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Photo TR: Heth in Europe - Efteling/Heide Park/Europa Park


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August 1st – August 13th

 

This is my first photo TR here so I hope you all enjoy

 

I recently graduated from my Masters at University, and so I decided to plan out a trip through Europe in order to celebrate and take advantage of my final ‘summer’. The intention was to visit some of mainland Europe’s major theme parks before finishing by visiting my girlfriend’s parents (which happened from 13th August to 18th). Plans had to shrink and change as I began to factor in travel times, rest days and more cultural visits on the way, and in the end I visited 3 theme parks:

 

Efteling – 2 full days (*+2 below half-days)

 

This is my favourite theme park in the world, and was also the subject case study for my masters Dissertation. *Sadly I was ill on what was supposed to be my first two days, and so I pushed my full days back eliminating my intended 3rd full day and a visit to Utrecht (provides a reason to go again I guess)

 

Heide Park – 1 full day

 

This was the only completely new park to me, and was visited alongside day trips out to Hamburg and Luneburg as well.

 

Europa Park – 3 full days

 

….and needed all 3 of those days! The park was very busy and, since my only trip there before this trip was one day only, I appreciated the luxury of many days. This portion of the trip was taken with 3 other people, unlike the rest of the trip which was solo (bar a few hours in Efteling).

 

I was tempted to visit Hansa Park, Tripsdrill and Toverland along the way, but in the end these would have been extra long journeys and instead I opted to revisit other parks or have relaxing days. Phantasialand was considered, but I spent a holiday in Cologne the year before, and so the urgency to visit wasn’t there this time.

 

Onwards....

 

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PART 1 - EFTELING

 

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Efteling's title-drop on the main entrance

 

My starting point was my home in the UK. Thankfully my local airport recently started doing trips to Amsterdam, and so this is where I began. By 5pm of planes, trains and buses I reached my hotel and had made it to Efteling for a brief few hours. The park was absolutely heaving, and I was feeling tired and groggy, so very few rides happened on the first day. On Summer Saturdays the park is open until midnight, and though I didn’t stay nearly that long, I enjoyed the entertainment in each of the squares.

 

I will skip over day 2, and instead provide a more detailed report of the better two full days.

 

Efteling has been my favourite theme park for just over a year now. I’ve been there twice before (summer 2013 and winter 2014) and I fell in love with the place when I went there to use the park as an academic case study. I was writing a dissertation on the use of architecture in theme parks and how the layout of rides and parks is used to create fictional narratives. As a result of this I became extremely familiar with the park, and I haven’t looked back since. Whilst the rides are not necessarily as exciting as those in the USA nor as well-themed as Disney parks, the general balance of thrills, theming, atmosphere and lush surroundings makes it the most rounded park I know, and it’s a park in which I can truly lose myself.

 

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Huis de Vijf Zintuigen - the thatched main entrance

 

For those who’ve never been to the park, I will try and summarise some of the main rides and the general layout of the park. The front entrance is an impressive thatched structure holding the ticket booths, which then spills out onto the first plaza, where the Arabian themed dark-ride Fata Morgana can be seen across the lake. Fata Morgana would be the first ride in the park on the first day, due to the large queues on other rides. Fata Morgana is a very impressive dark ride with plenty of animatronics, rich environments and special effects. Given the ride was made in the 1980’s it did not feel dated, and, as with everything in Efteling, the level of care taken on maintenance through the park was great. Some small bits didn’t work here and there, but the level of cleanliness was exceptional.

 

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Fata Morgana viewed from the entrance

 

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Fata Morgana up close

 

The main promenade to the centre of the park didn’t exist when the park opened, but it now provides the main route to the heart of the park from which guests can drift out to other parts of the park. One of the first rides I decided to approach from this section was the big new ride, and the only one I had never ridden: Baron 1898. Baron 1898 was excellent, and, though time is really needed to tell, may be my new favourite ride in the park. The new dive coaster was a fantastic overall experience. Yes, the layout was not long nor was it nearly as intense as other older B&M coasters. However, the free-fall is very fun and during its short coaster layout the ride never repeats itself. There’s air-time, some good forces and plenty of floating. To review Baron 1898 based on its layout alone, however, would be to do it a disservice. The exceptional station building is not only beautiful from the outside, but has two wonderful pre-shows and a short dark-ride section for the coaster. Really these elements work with the roller-coaster part to form the overall attraction. It’s a story experience, and I feel to review everything after the drop only would be pointless. The highlight of my days at the park and of my holiday.

 

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My first view of Baron 1898 and its unique support structure

 

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...about to drop...

 

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The attraction entrance marks the beginning of the overall experience. The whole ride is themed very well, bar the slightly barren queue line.

 

On a lake near to Baron 1898 is the main ‘hub’ of thrill rides in Efteling: De Vliegende Hollander (water coaster/dark ride), Joris en de Draak (duelling wooden coasters) and Python (old Vekoma looping coaster). Of the rides in this area, I enjoy Joris en de Draak the most, and I feel it’s an under-rated set of wooden coasters. They’re not that tall or fast, but there’s lots of air-time and fun drops.

 

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Looking towards Joris, De Vliegende Hollander and Python

 

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Boats of DVH in front of Joris en de Draak

 

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Joris en de Draak

 

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The Dragon lurks nestled within the wooden coasters

 

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View from the queue-line

 

De Vliegende Hollander is incredibly well-themed in the queue and station building, and though the ride is quite fun it does not quite live up to the hype. I have enjoyed it more and more with each visit I make to the park since my expectations have shifted.

 

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De Vliegende Hollander's amazing station building

 

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Entering the smuggler's tunnel through a sliced painting

 

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One impressive station

 

Amongst the vast forest areas of the park are lots of hidden gems. Spookslot, the park’s walkthrough haunted castle, is a weird little attraction. I’ve always found it fascinating as it’s quite unique, but to call it ‘great’ would be inappropriate. It’s worth going into the attraction expecting a quaint little attraction rather than a truly haunting and impressive experience. There is a short walkthrough section with eerie sights and oddities and a small show on a cycle, which if anything is more impressive than the main event. The main show depicts ghosts and ghouls rousing from their slumber whilst synchronised to Le Danse Macabre. It’s ok at best, but worth seeing if only for its uniqueness. Also amongst the woods and lakes are the Gondoletta tow-boat rides, the Bobbahn bobsled track, the Pagode observation island and a plethora of kids rides and shops which, whilst not amazing, all round out the park nicely and provide things to do and pleasant spaces in which to relax.

 

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Spookslot's sheltered entrance

 

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Inside Spookslot's main show

 

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Gondoletta and its cute surroundings

 

The Marerijk (fairy realm) section of the park contains some of Efteling’s most iconic rides, and some of its oldest attractions. Villa Volta is an exceptional Vekoma madhouse which is themed to a cursed house. Though low on special effects the preshow has animatronics and the main vault room is very well themed with some of the best music in the park. Droomvlucht is near to this ride and is one of the best dark rides I have ever been on. The ride takes guests through the world of dreams, and by dreams they apparently mean fairies and trolls. The level of detail is astounding, and it is a personal favourite in the park.

 

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Villa Volta's building holds the preshows and main rotating room

 

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Hugo animatronic in Villa Volta

 

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Droomvlucht's unsuspecting entrance

 

The oldest part of the park is the fairytale forest (Sprooksjesbos), and this is a roughly 90 minute self-guided walking tour through life-size dioramas, statues and mini-shows representing a large roster of famous fairytales. Whilst it seems some ignore this section of the park due to not having ‘rides’ I would argue it’s one of the best parts of the park. Some of the shows are very impressive (Chinese Nightingale has a visit from an ominous representation of ‘Death’), some funny (Emporer’s New Clothes) and some downright moving (The Little Matchstick Girl). I love to use this section of the park as a way to unwind as it feels quite secluded from the busy and more thrilling sections.

 

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Long Neck in Sprooksjesbos

 

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Tranquil gardens in the forest

 

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The sleeping Troll King

 

My two full days would be spent exploring much of the rest of the park as well, and I realise I have not covered a huge portion of the park in this already lengthy review. My final ride of the trip would be taken on Baron 1898, which helped to bookend a wonderful few days in Efteling. After this it was onwards to Hamburg and Heide Park! …

 

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Baron 1898...the final view

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PART 2a - HAMBURG AND HEIDE PARK

 

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Hamburg

 

My next hotel was in Hamburg, which is where I’d be staying for the next 4 nights, giving me 3 full days to explore the city and its nearby attractions. From my hotel in Waalwijk I took the bus and then train to Amsterdam before flying directly to Hamburg. Hamburg was an interesting city, but not one I found exceptionally enjoyable. It’s a very industrial port city, and whilst there were lots of bars, restaurants and shops it wasn’t a city I found to be a place I just enjoyed being in. Whilst I could spend a whole day chilling in Amsterdam or Berlin I found Hamburg a bit difficult, potentially because I was alone the whole time. This being said I did see many attractions and did some day-trips, first of which was Heide Park.

 

The day began on the wrong foot, but this wouldn’t impact the overall day too badly. I was informed that there would be coaches to take people from Hamburg Busport to Heide Park directly at 9am. I got there to be told I had to prebook, and all 4 coaches were fully booked. I had looked online extensively before my trip and I saw no mention of being able to pre-book a place, let alone anything saying it was a necessity. I did, however, quickly work out how to get there by two trains and a 30 minute walk, and actually made it to the park only 30 minutes later than originally intended.

 

Approaching the actual park and I was quite impressed with the lovely entrance area. My first port of call was picking up my ‘Express Butler’ (a little digital queueing device bought as an extra), which would be used virtually the whole day due to being alone in the park. The queues weren’t well signposted, but the staff were helpful (even if my German and their English weren’t good). There were no maps in English as the park seems to exclusively cater to local Germans, but the Express Butler instructions could be acquired in English, which was excellent.

 

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Heide Park's entrance plaza buildings

 

My first major ride, and the ride that sparked my interest in the park, was Krake, Germany’s first and only Dive Coaster. I remember having seen the theming around the drop and this made me want to go for a long time. Of course, since this time, Baron 1898 was built, and that ride being fresh in my mind might have impacted my opinion of Krake.. Baron felt like an immersive experience, with the preshows, station and ride all forming one experience and telling a complete story. Krake had the theming, but it all felt a bit inconsequential. However, comparisons aside, Krake’s main drop and station were well themed, and the ride was great fun and was my favourite in the park.

 

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Krake's main drop into the Kraken's mouth

 

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Krake

 

Flug der Daemonen was up next, having used the Express Butler to shorten my queue time. The Flug der Daemonen ride was quite well themed and the setting was pretty good. The ride being surrounded by buildings and being partially on the side of a hill meant that it was hard to photograph, but it was the best themed ride in the park and the most immersive. Sadly the ride station wasn’t nearly as good at the surroundings, and was pretty poor. Regarding the ride itself, I have only ridden one Wing Coaster (The Swarm) and this was the better of the two. I must admit that I’m not totally sold on Wing Coasters as a whole as they feel sluggish sometimes, but I did ultimately enjoy this ride and The Swarm.

 

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Flug der Daemonen as viewed from near Krake ... it's a hard ride to photograph from pathways!

 

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Flug Der Daemonen

 

My Express Butler was to be used for virtually every ride except for the few little boat rides that the park has in spades. There are a ton of little mack boat rides dotted around the park, and most of them were quite strange. Unlike Efteling this was boring-strange rather than good-strange, however they did fill them time between the big rides. Whilst the coasters were generally quite fun in the park, there was always this underlying feeling that the park was missing a lot. Sure the park was generally well-kept and had lots of big coasters, there wasn’t much in the way of decent scenery rides or the kind of well-made ‘filler’ that parks like Phantasialand, Efteling and Europa Park have in droves. The lack of any indoor rides or dark rides was especially glaring, and as I am a fan of these I noticed this a lot.

 

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Kapn's Tor is buried somewhere around this theming, one of the more detailed sections of the park.

 

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Wildwasserbahn

 

Colossos was probably the ride that stood out to me. Though I enjoyed the thrill of Krake more, Colossos was the big ride that really felt new and unique to me. With most of the other ride there was a sense of ‘I’ve done this before’, but Colossos was something I’ve never done. I really enjoyed this ride. It was a touch rough here and there, but the drops were incredible. The station and queue looked a bit rubbish, but due to Express Butler I didn’t spend much time in either.

 

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Colossos towering above the hedges

 

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Colossos

 

The rest of the day after lunch was spent going on many of the older rides in the park and spending a bit more time wandering around. To its credit, though I have commented on patchy theming and decoration in places, the park is very picturesque throughout. There were no awful eyesores, I just wish there was more extensively themed attractions. Desert Race was exciting, though as it is (almost) a clone of Alton Towers’ Rita it was very much a ‘been there, done that’ moment. Big Loop was very rough, and eliminated my desire to subject myself to the Vekoma SLC – Limit – afterwards. Again though, Big Loops is very similar to other old Vekoma coasters, such as Efteling’s Python.

 

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Desert Race

 

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Big Loop

 

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Limit - not today!

 

Unexpected bonus of the day was Grottenblitz, the park’s powered Mack mine-train. I expected virtually nothing from it, and it was actually quite thrilling, and featured one of the few indoor moments in the whole park as it dived into a horse filled forest section that went around one of the many filler water-rides.

 

I left the park around about 4pm, having felt like I’d done everything I wanted to do. My review of the park is somewhat mixed. I felt like much of the day was spent noticing that the majority of the rides were very similar experiences to other rides I’ve done in the world. Colossos was an exception to this, but it often felt like a ‘compilation album’ of other rides from Europe. I realise why this is though. I am travelling internationally to many parks, and so I have experienced things that the German public probably haven’t. If I were a local I wouldn’t have other Dive Coasters, Wing Coasters or launched Intamin launchers to compare, but sadly I do, and in these instances I’d done these other rides between a month to a few days earlier, which probably skewed my perception a bit.

 

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A lovely final view across the lake towards many of the coasters

 

Would I recommend travelling internationally to visit the park though? – Probably not. This being said, the park is very good. I had a lot of fun on the rides and commend the park for their good upkeep and broad selection of coasters. This is the kind of park I’d be happy to have within a few hours drive.

 

Next up, adventures in Hamburg: Hamburg Dungeon, Miniature Wonderland and Hamburger Dom

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Nice TR so far, and it sounds like a nice small Europe tour! I totally agree with you, Heide Park is kind of a been there, done that experience. One thing that really makes me wonder is those goddamned colourschemes. Who told them that white tracks and green supports is the greatest combination ever, and why didn't they go all the way and turn Colossus, Krake and Desert Race into a green and white nightmare aswell? Right now I would choose Hansapark over Heidepark, that Kärnan thing is really mindblowing and intense as hell!

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I must admit that I didn't mind the colour schemes of the coasters, though I agree it's a touch repetitive.

 

Is Colossos seriously getting rough !?

Hopefully it hasn't lost its ejector air time

 

I really only mean 'a bit' rough. It was a bit jolty in parts, but not to any level that is either distracting or that came even close to spoiling the ride. It was an excellent coaster, and the air-time was amazing. I ended the ride with tears streaked down my face from the wind force and a massive grin on my face.

 

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PART 2B – MINIATURE WONDERLAND, HAMBURG DUNGEON AND HAMBURGER DOM

 

I was in Hamburg for 3 full days. Much like for Efteling these 3 days were set aside for the parks in case I felt I needed more time and wanted to visit more. In the case of Efteling time was taken due to feeling unwell, but following my day in Heide Park I didn’t fancy returning to the park. Instead I seized the opportunity to visit a few other tourist attractions in the area (including a visit to a nearby town).

 

Following a morning of general sight-seeing around Hamburg I managed to get into Miniature Wonderland. Located in a Hamburg warehouse, this wonderful sight is the world’s largest miniature railway. I cannot recommend this enough. This was easily the best thing I did in Hamburg. To explain the attraction briefly, it is an enormous and intricate model railways spanning across multiple rooms of a warehouse. There are miniature trains, mountains, fields, towns, people, funfairs, concerts and even an airport in which planes take off into other rooms with the use of metal poles that raise up and down. More interesting still is the fact that the maintenance workshops and work in progress scenery are all visible as part of the attractions, laying out on display the intense effort behind the attraction. My photographs do not do it any justice as it’s hard to photograph the whole attraction, but suffice to say it is worth every cent of the 13 Euros entry.

 

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The fun-fair within a miniature wonderland

 

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working airport model

 

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This is the closest to showing the scale of the attraction I could manage.

 

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Later that evening I went to something I would never normally touch, a fun fair! To explain, I am a big fan of theme parks, but not entirely comfortable with fun-fairs. I tend to find them rather loud and a bit intimidating, and so going to one put me outside of my comfort zone quite a bit, especially as I was travelling alone. This being said, Hamburger Dom, the fair hosted in the centre of the city 3 times a year was unbelievable. I may not have ridden anything due to the price (and my potentially unfair perception of how safe fun-fairs area) but this was a must-visit, if not for the right reasons.

 

The sheer scale of the fun-fair dumbfounded me. Everything was loud and garish and all the rides were amped up to their most grotesquely insane setting. I felt a touch unnerved by the massive police presence, however I was captivated by the spectacle of the whole thing even if the rides didn’t appeal to me all that much.

 

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Blimey!

 

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A sea of lights and loud music

 

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I didn't ride it, but I was impressed by the sheer scale of the ride!

 

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Ghost train complete with roaming staff member to scare riders

 

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There's space for a bit of a chill

 

The next morning I roused earlier than expected, and in a semi-spontaneous decision I decided to wander down to the Hamburg Dungeon attraction based in the same building as Miniature Wonderland. I knew that the only English language tours were at 10am on weekends, so it wasn’t totally spontaneously, but I hadn’t seriously considered going until I noticed how poor the weather was that morning. For the uninitiated the Dungeons chain is owned by Merlin Entertainments (Alton Towers, Heide Park, Legoland Parks and Madame Tussauds and a few other European theme parks) and each one of their ‘Dungeons’ follows the same basic blueprint themed to the relevant city with a few unique scenes depending on what each city is known for (in Hamburg’s case there were extra scenes based on pirates, smugglers and docks). Each ‘show’ within the attraction (which takes 90 minutes overall) is undertaken with actors in period costume to immerse you in the experience. Shows included in most of the ‘Dungeons’ include a torture chamber, a judge’s courtroom, a mirror maze, a bar with a ‘ghost story’ and a cramped walk through old streets. Most of the Dungeons also include a boat ride and a drop tower.

 

Hamburg Dungeon was very well themed and the boat ride was probably the best of the two I have been on (I have done the London Dungeon and York Dungeon – the latter not having any rides), but drop tower only had the single drop, and was weaker than the longer London counterpart. The additional scenes involving the pirates, docks and smuggling were good, as these were not things I’d experienced in the other two Dungeons, however on the whole the attraction was not as well structured as the London one nor as scary as the York one (which, though ride-free, is the strongest Dungeon I have been to). All-in-all it was a fun attraction, but due to similarities to other Dungeons it’s not a must-do unless you’ve never been to one before.

 

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The warehouses that the Dungeons and Miniature Wonderland reside within. There are no photos of the Hamburg Dungeon I'm afraid!

 

Before my exit from Hamburg I managed one day-trip to the quaint German town of Luneburg. This town was charming, and provided the scenic experience I was hoping Hamburg would have provided.

 

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Luneburg

 

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Luneburg

 

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Luneburg

 

Next stop, Europa Park!

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Nice report so far!

All of these parks are on my to-do list. The ambience of both parks so far is very appealing.

I recently watched a pov of Baron 1898 and was really impressed with the layout. It almost looks like it could beat out the "bigger" Busch dive coasters I've been on. I'd also love to see how Colossos stacks up with El Toro.

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Nice report so far!

All of these parks are on my to-do list. The ambience of both parks so far is very appealing.

I recently watched a pov of Baron 1898 and was really impressed with the layout. It almost looks like it could beat out the "bigger" Busch dive coasters I've been on. I'd also love to see how Colossos stacks up with El Toro.

 

Whilst I will concede that having the shortest drop out of all the Dive Coasters is noticeable on Baron 1898(I've been on Krake and Oblivion, and both felt taller, even if the former is only marginally so), Baron's layout made up for this. I can't comment on the Busch park Dive's as I've not been on either, but based on POV's I feel that Baron more than makes up for its diminished height. Also the theming and overall experience make it more exciting as an attraction compared to Krake or Oblivion (not that I dislike either of those).

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Excellent trip report so far! I really have to get down to Germany/Netherlands and check out some of the parks there, it is way overdue for me. Also cool to see you visited Miniatur Wunderland. Me and a couple of friends have been talking about going down to Hamburg for years to visit the place, now hopefully we'll go sometime in October/November.

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PART 3 – EUROPA PARK

 

The journey from Hamburg to Europa Park was a very long one! I left the hotel at 9am and arrived in the apartment with my friends at 8pm. The train was first, travelling to Frankfurt, at which point some Dutch friends picked me up and drove the remainder of the journey. The group of us had 3 full days at Europa Park, staying in an apartment in Rust. Rust is a town which is comprised almost entirely of guest-houses and hotels, and there are not many facilities.

 

My time at Europa Park was very good. I have been once before, but that was a 4-park trip, with only one day at each. Whilst this was fun, it was too little time to enjoy the park, and the 3 days was much more appropriate. Over these 3 days the park was incredibly busy, but since the park has so many little attractions to enjoy it is very easy to fill 3 days and have a fantastic time. For the sake of the report I won’t review the days in strict chronological order, but will instead go through and review the rides more broadly.

 

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Europa Park's main entrance doesn't convey how much this park has within

 

Entry into the park starts at 9am, which definitely feels unbelievably early! The park gets busy super quickly, especially at the park’s B&M Hyper Coaster – Silver Star. The group of the 4 of us walked right across the longest length of the park to reach our first two rides: Blue Fire and Wodan. The park is huge, something that should not be underestimated when visiting. It is much like Efteling in this sense, but the park is much more jammed with rides than Efteling. The park’s scenery is excellent throughout, with each land’s buildings themed to different European countries. The park can sometimes feel a bit cluttered and haphazard, but it is rammed with themed elements throughout. Our walk through the park to get to the back took us past a lot of these themed buildings.

 

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It's enormous! [view from Euro Tower observation tower]

 

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Theming in Italy

 

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Theming in France/Switzerland

 

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Theming in Iceland - theming, theming everywhere!

 

First ride of the day (and my favourite in the park) was the multi-inversion launched coaster Blue Fire. This ride is just wonderful. I am not the biggest fan of really high forces, and so this fast-paced, smooth and ‘floaty’ coaster is just my style. The ride may not satisfy people who like really high G-forces, but it is an amazing ride to me. It also looks amazing, and this ride is situated in probably the best part of the park, the Iceland themed section, which also contains Wodan and the Whale Adventures splash battle ride.

 

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Blue Fire

 

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Blue Fire

 

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Blue Fire

 

Wodan was also an excellent ride. It is a wooden coaster by GCI and is the second tallest wooden coaster I’ve been on (I’ve only been on 5 so far – 4 of which featured on this trip [i’m counting Joris en de Draak as 2]). The theming is top notch throughout, and is better themed than Efteling’s Joris en de Draak. However, I do prefer Joris en de Draak’s track due to its more exciting air-time hills and curves. Wodan is excellent nonetheless.

 

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Wodan is hard to photograph due to its long length and buildings being in the way.

 

In the same area was my first experience of a splash-battle ride: Whale Adventures. It was very fun! I enjoyed the ride most when the sun was out and more guests tried to interact with the ride. Of particular note was a model puffin on the rock-work which squirted at pedestrians if they tried to shoot water at the boats. I had not been on the ride before its 2015 refurbishment, but it was very well themed and much fun.

 

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Whale Adventures

 

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Me in front of Wodan, Blue Fire and Whale Adventures

 

Continuing with the train-of-thought regarding water-rides, Europa Park has them by the (water) bucket-load. Atlantica Supersplash is a Mack splash boat ride in ‘Portugal’, Poseidon is a water-coaster in ‘Greece’, Fjord Rafting a river-rapids ride in ‘Scandinavia’ and Tirol Wildwasserbahn a log flume which interacts with a walkthrough and powered coaster themed to a gnome-filled diamond mine in ‘Austria’. That’s a lot of water! Needless to say these rides were experiencing severe queue times over the 3 hot days we were there.

 

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Atlantica Supersplash

 

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The aftermath of the 'splash zone' of Atlantica Supersplash

 

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Poseidon

 

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Poseidon

 

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Tirol Logflume

 

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'The World of Diamonds'

 

The park is notorious for the number of little rides the park has crammed into every conceivable space, and dark rides are something the park has in droves. The big new ride from 2014 is one of these. Arthur (themed to the French franchise ‘Arthur et les Minimoys’) was the best of these. The ride is part-powered coaster part-dark-ride and has wonderful theming mixed into its exciting track. The other dark-rides aren’t quite to this level…in fact many are very far from it. There’s Piccolo Mondo in Italy (themed to Italy’s festivals), Schlitterbahn (AKA Bench – The Ride, themed to Russian snow and ice), dinosaur themed Universe of Energy and the laser-shooter Atlantis Adventure. Two dark rides which have proven somewhat controversial are Piraten in Batavia and Geisterschloss. Whilst these two rides are both fun, both have an undercurrent of copying Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion rides, which some scenes sadly ripped (poorly) from those rides. Both are good fun, but pale in comparison to their Disney cousins.

 

(I'm afraid I have no photos of most of these)

 

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Geisterschloss

 

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Geisterschloss's interior

 

Whilst there are some outstanding examples in the park (see Blue Fire, Wodan and Arthur) these dark rides sum up what is great and what is less-great about Europa Park. Few of the rides in Europa Park are outstanding, but what the park lacks in internationally amazing rides it compensates for in its generally good standard and the sheer quantity of rides. None of those water-rides are the best-themed or best layouts ever, but all are good quality and the amount of them fills 3 whole days. Where Efteling is better themed and has rides like Droomvlucht and Fata Morgana, Europa Park has fairly good theming and 3 times as many rides. Many of the outdoor rides in Europa Park have well-themed buildings, but don’t have much once on the ride. Overall I prefer Efteling for this reason, but Europa Park is still firmly in my top 5 parks world-wide for the sheer number and variety of rides.

 

Europa Park’s roller-coasters don’t just stop at Blue Fire and Wodan. The park is filled to the brim with some exciting coasters, many of them quite rare to find. The Swiss-themed section, my second favourite themed section, contains a Mack bobsled track, which was just ‘ok’ and a rare wild-mouse with a vertical lift-hill and a lot of theming called Matterhorn Blitz. EuroMir and EuroSat, a spinning coaster and indoor coaster respectively, are well-known and popular in the park, but did not prove a hit with me or my friends, the former making some nauseous and the latter being rather rough.

 

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Bobsleds viewed from above

 

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Excellent Swiss theming

 

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Euromir

 

Towering above the park, and most of the car park is Silver Star, the B&M Hyper coaster. Rather mundanely themed to racing (and apparently in love with the colour grey) the ride was scary for me due to its height (remember than European rides are rarely this tall) and very enjoyable, though it had something of a rattle to it that provided me with a bit of a headache. As pointed out at the beginning, this ride gained ridiculous queues due to being at the front of the park and extremely obvious from the car park.

 

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Silver Star

 

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Silver Star [viewed from the Euro Tower]

 

As you might be able to tell from this review, the park is very difficult to review on an individual attraction basis. One look at the park-map would reveal that the park has far too many rides and attractions to review in one typed review. There are a ton of tow-boat and leisurely-paced boat rides through gardens, loads of car rides, flat rides tucked aware everywhere and even a laser-maze! On each day we rode/saw/experienced 15-20 attractions or shows. That is huge! Even on day three about half of the things we did were first-time rides for the trip. Despite my comments that the park only had a few ‘stand-out’ rides the park is just outstanding as a whole. Even when the park was absolutely full to bursting with people on the second day of the trip we managed to completely fill the 9am-8pm day with shows and attractions. Even for down-time and relaxation there were lots of park-like spaces, rivers and secluded spots to be able to properly unwind. The variety of food on offer was also excellent, often themed relevant to each land of park.

 

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Relaxed gardens

 

Sure, Europa Park may not have that many outstanding rides, but the park as a whole is definitely one of the best European parks, if not one of the best internationally. No park I have been to has the variety of attractions this park has and very few have as much theming on their buildings. Whilst I have come out of this trip holding Efteling at the top of my mind, Europa Park has launched much higher after having 3 days to dig my heels in more thoroughly.

 

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My obvious choice for 'final' picture for this theme park trip. I hope you have enjoyed it!

 

Following this part of the trip I spent a few days back with my girlfriend in the south of France....sadly no theme parks there, but it was a great and relaxed 'antidote' to a hectic theme park trip

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Heth.

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Thanks for the report !

 

I totally get what you`re saying about Europa. You can spend sooooo much time riding different rides (not the same over and over again !), enjoying the gardens and theming or eat yourself through the amazing variety of foods. And the quality of the MANY shows is also extremely good IMHO: So getting bored at Europa is a piece of art

 

And yes, I agree that many rides are good, but just a few are really standout (for me : Wodan, Blue Fire & Arthur). But a syou said : The whole package is hard to beat. For me it absolutely tops Efteling, which is my second favourite park in Europe...

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Thanks for the report !

 

I totally get what you`re saying about Europa. You can spend sooooo much time riding different rides (not the same over and over again !), enjoying the gardens and theming or eat yourself through the amazing variety of foods. And the quality of the MANY shows is also extremely good IMHO: So getting bored at Europa is a piece of art

 

And yes, I agree that many rides are good, but just a few are really standout (for me : Wodan, Blue Fire & Arthur). But a syou said : The whole package is hard to beat. For me it absolutely tops Efteling, which is my second favourite park in Europe...

 

I'm glad people got that from the review, I was worried I wasn't explaining myself very well! I must concede that, objectively, Efteling is not as good a park at Europa Park, mostly down to the size and number of rides. What has still allowed Efteling to remain at the top for me is how charming and quaint much of it is, the attention to detail and the standout rides it has, particularly in terms of dark rides, which I am a sucker for. Also having studied it academically as a case study for a Masters paper did mean I developed something of an affinity for the park.

 

Comparing Europa Park and Heide Park and Phantasialand (I was there the year before for 3 days) is interesting. Phantasialand is great, but it kind of the anti-Europa Park. It's rides are generally standout and super well themed, but it has a lot of neglected and forgotten rides which are rather naff. Heide Park felt very un-unique, and lacked the in-between rides and attractions Europa Park has. Europa Park just has the greatest balance of rides of these 3 parks, and is probably in my top 5 parks.

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Just curious, but as someone who only speaks English, how is it getting around the Dutch and German parks? I figure a lot of the shows would be lost on me.

 

On the whole different languages don't bother me. As long as I can get by in terms of eating and negotiating the park I don't mind if I don't know the stories of shows, so long as they're visually fun. I have visited a lot of these parks solo and with German or Dutch speaking friends in the past, so have had some back-stories explained to me previously (Heide Park excluded).

 

Efteling - virtually all the staff speak English, and so ordering food, asking advice, buying items etc. will be no issue at all. The vast majority of rides have no English, and most shops/restaurants do not have any translations for food. My advice would be to take a phrasebook for working out what food you actually want, and then you can still converse with the staff in English once you know what you want. Regarding the rides, most of them are very visual, so you won't suffer for not knowing the language in most situations. Villa Volta is very exposition-heavy, but it's still fun to be in the madhouse anyway! Villa Volta does have a sign in English in the queue explaining the story, but the preshows are totally in Dutch. I have found this site to be helpful - 'An Englishman's Guide to Efteling'- http://aegtte.weebly.com/

 

Baron 1898 is an exception. This ride has signs in English and some of the preshow is in English for the "foreign mine-workers" and forms part of a new push by the park to cater to a more international audience. I wouldn't be surprised if in the future more rides get English signs and translations.

 

Heide Park - this park was quite hard. This is the first foreign park I've been to with no English park maps what-so-ever. The only English thing I recall was the Express Butler I bought being set in English for me by the staff there. Their website is also only available in German. Some staff speak English, but most do not, and so I'd advise getting to grips with some basic German before going. Altogether the explicit German-only approach reinforces my opinion that this park is more a 'big' local park moreso than international destination.

 

Europa Park - this park caters mostly for Germans and the French, however many staff speak English. Signs are generally in German only, but due to a larger international audience the staff have flags under their name-tags showing which languages they speak. When I had trouble with one food order (not the park's fault, my own) they had to go find English-speaking staff to help me. Was a bit of hassle, but not a deal-breaker. Shows were in German with some French, but, as with Efteling, they were visual enough to impress without any need to know the language.

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Excellent overview of the park, as well as the photos to compliment it. I knew it was one of the top theme parks in Europe, but never really knew about how intricate many of its attractions were, and how well-themed it is! This is definitely a park I have high on my list of ones I need to visit!

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Just curious, but as someone who only speaks English, how is it getting around the Dutch and German parks? I figure a lot of the shows would be lost on me.

 

I never had any language problems at Europa, on my visits there.

Everything in menus is pretty easy to figure out, and as well at the

fast food counters. And I know there are english versions of the park map, too.

 

And if you can learn only two words, "Please and Thank You" in any language, that

certainly helps you connect with those working at the parks.

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PART 3 – EUROPA PARK

 

 

First ride of the day (and my favourite in the park) was the multi-inversion launched coaster Blue Fire. This ride is just wonderful. I am not the biggest fan of really high forces, and so this fast-paced, smooth and ‘floaty’ coaster is just my style. The ride may not satisfy people who like really high G-forces, but it is an amazing ride to me. It also looks amazing, and this ride is situated in probably the best part of the park, the Iceland themed section, which also contains Wodan and the Whale Adventures splash battle ride.

 

...

 

Sure, Europa Park may not have that many outstanding rides, but the park as a whole is definitely one of the best European parks, if not one of the best internationally. No park I have been to has the variety of attractions this park has and very few have as much theming on their buildings. Whilst I have come out of this trip holding Efteling at the top of my mind, Europa Park has launched much higher after having 3 days to dig my heels in more thoroughly.

 

Co-sign on Blue Fire - still one of my favorite coasters for exactly the reasons you describe: fun, fast, and just joyful - and incredibly re-rideable. It is simply put, incredibly fun, and doesn't beat you up at all. The comparison to *most* of the "top rated" coasters in the world is just that - they are faster/more intense/etc but are also things I can't do 5 or 10 times in a row without feeling it later (if not immediately). Blue Fire would be an awesome ride to marathon.

 

And I fully agree with your overall take on the park - not much "World Class Outstanding Ride" but SO MANY very good rides, in an AMAZING setting, run by super-efficient operators, with tasty food, great themeing, and a lovely atmosphere? Sign me up.

 

Jealous you got to do 3 full days there to fully take it all in!

 

Thanks for writing!

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Great review, i am almost local (CZ-Prague), and EuropaPark is my Alma Mater, SilverStar first serious coaster i rode about 8yrs ago, agree with all things here, i go there at least twice per year for two days at minimum. Great park for family, satisfying for thrill seekers.Blue Fire is my favorite perform of launch (no cable, very comfy seats and restrains, with no shoulder direct hold,and smooth ride all the way, second most smoth ride from all world parks i ever been, including US east coast, sorry Griffon; [first is Krake from Heide btw])

Next expand will be all-season indoor watter park which Mack family (running the park) dreamed for a lot of time, sadly for me, i am coaster type guest. We are still waiting there for one simple thing and other bigger. Its the FreeFall tower of any kind, and something really big since silver star is not world class, maybe with the new expansion they will be conquer already promised land next to park which in this case is not problem to get.

(not like in case of Phantasialand, also great park about 300km north, where they have serious problems to expand to new land, as a one from most dense, but still great, parks).

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