiting for what probably seemed like hours, our TPR group takes a spin. Get excited! There are only three of these on the planet, and they didn't even make you wear VR goggles! Swinging around. Hitting the brakes! Two thumbs up from Daniel! (a more lukewarm reaction from Ryan) This is not my first TPR trip report with the Aztec sun stone. I saw the real thing in Mexico in 2015. This version is not the real thing. It is a rapids ride. It's got tunnels and one of those big whirlpool spiral things, but it doesn't look like a particularly wet rapids ride. I didn't ride on either visit. Maybe next time. This is Speedy Bob. He's inviting you to ride his coaster. Will you take the invitation? Speedy Bob is your basic Mack mouse -- more notable, perhaps, when it was twinned. Hairtime on the curves! Speedy Bob is encircled by an elevated walkway, but it's covered in a mesh fence that makes photography hard. If you line up straight on with the coaster track, though, you can shoot through the holes in the fence. Speedy Bob was built in 1998. Speedy Bob's twin was also built in 1998, but removed in 2008. Forget the coaster -- this guy's got his eyes on something else. Alright, y'all. TPR enjoys Speedy Bob! Wave hi to Barry! OMG, Stacy! And now, a peaceful, quiet interlude. This is such a European park thing -- perfectly manicured gardens and cute little circular boats. For a moment, you'll forget you're in an amusement park. But, yeah, Typhoon is basically right there. Hope you're enjoying your ride on Bootvaart at Bobbejaanland. I give my eternal thanks to all parks that run their log flumes at high capacity. Bobbejaanland was sending boats out almost non-stop. It's a photographer's dream. Walls of water! Big splashes! I did ride the flume in 2016, and probably would have gone on again this year if there was a little more time. It's not a very big drop ... but it gets the job done. The best challenge when photographing log flumes is trying to perfectly time out the start of the splash, so that you get the water coming up off the flume, but not blocking the view of the riders. Nailed it with this shot. This picture's a little on the wetter side. Everyone always looks so surprised on these rides. This post brought to you by Ben & Jerry's. At the end of the flume! And now -- closing the night off with some TPR Filming and ERT. Starting off on Typhoon with a few great takes. Flying on into the brake run. We had a lot of fun on this ride! We had even more fun on Fury! An entire Fury car of TPR riders. Rushing into the brakes at the end of the ERT. Great ride! One of my favorite coasters on the Europe trip, and this was just Park #1! That's it from Bobbejaanland, and that's it from Belgium. Hope you enjoyed the report.
  19. Pictures! Belgium's very own wild west cowboy -- Bobbejaan Schoepen. He was an entertainer, a musician, and a "professional whistler." He was also an amusement park operator, opening Bobbejaanland in 1961. Near the park's front entrance is the Lake House, one of the main restaurants. They know how to get on our good side. Donuts and pie and juice for breakfast! Bobbejaanland made a pretty significant investment in 2019, heavily re-theming a section of the park as the Land of Legends. This themed area incorporated two old attractions (Typhoon and Sledgehammer) and two new attractions (Fury and Naiads Waters). Fury's the star of the show -- by far the biggest part of the new area. Fury is a custom Gerstlauer Infinity coaster with a few new tricks. The bright orange track looks nice against the blue sky. The queue is also nicely designed -- sort of a non-specific mythological theme. A view of the Fury vehicle. It's just one car, with 12 riders in 3 rows. Fury has lots of great photo spots -- especially in the queue and on the exit platform. There's some mist/smoke during the launch segment. Launching on Fury. Beware the generic red-eyed dragon. Fury is the fastest coaster in the Benelux. It has a height of 141 feet. Fury's big claim to fame is that the riders get to vote on whether the vehicle launches forward or backward. The voting is done via two buttons on the restraint. Seriously, watch the TPR video if you haven't already. The car pulls out of the station forward, then hits a turntable on the launch track. You won't know which direction you're launching until the turntable begins to spin. Voting is done by majority -- whichever direction gets the most votes in the ride vehicle wins out. I think it selects at random if there's a tie. The vast majority of public riders were voting to go forward -- probably only 1 or 2 out of every 10 rides went backward. The brake run doesn't lead directly into the station -- rather, the car stops on a turntable, and then rotates to move in to unload. OK, how about some pics of the TPR crew on the ride? Airtime at the top! Picking up speed. An enjoyable ride! A wider overview of the main plaza in the Land of Legends area. I don't know who this guy is, but he's apparently legendary. I didn't ride Sledgehammer this time, so this is the only picture I got of it. It's one of the rides that was re-incorporated into Land of Legends. Typhoon was also re-incorporated into Land of Legends, which unfortunately required moving its queue entrance rather far away from the ride station. Typhoon is powered by griffons. No, not that Griffon. This one's a Gerstlauer. Typhoon's a Eurofighter with a vertical lift and beyond-vertical drop. 97 degrees of steepness. Going down. Rider reactions at the top. A very circular, almost Schwarzkopf-esque vertical loop. Typhoon has been around since 2004, but received what I'd call a "gentle" re-theme for the Land of Legends opening. Framed by Fury. Riders on the storm. It's really not as painful as it looks. Brake run shot! The final new attraction in Land of Legends is Naiads Waters - it's basically just a water play area. Naiads Waters was pretty busy during the operating day, so I got a couple pictures after the Fury ERT. Moving on to one of the older coasters -- here's Naga Bay, a Maurer Söhne spinner formerly known as Dizz. Naga Bay is very ... okay-ish. As far as spinning coasters go, it's not one of my favorites. It's good to see a few people enjoying it, though. These people are having a good time also. Naga Bay opened in 2011. It's 1411 feet long and contains 16 block brakes. At least that's what it seems like. Honestly, the yawning kid pretty much tells the story on this coaster. Even the TPR riders don't seem thrilled. At least there are a few good photo spots near the back half of the ride. Like any spinner, if you can get it spinning a bit, it can be fun. That's hard to do with all the block brakes. As spinners go, we'd ride a far superior one a few days later at Toverland. There's Daniel, trying to make the most of it. Next up on the photo tour -- Bob Express. Bob Express is a Mack family powered coaster. It was opened in 2000. I like Bob Express. Cute trains, a nice setting, and interactions with the nearby log flume. Powered coasters are definitely way more of a thing in Europe than in the US. A big helix over the lake. Respect the "B". The little engine that could. Bob and his friends. A final Bob Express view with a great big wheel behind it. Oki Doki is a cute little Vekoma junior coaster. It's got a nice setting too, as you can see from this view across the lake. The Oki Doki trains are themed after a clown. Apparently, a very long clown. No, this isn't Universal. King Kong is on the loose. Is he terrifying the guests of Bobbejaanland? Verdict: nope. A Bobbejaanland oddity: an indoor splash battle. It's housed in the same building as Revolution / Mount Mara, the weird indoor spiral-up spiral-down Vekoma illusion coaster. Because it's such a weird coaster, I really did want to ride it again this time. Sadly, this is as far as I made it before bailing -- the queue was horrendously long and barely moving. Curses to the VR. So, rather than hang out in a cramped indoor queue all day, I went way up high. I did not get to the Ferris wheel in 2016, so I made sure to enjoy the view this time! A view across the lake -- the indoor flume (Indiana River) and Oki Doki are visible. The kiddie area is off to the east. The western-themed village and Dreamcatcher coaster are nearby. There's also a wet-dry slide just below the wheel. To the southeast -- Speedy Bob, the wild mouse, and farmland not far away. Here's the building that houses Revolution / Mount Mara. It's very green colored. And rust colored. A view inside the wheel. The center insignia: a big red heart. This is Dream Catcher. It's a weird Vekoma swinging inverted coaster ... with VR ... and a ton of inoperable seats. Just swinging along. Oki Doki makes its drop. Speedy Bob is relatively speedy. Zig zags on top. Always have to hold on tight on those turns. Bob Express spirals over the lake. Naga Bay hits the top of the lift. An aerial view of Fury's many loops and spikes. Fury at the top of the launch. So much bright orange Gerstlauer track. Fury: powered by wind. Maybe. Have you inverted on Fury today?
  20. Wednesday, July 17, 2019 Day 6: Bobbejaanland At long last! The theme park portion of this trip report has begun. This was my second time at Bobbejaanland, having also visited with TPR in 2016. As would be the case with a lot of parks that I'd be making repeat visits to, the second time ended up being more enjoyable than the first. The weather was fantastic, and I took the day fairly easily -- skipping some of the coasters that I'd already been on in 2016, and instead spending time doing photography and riding the monorail and Ferris wheel. Our first time visitors had a rougher day trying to get through their credit runs -- the park was fairly crowded and several queues were moving very slowly, particularly for the coasters with VR. Nonetheless, everyone had a good time, and the park treated us well. They served us breakfast when we got in, and hooked us up with filming / ERT on Typhoon and Fury after the park closed. Fury, new for 2019, was a coaster that might have slipped a little under the radar if not for TPR's coverage of it after our visit. ! And bask in the power of being able to choose if you're going to launch through the course forwards or backwards! OK, here are reviews of the rides, but since I didn't ride much this time, I'll caution that some of this is gonna be as best-as-I-can-recall from 2016. Fury: Bobbejaanland's best ride by a very comfortable margin. Really, it's an outstanding example of how to pack a thrilling and fun ride into a small footprint -- for a very reasonable cost. Perfect fit for a smaller park like Bobbejaanland. Some of the elements are just weird, and there's a good mix of hangtime, airtime, and intensity. Oh, and you might get to go backwards! Typhoon: Fluch von Novgorod is my favorite Eurofighter, but you know what ... depending on how I'm feeling about Mystery Mine on whichever day you ask me, Typhoon might be my second favorite. It's smooth, it's got some intense moments, and the inversions are fun. A solid ride that was the best in the park before Fury came along. Dream Catcher: Sort of an endearingly weird swinging kiddie invert that's now been bogged down by VR. Revolution / Mount Mara: Worth riding just for how bizarre it is -- a giant spiral up, a giant spiral down, and a 400-car long coaster train. Also bogged down by VR, though the VR was actually kind of fun from what I remember from 2016. Oki Doki: A perfectly decent family coaster with a nice setting along the lake. Speedy Bob: A perfectly decent wild mouse. Bob Express: A perfectly decent powered coaster over the lake. Naga Bay: Previously known as Dizz. A not-all-that-great Maurer spinner. Block brakes every 5 seconds. Wasn't upset to skip it this time around. Sledgehammer: A big huge frisbee. Good ride, as most of these are. Indiana River: A really wet but mostly fun indoor log flume. Wildwaterbaan: A pretty typical outdoor flume, with some good interactions with the powered coaster. The Forbidden Caves: An "immersion tunnel" simulator -- interesting idea, but thoroughly unconvincing. The El Paso Special: Good lord, where do you begin with this. I guess I could try to review it objectively as a shooter, in which case I'd say it's an older attraction with some interestingly campy aesthetic detail and a below-average shooting/scoring system. But that really misses the boat on this ride, which is easily the most unseemly, irreverent take on the old west that I've ever seen in a theme park. This is one you just have to experience for yourself to really understand. I ain't gonna endorse it, but I did photograph it, and I'll try to keep the photo captions PG-13 as best I can. No promises.
  21. You know what we could all use right about now? A good old fashioned TPR-style coaster-filled trip report.
  22. Carnival, Norwegian, MSC, and Royal Caribbean cruises have been suspended through at least April. Disney announced suspension of their cruise service either earlier today or yesterday.
  23. Thanks for reading! And I just noticed the three crowns on that particular jet.
  24. Just a couple quick stops left on my return to the airport. I headed northwest from Lelystad and crossed the Houtribdijk -- another large causeway/dam that separates two bodies of water with different elevations. This is quite the oddity on the northwest end of the Houtribdijk -- the road ducks underneath the water. This is the Krabbersgat Naviduct. Opened in 2003, the Krabbersgat Naviduct is the first Naviduct in the world. Although simple water crossings /over/ roadways are found elsewhere -- including at Walt Disney World -- this is different because it's an entire lock system built over the road. When it comes to engineering basically anything that involves water, the Dutch have it down to a science. A sailboat sails on in. The gates and the control tower of the naviduct. Why build the lock on top of the roadway? Space constraints. There wasn't enough room to build everything separately. A view of a few more wind turbines from the naviduct. My last stop before returning the car was at the Schiphol Airport Spottersplek Polderbaan -- a designated plane spotting park located along the oft-used Polderbaan runway. Oh, and look -- it's finally sunny. This was an opportunity to relax for an hour and just watch some airplanes -- including many carriers that are seen infrequently, if at all, in the US. This 737 is from Morocco's Royal Air Maroc, definitely not an airline I've seen before. Lots of planes from different European countries, like this A319 from Croatia... ...and this A318 from France. The Polderbaan is the runway that is the furthest away from Schiphol's terminal area, so if you ever fly through there and feel like you're taxiing for hours, you're probably using the Polderbaan. Here's a Turkish Airlines A330-200... ...and a China Cargo Boeing 777F, backed by turbines in the distance. With that, I fueled up the rental car, returned it to the airport, and received another 100+ Euros in charges for the flat tire fiasco. Yeah, that was pleasant. I had a little bit of time to wander the land-side retail area in Schiphol, including finding this airplane-themed store, Planes@Plaza. Outside the store -- chopped-up pieces of a KLM DC-9. Inside the store -- models of just about any kind of modern aircraft you can think of. After getting dinner, I bought myself a train ticket, and hopped aboard an eastbound Intercity line. I pretty much had the whole train to myself. Getting out at the Bijlmer ArenA station... ...a place I was already familiar with from 2016, and would become increasingly familiar with again in 2019. That brings me to the first official TPR hotel of the trip -- the Courtyard Marriott outside the Bijlmer ArenA station. And that wraps up the first phase of my trip, and I promise there will be roller coasters in the next segment! A map of my Benelux travels and most of the locations visited. Some thoughts on driving! I knew it was going to be a little different than driving in the US, but it wasn't all that tough to figure out. Freeway driving was essentially the same -- it was on the smaller roads where there were more things to watch out for. First and foremost, if you ever head to Europe to rent a car, spend a /lot/ of time studying up on European road signs. They are considerably different than in the US, and you need to know those differences so you know what to do. You don't want to have to think about what the signs mean -- they should be something you're familiar with. That includes things like parking signs, signs about what turns are allowed, the whole "priority to the right" thing (which is very different from in the US) and where passing is/isn't allowed. On this phase of the trip, I thought the toughest roads I drove were the smaller roads in Belgium. Some of them weren't constructed very well, especially going through villages -- with lots of tight corners and narrow stretches where the road abuts right up against buildings. In the Netherlands, the road quality was generally quite good, but the challenges were in the obstacle courses that they /intentionally/ build to try to keep speeds down. I'm talking about speed bumps, planters that jut out into the middle of the roads from alternating sides that force you to do a slalom, random sections where the road narrows to one lane and you have to wait for traffic coming the other way to clear, bike paths (and bikes) everywhere, and of course roundabouts upon roundabouts upon roundabouts. Honestly, it got frustrating after a while, but that's probably the intent -- they want you to be /always/ paying attention while you're driving. In the later phase of the trip, I found the roads in Germany to be of the highest quality overall, and most similar to what I'd expect in the US. Of course, the craziest roads I'd end up driving were in the Alps, but that's gonna be about 17 trip report segments later. Final note -- I never use navigation systems when driving around the US, as I prefer to chart out my own routes. With so much else to pay attention to in Europe, though, I opted to trust the in-vehicle navigation rather than doing it all on my own. That saved me a lot of stress, and a lot of distraction.
  25. On the 2016 TPR trip, we visited Walibi Holland, a park that we'd be heading back again on this trip. While we were on the way there in 2016, I noticed that we drove right past a KLM Boeing 747 parked seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and I was curious. What was such a big airplane doing out in the middle of a polder this far east of Amsterdam? Turns out, it's part of the Luchtvaart-Themapark Aviodrome -- an aerospace museum located at Lelystad Airport. I spent a couple hours a the Aviodrome in the mid to late afternoon, and thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I don't always have the patience to go through museums, but with an interest in aviation, this one kept my attention. The main entrance to the Aviodrome! Parked outside is a prototype Fokker 50, a Dutch turboprop. The admission tickets for the Aviodrome are even designed to look like airline boarding passes. The main entry also includes some nice touches that look exactly like something you'd find in Schiphol. As an aviation museum, the Aviodrome contains a collection of older aircraft, especially those important to Dutch aviation history. This one is a Douglas C-54A. This building is a replica of the Schiphol terminal from 1928, compete with an observation deck up top. Inside the "control tower" of the replica terminal. A view over some other planes, like this one -- a Fokker F27 Friendship. A look over another plane toward the main building. There are also some military jets on display. Another military jet at the Aviodrome. Though it's mostly a museum, there are a few small rides for kids. Of greater interest to me is this airplane... the one I saw from the TPR bus three years prior. But I'll get back to that. Inside the replica terminal building is a replica of the ticketing / lobby area. This is how Schiphol looked almost a century ago! A map of KLM destinations, from the middle east to Indonesia. Air mail from all over the world. There are several rooms designed to evoke the feel of the aviation industry from many, many years ago. They include log books from flights, luggage from the era, and displays about some of the most important people in that time period of Dutch aviation. The Aviodrome also has a Fokker 100 on display, in its bright KLM Cityhopper livery. This is not the only Fokker 100 on display in the Netherlands -- Schiphol Airport has one on their rooftop viewing deck! US-based flyers may not be familiar with the Netherlands-based Fokker, but they were a major manufacturer of civilian aircraft for a good chunk of the last century, prior to going bankrupt in 1996. There are still quite a few Fokker 100s in service, primarily in Australia. Inside a hangar are several older planes and parts of planes. This one is a very old Douglas DC-2. Everything else aside, it's this KLM Boeing 747 that first caught my eye three years prior. Boeing 747s are largely being phased out as passenger aircraft, but several are re-appearing at museums like the Aviodrome. Since no US-based airlines operate 747s anymore, finding one at a museum is probably the easiest way to explore one of them. This particular plane is a Boeing 747-200 -- one of the older 747 models. It was delivered to KLM in 1978, and ended its service life in 2003. The plane carries the registration PH-BUK. 747s are among the largest passenger planes ever built, and there's no better way to get a sense of just how large they are than to get to walk underneath one. One of the four engines on the 747-- with an overall diameter of almost 9 feet. This aircraft has the name Louis Blériot, to honor the Frenchman who was the first to cross the English Channel by plane. A view of the nose of the 747. The Aviodrome enjoys the little details, like setting up a tug on the front of the 747, and even putting a fake airport worker inside of it. We won't be transporting any horses today. Alright, let's take the stairs... ...and enter the plane. Just inside, there's an exhibit with pictures that help tell the story of how the plane was transported to the Aviodrome. Although the 747 was still airworthy, the Lelystad airport is too small to accommodate such a large plane. So, it was partially disassembled at Schiphol, and then transported via land /and water/ to Lelystad. Of all the things you may see in Amsterdam's canals, this is probably not one you'd be expecting. A few shots of the final re-assembly at the Aviodrome. This 747 is a "Combi" model, in which the rear of the plane was set aside for extra cargo space rather than passenger seating. They had it all stripped out so that you could see what the walls and ceiling were made of. Heading into the main passenger cabin, which looks pretty much like any older widebody aircraft. At the tip of the nose on the lower deck. Up the stairs to the second deck. A view out the windows. Here's the view upstairs in the "hump" of the 747. First class / business class seats were a /lot/ more plain back when this 747 was flying. A view into the cockpit. Lots of controls for operating this huge piece of machinery. A quick step outside for some views of the fuselage. Although KLM sold the aircraft to the Aviodrome for a symbolic price of 1 Euro, actually transporting it to the museum cost about 600,000 Euros. Much of the cost -- and the labor -- was donated. An uncommon photo angle of an interesting airplane. Looking down at the wing. The 747 has four engines, and is one of only three four-engine passenger planes still commonly found flying the skies -- along with the Airbus A340 and A380. Finally, with the museum's closing time upcoming, I had just a few minutes to check out the main building -- including displays of more old aircraft. This is one of the most important planes in the museum -- a Lockheed L-749 Constellation. This one is a Douglas DC-3. Going even older, here's a Fokker 7 that dates back to the 1920s. Older still is this 1910s Fokker Spin, the first aircraft designed by Anthony Fokker. There's a small space exhibit inside the main building at the Aviodrome, including this replica of a 1960s Gemini capsule. Here's a replica Neil Armstrong spacesuit. There's also a replica of a European module of the International Space Station, and a display that honors Dutch astronaut André Kuipers, who spent time on the ISS. That finishes things out from the Aviodrome! I thought it was a great place to visit. I'll note that virtually all of the signage and written descriptions were Dutch-only, so you may need to translate some things (or look them up online later). That doesn't take anything away from being able to see some great old airplanes, in a very well-kept and enjoyable setting.
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