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Photo TR: Andy's 2019 European Adventure with TPR


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^I agree that the footprints and path are nice and cute, but I think Andy was more referring to being let into the park in a tiny corner, through a fence, into a toddler play area as opposed to the grand front entrance.

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I ate my weight in Poffertjes!

 

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.

 

^I agree that the footprints and path are nice and cute, but I think Andy was more referring to being let into the park in a tiny corner, through a fence, into a toddler play area as opposed to the grand front entrance.

 

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.

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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.

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Here's the inside of the Raveleijn theater, which is fairly large.

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Because of the way the set pieces are arranged, some of the seats have a bit of an obstructed view.

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The left side of the Raveleijn theater, including the Raveleijn gate that makes up an important part of the story.

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The middle of the theater, with the giant belfry tower that rises above the city of Raveleijn.

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The right side of the theater. The Raveleijn restaurant is located on the ground floor over there.

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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.

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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.

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Suddenly armed with ravens themselves -- and still looking for their lost brother -- the kids head through the magic gate.

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Quoth the raven: nooit meer!

 

(that's Dutch for "nevermore," he says, explaining the joke)

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And so, our soon-to-be heroes enter the gate to Raveleijn...

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...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.

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The identical twin sisters are Emma (purple) and Lisa (blue).

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I don't know the name of the horse.

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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.

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No, I'm not sure it makes sense either, but we'll go with that.

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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.

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Because this guy, who is obviously the bad guy, is rising up out of the water.

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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.

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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.

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Thomas and Joost square off against Olaf and his goons.

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You can tell which ones are the bad guys because they're wearing black.

 

Aren't you glad you're reading these captions?

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Joost is supposed to be the youngest of the siblings, but he's holding his own here.

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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.

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The action continues a little closer to the Efteling gate.

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And then it heads up the tower.

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Thomas and Olaf square off for a vicious swordfight on the roof.

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Thomas: "Didn't I see you in Frozen?"

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Olaf: "Call me a cuddly snowman one more time..."

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Thomas: "I've got your warm hugs right here!"

 

(I promise that'll be the last Frozen reference of this trip report)

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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.

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The fight continues on near the Raveleijn gate.

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Lisa finds herself restrained by two of the goons...

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Lisa's profile on Efteling's website states that she is afraid of mice.

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Lisa is, apparently, not afraid of Olaf Grafhart.

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Olaf suddenly finds himself wondering if nose jobs are a thing in whatever alternate universe this story takes place in.

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Lisa is also described as "introverted but tough." Olaf's thugs are getting a taste of the latter.

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Emma, on the other hand, is described as "extroverted and spicy."

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Emma's clearly had enough of this black-jacketed clown.

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Lisa skewers the opposition.

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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.

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"Hey Lisa, I got one! He's only partially drowning but whatever!"

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Olaf Grafhart re-appears on the tower, and he is not pleased.

 

"Well, you slaughtered all my goons, and now I'm mad!"

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"But let's see what you punks think of...

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...HORSE ON FIRE!"

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(laser snake sold separately)

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Did you know that Horse On Fire in Dutch is Paard In Brand?

 

Now you do.

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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.

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But I mean, who needs plot points when you've got HORSE ON FIRE?

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"Uh, Lisa, what was that horse on fire thing all about?"

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"I don't know, Emma, but look at what's coming next!"

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Meet the great Draconicon. A giant five-headed dragon...

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...that breathes fire.

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Watch in amazement as Olaf summons his most vicious creation from the top of the tower.

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Olaf's all like "I was doing fire-breathing theme park dragons before Universal ever signed their lives away to JK Rowling!"

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Besides, the Gringott's dragon only has one head!

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Oops, zoomed in a little too close and broke the illusion.

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There, that's better.

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So, how are our heroes going to beat the mechanical five-headed dragon beast?

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"Ha ha ha ha ha, you guys will never defeat my mechanical five-headed dragon beast!"

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Joost: "Uh, I'm the dumb young sibling, you have any ideas?"

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Oh, right. Water.

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The fire-breathing dragon doesn't seem to like water.

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And our heroes have effectively made it rain.

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Things are no longer looking so hot for Olaf and his Draconicon.

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"Thomas, we haven't bankrupted our special effects budget quite yet, so why don't you set your sword on fire?"

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"Great idea, Joost! I'll try not to inflame another horse this time."

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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.

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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.

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The Draconicon's dying breath -- the heroes have won!

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And look! Countess Halina has returned, and now has the power to stop the evil henchmen in their tracks.

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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.

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"But I am the great Olaf Grafhart! I rule over Raveleijn! Nobody dares oppose me!"

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"I'm your wife, I'll oppose you all I want."

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"But what about that time we rode Python together when we were teenagers? You said it was your favorite coaster in the Netherlands!"

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"I only said that because I hadn't been to Walibi Holland yet!"

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"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...

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And now, the round of applause on horseback! Hooray, Joost.

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Well fought, Emma.

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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.

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Back through the Raveleijn gate one last time...

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...on their way to return to the real world.

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"Fight on, brothers and sisters, and one day you too can help a lonely old woman commit mariticide!"

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And then, Countess Halina re-appears at the top of the tower, with a flock of birds.

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(the birds were not particularly cooperative in 2016)

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Curtain call, 2016 edition!

 

(the guy in red on the end is the narrator)

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Also from 2016!

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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.

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This is the inside of the restaurant off to the side of the stage. The restaurant is called Het Wapen van Raveleijn.

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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.

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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.

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They said that only strong people could be selected, so I was out.

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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!

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After dinner was done, another Raveleijn show was starting up. But just outside the Raveleijn gates, a smaller show was also underway.

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Who wants to learn how to sword-fight?

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It was a large crowd gathered around, so whatever they were demonstrating was obviously of interest.

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And now we've got a whole pack of kids ready to fight the five-headed dragon the next time Joost calls out sick!

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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.

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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.

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At around 9:45 PM, I headed out the main gate to get some dusk shots of the House of the Five Senses.

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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)

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It's very purple.

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Another view from just off to the side.

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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.

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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.

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Much to my surprise, that area had been turned into some kind of crazy party!

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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.

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I wish I'd taken a video of the scene -- there were hundreds of people dancing and singing and clapping.

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They even did a big conga line thing while waving flags around.

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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.

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Rock on, Jürgen.

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At last, night falls on Efteling -- as one of the giant frogs watches on.

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A very blue shot across the pond at Fata Morgana.

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And now, the fountain show begins.

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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.

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While most of the Aquanura shows are set to a symphonic medley of songs from Efteling's attractions, this night-time show was different.

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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.

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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.

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I'm kind of out of caption ideas, so enjoy the pretty colors of Aquanura.

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Aquanura.

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Aquanura.

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Aquanura.

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Aquanura.

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Aquanura.

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Aquanura.

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Aquanura.

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Aquanura.

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Aquanura.

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Aquanura.

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Aquanura.

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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.

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The show ended at 11PM, and the park was closed. Or was it?

 

How about one last visit to the Steenbokplein?

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A ha, the stroopwafel kiosk is still open!

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Watch in awe as the gooey warm caramel filling is added to the freshly-griddled waffles.

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One more stroopwafel for the end of the night. Or two.

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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.

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Another shot of Piraña at night -- with some very nice lighting on the rocks.

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A final goodnight and goodbye to our dear friend Bob.

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Bob will be missed, but the dueling powered coaster they're putting in is sure to be a family hit.

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Goodnight, Carnaval Festival!

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Goodnight, Monsieur Cannibale!

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Goodnight, Vogel Rok!

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One last farewell to our big avian friend...

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...but wait, it appears he's picked up a hitchhiker.

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A boy and his bird.

 

Sorry Daniel, but it's time to go!

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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.

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Ugh. Vogel Rok. She'll always have a place in my heart.

 

Also, those apple pies were so delicious. (Not that the other 17 desserts I had at this park weren't, as well.)

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Great report! I can only imagine how PETA would respond to Raveleijn.

 

And I agree Efteling is gorgeous at night.

 

Hey, they're just sterilizing the horse.

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Also, those apple pies were so delicious.

 

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.

 

Love the photo of Daniel and Vogel Rok.

 

Ugh. Vogel Rok. She'll always have a place in my heart.

 

You know, that lady married 1,001 Nacht at Knoebels. Just saying, there's precedent for this sort of thing.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Day 9: Toverland

 

Few parks on the planet have experienced 18 years of change like Toverland has.

 

In fact, you don't even have to go back that far. I visited Toverland on the 2016 TPR trip, and between then and 2019, they'd built two new themed areas -- including one that added a full-size B&M in a huge expansion into what was once a barren, swampy field.

 

What sets Toverland apart from some other parks that have grown very quickly -- including one that will show up later in this TR -- is that it all feels very organic and responsible. Toverland started as an indoor FEC-on-steroids in 2001, and over the years new attractions have been added at what I'd call a reasonable pace. A second indoor area and a Vekoma launch coaster in 2004. A GCI woodie in 2007 -- their first full-size thrill coaster, a huge step for the park. Magical Valley (and a Mack spinner) in the early 2010s. Then, in 2018, the outdoor expansion -- Toverland's biggest yet.

 

There really isn't any US park that would serve as a fair comparison to Toverland, but the closest one I can think of is Holiday World. Both parks started as small family attractions, and still primarily cater to families. Both parks are independent theme park operations, growing and making big expenditures very carefully. Oh, and both parks have a B&M wing coaster, though you'll have to read on to see which one I prefer.

 

We made our way to Toverland immediately after departing the Efteling hotel, arriving early in the morning for some ERT and filming on Fenix -- the aforementioned B&M. We split off after that to tackle the rest of the park, finding that crowds were surprisingly manageable for a Saturday in the middle of the summer. We had about six hours of free time in the park, which you might think would be enough for Toverland, but I could have used another hour or two. Unfortunately, some combination of bus driver rules and weather concerns (thank me later for keeping it all north of the park) brought about a group vote and a departure at 4PM. I missed an attraction or two, and didn't finish all of my planned photography, but that's OK -- I've got a photo set from 2016 to pull from also. So, this post is going to be a hybrid, sort of like the Efteling TR -- mostly from this year, but I'll mix in the older photos to fill in some gaps.

 

There's one more thing to mention. Toverland's more than a theme park -- it's also a giant playground. There are lots of ways to have fun. There are lots of ways to injure and/or soak yourself. And we're going to try out most of them. So prepare for a lot of old-school TPR fun in this trip report -- we're all acting like kids here!

 

On to the ride reviews...

 

Fenix: This ride deserves a lot of credit for its beautiful setting in Toverland's new Avalon area. It's among the best themed B&M wing coasters that I've been on. It's not a big, plodding hulk of a ride like Gatekeeper -- it's somewhat compact, and hits its elements without much wasted time in between. You can definitely feel some intensity on this ride, and I like the overall layout. Unfortunately, I did have a problem with a rattling/bouncing, even when taking the inside seats. It was starting to get to me by the 3rd or 4th ride. That may just be an unfortunate limitation of the wing coaster design, since it's happened on pretty much every one that I've been on. With that aside, I like Fenix, and it will probably slot in as my 3rd favorite wing coaster -- behind Wild Eagle at #2, and Thunderbird at #1. Yep, Holiday World gets the win.

 

Troy: Still one of my favorite GCIs, but it's just not the same without the old theme song. It just isn't. The layout is very good -- it's a nice assortment of the things GCI is good at, with a fun station fly-by, and a rare-for-GCI straight floater airtime hill. It's just one old-school theme song away from greatness. I should also note that Troy began an unfortunate trend on this trip of top-tier rides at various parks running just one train. In fact, as AJ noted in his TR, they pulled the second train off of Troy while we were queuing. Didn't hurt us then, but did keep me from getting a second ride later in the day.

 

Booster Bike: The precursor to Tron is still running strong at Toverland. I'm not a huge fan of the seating style, but I can handle it for this short ride. It's a fun family attraction with some decent airtime and a kid-friendly launch.

 

Dwervelwind: Massively underrated. I enjoyed it in 2016 and loved it even more in 2019. In fact, our group was expecting a one-and-done, but we ran back around and got in line for a second go! Mack spinners need to find their way to more parks -- kick the tired old spinning mice to the curb, please. Also, this ride is themed to a tornado, which means I automatically have to like it.

 

Toos-Express: It's a Vekoma junior coaster that used to be called Boomerang. It was, by default, the best coaster named Boomerang that ever existed. It is still a perfectly acceptable family/kiddie ride.

 

Maximus' Blitz Bahn: A rare Bobkart! It's fun. It's like riding a powered alpine slide. It's also a capacity nightmare, so I think this is getting moved up to "first ride of the day" on any future trip to Toverland.

 

Expedition Zork: Who doesn't like a double-drop reversing-turn-table log flume? I rode this as Backstroke in 2016 (skipped it for pictures in 2019) and I simply wish more parks had lengthy, reversing flumes like this. They are a lot of fun, and they're fairly common in the Benelux.

 

Merlin's Quest: The other new attraction in Avalon, it's a gentle boat ride that traverses underneath Fenix, and also includes a very nice indoor dark ride section.

 

Ropes Course: Way too easy. A four-year-old could complete it. *ducks barrage of tomatoes and/or other random objects*

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Posted (edited)

As the Toverland pictures begin, we find our TPR group searching for the park's new entrance...

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Welkom in Toverland! The entrance is that way, and it's ... not where it used to be.

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So, flashback time! In this 2016 photo, you'll see a massive group of same-shirted school children, all lined up to enter the park.

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Here's where they were going to be entering -- the original Toverland entrance at the south end of the main building. (2016)

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But in 2019? No kids on the path. No queuing to get into the building.

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In 2019, the entrance is here -- the main gate of Port Laguna. Welcome!

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Port Laguna is the park's big new entrance area, and it contains everything you'd expect to find in an entrance area. Restrooms, guest services, shops, etc.

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The Solaris tower is now one of the park's landmarks. It almost feels cliche to mention it, since literally every single Toverland trip report since Port Laguna opened has mentioned it, but there's an obvious IoA vibe here.

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It's also got a bit of a water park vibe, which I'm totally OK with.

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There's a small stage area somewhere over here.

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I think they do shows up on that pirate ship. Nothing going on right now, though -- we're in the park before it's actually open.

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And here's the reason why -- we're on our way for some early morning rides on Fenix!

 

Check out the sword in the stone -- perfectly lined up with Fenix's Gatekeerer-esque elements behind it. This is the big reveal you get when you first enter Avalon, and it's brilliant.

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Yep, it's called Fenix.

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Looking for the entrance to Fenix? It's somewhere around this whimsical looking tower.

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Here's the actual entrance -- though you go to the left, not through the round hobbit-esque door.

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Fenix's queue and station are fantastic works of art. Toverland really stepped up their game with this. They aren't just looking up to Efteling -- they're saying "hey, we can do it too."

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So, I think I rode Fenix five times in total.

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Fenix slots in at #3 out of the 6 or 7 wing coasters I've been on.

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Most of the group got probably 2-4 rides on Fenix.

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Here's Colin taking what may be a solo ride! As AJ noted in his TR, I got one as well. There are some past TPR trips in which people have intentionally queued up 10-20 minutes for solo rides during ERT sessions, and I got one on Fenix purely by accident.

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Fenix rides high -- and you can see one of the Merlin's Quest boats underneath it.

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Coming through one of the inversions.

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That's all for Fenix from the morning session, but there will be a few more Fenix pictures near the end.

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And now, it's off to the next attraction, and we're going to get there in classic Toverland style: by running perilously like children across swinging bridges.

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Oh, the crazy Toverland fun was just getting started.

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This is Merlin's Quest -- our next attraction, and the other ride in the new Avalon section of the park.

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Here's one of Merlin's little friends, as seen in a set piece in the ride queue.

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Looking down from the queue at the loading station. We were among the first to challenge Merlin's Quest after the park had officially opened. We might have actually been the first riders.

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POV shot from the front of the boat!

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Here's another one of the boats, so you can get an idea of what we're riding.

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We're going to go through a stone arch tunnel...

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...and then enjoy this wonderful view of the Fenix station area.

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Underneath the Fenix station is an indoor dark ride section, which was quite nice. This photographer failed to obtain anything even remotely usable from inside, so you'll just have to take his word for it.

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After Merlin's Quest, we headed over to a /slightly/ older section of the park. Here's my current favorite tornado-themed roller coaster: Dwervelwind.

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Mack spinners are awesome, and easily my favorite type of spinning coasters.

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Dwervelwind also has a really good layout -- with some steep drops and sharp curves.

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That means that even if you don't get spinning too much, the layout is still fun. But if you get spinning, as we did during our two rides, it can get kind of crazy.

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Not far from Dwervelwind is Booster Bike -- Vekoma's first motorbike coaster. The seating arrangement is, to me, a little awkward. (2016)

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A new generation of bad-ass bikers has emerged. (2016)

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Waiting at the front -- the launch is up next.

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A Booster Bike train launches away -- right into the fist airtime hill. (2016)

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Picking up speed on the Booster Bike launch track.

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I do think I prefer Booster Bike to the Zamperla version (i.e. Pony Express at Knott's).

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Random Booster Bike riders of all ages!

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Preparing for another Booster Bike launch.

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...and away they go.

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I jumped on ahead of my group, and got off the ride in time to get some pictures. Stacy and Daniel look like they need a little Vekoma in their lives.

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A whole bunch of TPR people having fun -- which is kind of what we do.

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Hands up or hold on?

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AJ's going more for the Superman pose.

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Alright, continuing the credit run at Troy. Which, to me, will always be TROY!

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Or, I guess, TROY! the ride.

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There's a joke in here somewhere about a group of TPR people and a trojan horse.

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Sometimes it's better to just leave the jokes unwritten...

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...because I often worry about what I'd have to write if I were captioning things accurately.

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There's girl power, and then there's TPR girl power!

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So, theme song aside, Troy remains one of my favorite GCI coasters. (2016)

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It's among GCI's taller coasters at 104.5 feet. I think either Wodan or Wood Coaster take the top spot.

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It's got your big, sweeping elevated turns -- on this date, amidst a dramatic cloudy backdrop.

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But it's also got this element -- a straight floater-air hill. That's a rarity for GCI, and it's one of my favorite parts of the ride. (2016)

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The big curving drop is about what you'd expect.

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All of the elements are taken at fast pace, and there's never a dull moment on the ride.

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Not a ton of great photo angles, at least from inside the park, but there are a few in the queue. (2016)

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There are a few decent views of one of the curves near the north end of the ride.

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There are even a couple of four-years-ago TPR people in this shot. (2016)

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Back in 2019, Daniel and Barry are clearly excited for a ride on Troy.

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One more overview shot of the lift hill. (2016)

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This might be my favorite picture from the 2016 visit to Toverland -- a Tarantino-esque walk from a group of charter bus drivers. (2016)

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With most of the coasters out of the way, now it's time to have a little bit of fun. Have I mentioned that there are lots of ways to have fun at Toverland? (2016)

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Just outside of the main building is this large water area, with bridges and rocks and small pathways. It's almost like something out of a video game. (2016)

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Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to put on your bravest Super Mario face and traverse the platforms without falling in. (2016)

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One missed step might send you knee-deep -- or worse if you lose your balance. (2016)

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Somehow, this kid brought a raft all the way out to the splash zone of the log flume. Now how is he supposed to get back? (2016)

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Don't swim. Unless you fall in, because then you might not have much of a choice. (2016)

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So, let's give this our best shot. We'll start with these two precarious bridges.

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Daniel showing some confidence on the swinging bridge.

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Caroline is full speed ahead!

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Barry, losing his balance, reaches for the rope ... which might be a bit of foreshadowing ...

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Ryan's just trying to get off that bridge as quickly as he can.

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Stacy makes her way across, and we're on to the next challenge.

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Colin's found us a raft.

 

This was set to be our first experience with a raft on the 2019 TPR Europe trip.

 

It would not be the last.

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This is all important practice for later. Maybe try to work on the whole 'balance' thing?

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Colin and Barry seem to have a good system.

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But this is the best system of all -- Colin stands there looking regal, and everyone else does the work for him!

 

Anyway, congrats on not sinking the raft. You'll have a tougher time with that at our next park...

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Heading indoors, we're gonna get our BobKart on. (pic from 2016)

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Colin goes BobKarting.

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Stacy goes BobKarting.

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Ryan goes BobKarting!

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David BobKarting goes!

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BobKarting goes AJ!

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Goes Caroline BobKarting!

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Barry does something.

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Daniel pulls up the caboose.

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This is a look at the second of Toverland's two buildings. The BobKart loading zone is at the left side of the picture. (2016)

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There's also a carousel in here! (2016)

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There's a huge indoor play area, with slides and climbing areas. The log flume trough is in the foreground.

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Toverland's mascots also call this area their home -- putting on a show that I likely would not have understood even if it were in English.

 

Second half of the pics coming up below.

Edited by The Great Zo
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Our Toverland adventure continues...

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How about some more ways to injure yourself? Barry's going to try out the rope swing.

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Daniel is a little more comfortable with it.

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Kristen's probably done this once or twice before.

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Moving over to the older building, here's a view from way up high -- looking down at the loading station for the Vekoma junior coaster. (2016)

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I took these pictures from the platform that houses the park's wet-dry slides. When I rode one down in 2016, I remember getting ... a little wetter than I'd intended. (2016)

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Underneath the coaster is the Toverhuis: "where little witches and young wizards discover their magic powers." It's an interactive walkthrough attraction, with magic wands that you can use to activate various effects.

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So, here's the last coaster of the day -- Toos-Express.

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I rode it in 2016 as Boomerang, but no, Daniel, it doesn't count as a second credit just because they changed the name.

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Proof that my friends have checked another stupid box on their stupid checklist.

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Expedition Zork is a really funny name for a log flume.

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It used to be called Backstroke, which makes sense, since it spends a good chunk of the ride going backwards! (2016)

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A log of anxious guests exits the log flume station...

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...with a TPR boat right behind them.

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Thankfully, we didn't break the flume -- but somebody did. Expedition Zork had multiple backups on the lift hill, leading to downtime at various points of the day.

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Another TPR group gets flumed.

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The ride's first drop is a short one in the indoor section, but it's not just size that matters -- it goes backwards!

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Trying to catch rider reactions on a backwards-moving drop is pretty tricky.

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Nonetheless, I had some success.

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When I look at this picture, and everything in it, I just think ... man, what a weird, messed up, awesome place.

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A /third/ group of TPR riders is on the flume, and they're making a splash.

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Meanwhile, these guys are kicking up quite a bit of water.

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You're only halfway done, though...

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...because this flume takes its second half outside! (2016)

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Expedition Zork has a much larger, forward-facing drop outdoors. (2016)

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Big log flume drops are always great for some reaction shots...

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...and also great to catch the splash at 1/1000 sec.

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Ducking your head completely under the log is ... an interesting strategy.

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A wall of water emerges.

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And when the splash has cleared...

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...the two children were nowhere to be found.

 

Toverland: it's magic.

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TPR log #1 hits the bottom of the drop, as Troy looks on in the background.

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For Andrew, Andrew, and Chris ... hopefully an acceptable amount of wetness.

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It's a long way down from here.

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Choose your emotion: screaming, or cringing?

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That moment where only the hands are visible.

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Absolutely swamped.

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Ow, right in the face!

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...you OK, Daniel?

 

(he was ok)

 

(i think)

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The last group makes the climb up the lift.

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Everybody smile and say "Zork!"

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They kicked up some water.

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But it looks like it was enjoyable.

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"Now get me off this thing, I'm hungry!"

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At lunch time, we headed back to Avalon to visit the park's newest restaurant -- located inside this lovely little green-roofed shack.

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It's called The Flaming Feather!

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Here's the inside -- quite nice, in my opinion.

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I ordered the Merlin's Plate, which is a bit of a random assortment of things. Probably needed another item or two to be a full lunch.

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The Magische Vallei (Magic Valley) section of Toverland is one area I didn't have time to explore at all in 2019. Thankfully, I did explore it a bit in 2016, so I'll share some pictures from then.

 

This is the park's rapids ride, called Djengu River. (2016)

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It's a very well-landscaped rapids ride, though it doesn't look particularly thrilling -- or wet. (2016)

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This is a really interesting picture, in retrospect. See the open area behind the rapids trough? That's where Solaris now stands -- the centerpiece of Port Laguna. (pic from 2016)

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On Djengu River, you might run into a few trolls. (2016)

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Near Djengu River, there's also an extensive area of hidden pathways, rockwork, and waterfalls.

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If you want, you can even brave some pathways that the water falls right on top of. (2016)

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Yep, I went through here.

 

Yep, I got a bit wet. (2016)

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The Magic Valley area sits right in between Avalon, Port Laguna, and the indoor sections of the park.

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There are dry ways to get from Point A to Point B, but where's the fun in that? (2016)

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Booster Bike marks the southern boundary of Magic Valley, with the log flume and big outdoor pond play area also nearby. (2016)

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On this busy day in 2016, kids cooled off in the water while watching coasters go soaring past. (2016)

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Booster Bike flies over the lush landscape of Toverland. (2016)

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It's so lush, I even found a frog in a pond over near Troy! (2016)

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Want to jump around on a bouncy thing? Have at it!

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Sorry Kristen, but Daniel's really catching some air.

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And now, we come to the ropes course. The one obstacle course at Toverland that's actually so dangerous they do strap you in. (2016)

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It's set up about 20-25 feet above ground level, and there's a plethora of challenges to tackle. I think it's about 10-12 different elements. (2016)

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If you're bold, charge on ahead like Daniel.

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If you're not as bold, perhaps take a moment to collect yourself on the big cargo net.

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...Barry, I said collect yourself.

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I don't think you're doing this right, Barry.

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Ooh, nice recovery.

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Now, we'll watch Barry as he continues to tackle the challenge of the Ropes Course, as I attempt to photograph him doing so with various other rides artistically placed in the background.

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Barry travels across the swinging plank things.

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He's found some confidence as he heads out on the tightrope!

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See, this doesn't seem so bad...

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...woah there, watch your step!

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Finishing up on the giant log-o'-death. Great job, Barry. I promise nobody's going to judge you for falling off the cargo net.

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So, with the Ropes course having taken up a bit of time, we had less than an hour to go. Some people went back for another ride on Troy, but with one train ops and a decent line, I decided to get a few more pics of Fenix.

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Fenix is a very photogenic ride with a plethora of fantastic photo angles -- I'm only scratching the surface in this trip report.

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However, Fenix wouldn't be the only thing catching my eye behind the camera. The clouds were starting to look a bit stormy.

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We'd known that thunderstorms -- possibly strong storms -- were in the forecast. Would our 4PM departure get us out in time?

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As Fenix continues to soar, we'd soon have an answer to that question.

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But first, a few more views of this very attractive B&M wing coaster...

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...and the awesome theming that surrounds it.

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It's a sword. In a stone. We've all heard that story.

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A quick glimpse of Fenix through the trees.

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The overall color and design is very similar to Gatekeeper, but better. Also, I really want to stop mentioning Gatekeeper, because Gatekeeper sucks.

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More fun on Fenix, as we head to the end of the course.

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Yes, there is actual airtime on Fenix!

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Spiraling into an inversion, in that weird wing coaster way.

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What do you call this element without a keyhole? Is it just a barrel roll?

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Fenix and Merlin's Quest -- Toverland's newest rides.

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So, just 15 minutes to departure, what do I see looking north from the far end of Avalon? Well I'll be -- I've gone storm chasing in the Netherlands! That's a wall cloud.

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To be clear, "wall cloud" refers to this lowering of the cloud base. The main part of the thunderstorm was to its right.

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Was a tornado about to form? Were we in imminent danger? The answer to both questions is no -- I saw no signs of rotation, and the storm was moving northeast -- away from us. Still, it was likely a very strong storm, and some unlucky rural area further north of Venlo was probably in for it.

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Coasters and weather, together!

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One last view of the wall cloud, and with just ten minutes until 4PM, it's time for a sprint to the bus -- you do not want to be late!

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A final look at Troy as the storm rolls on behind it.

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Could I have used another hour or two at Toverland? Sure. But as you'll see in the next update, I ended up having a very productive evening.

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So, see ya later TROY!, and see ya later, storm clouds. We're done at Toverland. Onward to Amsterdam!

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Like so many other sections of Toverland, it's one big water-filled obstacle course. (2016)

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Hooray for Barry! You did great!

 

Fenix is excellent. Even having never been to Toverland before, I could tell how well their transformation was going. Dwervelwind kicks butt as well.

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Great tour of Toverland! So much, in several years, added to that park. Thanks for sharing it all.

And that Merlin's Plate looked great. It looks like it would definitely be enough for myself, with all that bread.

 

And of course................ "TROY!" (I rode it nearly 10 times, when TPR was there in 2008)

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I'm not a big fan of Wing coasters, but I did like Fenix--the best of the bunch. And I agree about the theming. Toverland did an excellent job with Fenix and the boat ride under it.

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Was this the most fun day of my life? Quite possibly. Others' experiences may vary...

 

That Mack spinner is absolute insanity. More please.

 

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Not pictured: when I came down, Kristen flew into the sky and was never seen again. It was very sad.

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Hooray for Barry! You did great!

 

Barry finished that ropes course off like a champ! And anyone even brave enough to attempt it -- with half the rest of the group watching -- deserves a tip of the hat.

 

That Mack spinner is absolute insanity. More please.

 

Please! These should be everywhere! Why are there only two in North America?

 

Not pictured: when I came down, Kristen flew into the sky and was never seen again. It was very sad.

 

This caption is far superior to whatever I came up with.

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Loving this TR as always! I really enjoy places with giant play areas (like City Museum) where you get to make your own fun, so Toverland is definitely high on my list of places I need to get to someday.

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Was this the most fun day of my life? Quite possibly. Others' experiences may vary...

 

That Mack spinner is absolute insanity. More please.

 

[attachment=0]daniel trampoline.jpg[/attachment]

Not pictured: when I came down, Kristen flew into the sky and was never seen again. It was very sad.

 

Such a great picture! KT eventually came down a few days later in Poland!

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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Day Whatever: Amsterdam-dam-dam-dam

 

After we departed Toverland on the afternoon of July 20th, we got back to Amsterdam early enough to head into the city for the evening. I certainly wasn't going to waste an opportunity to get out and see some stuff while I'm in Europe.

 

But this trip report isn't just going to cover the evening of July 20, 2019. Between the 2016 and 2019 TPR trips, this was actually my fourth chance to head into Amsterdam for some sightseeing. So, this seems like the best spot in the TR to shoehorn in all four visits to Amsterdam.

 

I do really like Amsterdam, though it's not my favorite of the big European cities I've visited. I definitely enjoyed it a bit more once I got away from the big crowds in the city's touristy central area, and focused in on some of the things I like to see when I'm traveling. If you liked some of the early pages of this TR, you'll like this one too. If not, well, there will be more coaster photos next time around.

 

We'll start all the way back at...

 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Amsterdam: Part 1

 

Our 2016 trip had just finished up a visit to Efteling, and we headed north to Amsterdam, staying at the same Courtyard Marriott as we did on the 2019 trip. We had a free afternoon/evening, and most (if not all) of the group went into Amsterdam.

 

This was far from my favorite visit to Amsterdam, but it got some of the touristy stuff out of the way.

 

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Background: the Courtyard Marriott, TPR's official hotel in Amsterdam.

 

Foreground: one of the trains heading through the station. We hopped on one of the metro lines and went north into the city.

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We went to Dam Square, the main public square in Amsterdam. It was crowded.

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We went to the Amsterdam Dungeon, a Merlin attraction that is one-part haunt, one-part performance art, one-part mirror maze, one-part historical lesson. I didn't hate it, but this isn't really my thing.

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Walked down to the Bloemenmarkt, the very touristy set of flower shops on one of the canals.

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Tulip bulbs? Wooden shoes? Buy up all your little Amsterdam trinkets.

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Or, buy this. Because if there's one thing Amsterdam's good at merchandising -- maybe even more so than tulips -- it's weed.

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At this point I wasn't exactly loving my time in Amsterdam, but that was all about to change pretty quickly.

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See, this here is the first fresh Stroopwafel I ever had in my life -- though we'd been introduced to the packaged variety by TPR veteran E.B. a couple days earlier.

 

Needless to say, this was a game-changer.

 

Stroopwafels are the Netherlands' finest creation.

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Walked on down to another touristy spot -- the Magere Brug on the Amstel River.

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It's one of those classic-looking old bascule bridges you see around the Netherlands -- including in my previous trip report from Leiden. For whatever reason, the Magere Brug is one of Amsterdam's most famous bridges.

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We walked through a bunch more streets that kind of looked like this. Bars after bars after coffee shops after coffee shops. Combined with the gloomy weather, it wasn't really what I wanted to see.

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We finished off the trip with a canal boat ride.

 

Look closely at the orange boat on the left for a funny.

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Ah yes, this is how I want to see Amsterdam -- through the smudged glass of a packed boat.

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Thankfully, we got seats on the boat's back deck, which was open-air. Here's a view as we departed the main canal boat dock by Amsterdam's Central Station. Won't be the last time this building shows up in the TR.

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We cruised the canals, we crossed under some cool bridges, and I took a lot of horrible photographs in the fading light of the evening.

 

Let's move on.

 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Amsterdam: Part 2

 

The next day on the 2016 trip, we went to Walibi Holland, and had a lot of fun filming on Goliath, Lost Gravity, and Robin Hood. Well, maybe not so much fun on that last one. Robin Hood was pretty rough. I wonder if they'd ever consider...

 

...but anyway, we left the park in the mid afternoon, with enough time to head back into the city for a few hours. This time, I went on a solo venture, and decided to check out some new destinations.

 

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Opposite view from the first picture of the last segment! This one is from the Courtyard hotel, looking down at the train station.

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This funky building behind the station is Het Zandkasteel -- formerly the headquarters of ING, the big financial company.

 

Dutch architecture is cool.

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Now in the city, here's another neat building -- the Scheepvaarthuis.

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It has nothing to do with sheep -- Scheepvaarthuis translates to "Shipping House." It's about 100 years old, and a classic example of the Amsterdam School of architecture.

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The view of the front of the central station, and yet another boat in the canal. This time, I'd be headed elsewhere.

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I walked around to the back side of the central station, looking across the IJ.

 

"IJ" is the name of the body of water. In Dutch, "IJ" is a digraph, which means both letters behave as a single letter.

 

Now you know!

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Across the IJ is the A'DAM Toren. It's really the only tall building on the north side of the IJ.

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On top of the A'DAM Toren? A giant open-air observation deck.

 

Guess where I'm headed?

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To get there, I walked over to the back side of the central station, under the big arched ceiling.

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Hmm, why are some of the panels colored in? You'll see soon.

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It's easy to get across the IJ -- just hop on one of these ferry boats.

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To the best of my knowledge, this was a free ferry. If not, then I stole a ride. Sorry, Amsterdam.

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In an earlier TR segment, I mentioned how you'd see peoples' cars parked on top of their boats as they sailed around the Benelux. Here's a great example of that.

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Also, big touristy letters. A must for the instagrammy folks out there.

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CLIMBING THESE LETTERS IS AT OWN RISK.

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Some people are all about taking risks.

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As for me, I've got my sights set a little higher.

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Inside the A'DAM Toren, there's a neat little scale model of the city -- with its concentric array of canals.

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Riding up the elevator shaft to the top!

 

...but if this is actually a picture of riding /down/ the elevator shaft, I bet no one will ever know...

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Standing atop the A'DAM Toren. The platform is about 80 meters high.

 

It was not very busy.

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The entire top of the A'DAM Toren is fenced in, which is tough for photography. They had just one camera hole on each side -- that was fine for three of the sides, but some dude was doing a time lapse or something on the side facing the city, and I had to get by with trying to get the lens positioned just right to avoid the fencing.

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Anyway, on to the views. Here's a look east along the IJ.

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This is where the ferry lets off near the A'DAM Toren.

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Remember those colored panels on the ceiling of the central station? It spells out Amsterdam!

 

This is exciting.

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To be honest, you're a little far from the core of the city to see a whole lot.

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Off in the distance, this is Zuidas -- a quickly developing modern business district a couple miles south of downtown Amsterdam. It's sort of like a smaller version of La Défense in Paris.

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You can get a look at some of the taller buildings in the center of Amsterdam.

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The one with the green top is one of the city's most important -- the Royal Palace of Amsterdam (Koninklijk Paleis van Amsterdam).

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This funky looking green building caught my eye. I might just have to check it out in 2019...

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Further views from the A'DAM Toren include more water, more boats, and more cool buildings.

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Looking west along the IJ. The North Sea is out there somewhere.

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It's not as big of a port as near Rotterdam, but it's still a pretty busy shipping area.

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BOTEL. It's a boat, and it's a hotel. I get it.

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Even further off in the distance, a plane lands at Schiphol.

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I waited a while up there to see if the sun would break through and improve some of these gloomy aerial views, but that didn't happen until /after/ I got back down to ground level, because of course.

 

So, let's head back down to the dumb touristy letters.

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Along the IJ, people fish.

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And then the sun does come out, illuminating the mix of buildings along the water.

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It's really quite the mix of old and new -- perhaps this picture tells the story the best.

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I don't think I've ever seen this many bikes in one place.

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One last look across the water at the A'DAM Toren. The building to its left is the EYE Film Institute museum.

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We're back in central Amsterdam, but this time, I headed a few blocks west of the touristy center of the city, where things were much quieter and much more to my liking.

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I sought out this very understated landmark near one of the bridges -- it's the engraved white thing near the center of the photo.

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This is the last remaining original benchmark placed by order of Lord Mayor of Amsterdam Johannes Hudde in 1683. It's essentially the standard by which elevation is measured in the Netherlands. In short, this benchmark shows sea level -- which the canals in Amsterdam are well below.

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I continued walking south, enjoying the view of the canals, and passing the Anne Frank House -- which had a line at least an entire city block long to get in.

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The setting sun hit this arch bridge just right.

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A look up at the large church known as Westerkerk. That's a pretty tall tower. Might have to climb it someday.

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Near the Westerkerk is the Homomonument.

 

In the words of the monument:

 

"Commemorates all women and men ever oppressed and persecuted because of their homosexuality. Supports the international lesbian and gay movement in their struggle against contempt, discrimination, and oppression. Demonstrates that we are not alone. Calls for permanent vigilance."

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The monument is, in part, a triangle built out over the water of one of the canals.

 

It was heavily adorned, and for a very particular reason.

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This visit was on June 19, 2016. Exactly one week prior was the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.

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The candles, flowers, and notes were a sign of support and solidarity -- from the Dutch (and their visitors) to those affected by the awful situation in Florida.

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As I continued southward, I noted just how close these cars are parked to the edge of the canal.

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The moon rises as the light begins to fade...

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I passed by the Rijksmuseum -- the Dutch national history and art museum, said to be the city's most visited.

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Actually, I passed /under/ the Rijksmuseum, because a walking / bike path cuts right through the center of it.

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Oh look, more touristy letters at the Rijksmuseum.

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This picture is for all the TPR members who won't go to Holiday World because they don't serve alcohol.

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A pleasant evening scene on the waters of Amsterdam.

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After a long walk, I found my way back to the Amsterdam Metro.

 

Well, I guess I'll take the stairs.

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Back at the Bijlmer ArenA station at the end of the night.

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Heading down...

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...and back up to the hotel. That's it for 2016, but there's more to come.

Edited by The Great Zo
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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Amsterdam: Part 3

 

OK, now back in the 2019 timeline, Part 3 is actually going to jump a couple days before where we left off -- to right before we went to Efteling. Our official meet-up to leave for Efteling was in the early afternoon, which provided a few hours in the morning to either catch up on sleep ... or go out and be tourists.

 

Sleep is for the weak. Let's get out and see the city.

 

And we'll start with something quite a bit different.

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I didn't jump on the train this time. Instead, I walked east, out of the Bijlmer ArenA area and into a quieter residential area.

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This is an area called the Bijlmermeer -- a very diverse neighborhood in the southeast part of Amsterdam.

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I happened to come across a bit of art.

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Wait, is that...

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Yep. It's exactly what it looks like.

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This art installation, if I can call it that, is on a canal underneath a road overpass.

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It's called Tayouken Piss -- or Les Pisseurs d'Amsterdam. It was installed in 2009-2010 by Cameroonian artist Pascale Marthine Tayou.

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There's literally nothing else I can possibly say about this very creative artistic masterpiece, so hopefully the pictures have told the story.

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OK, at the risk of mood whiplash from the insane to the somber, my next stop was at a memorial.

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To be specific, it's a memorial for a major aviation incident -- the crash of El Al Flight 1862.

 

The descriptor here is all in Dutch, but the key is to look at the shape of the buildings on the map. The plane (a cargo flight on a Boeing 747) crashed into two of the apartment towers, with their former locations shown in red hatching on the map.

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The impact into the apartment buildings caused the towers to collapse, and at least 43 people died. This includes the small number of crew on the flight.

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"On Sunday evening, October 4, 1992, at six thirty past six, an El Al Boeing 747 cargo plane crashed into the flats at Groeneveen and Kruitberg - a memorial to this monument around 'the tree that saw everything'."

 

The tree in question -- seen a few pics above -- survived the crash and was made the centerpiece of the monument.

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The names of some of those who died in the crash.

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These concrete troughs and waterways mark the location of the former apartment towers that were impacted by the crash.

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Walking a little further, here's another apartment building -- perhaps what one of those towers may have looked like at ground level.

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A mosque next to the nearby metro station.

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And since I'm here, let's head up to the metro and take the trip into downtown.

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We've returned to central Amsterdam for another round of fun and games.

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This license plate is quite on-the-nose for Amsterdam, isn't it?

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De Dokwerker -- a memorial statue for the strike against German occupying forces in February 1941.

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A common sign of Amsterdam's friendliness to the LGBTQ community.

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So many canals, and so many boats.

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I was amused to see this one, with Efteling's advertising all over it.

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The re-tracked Python gets some love on the back of this canal boat.

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SFMM, take note.

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Bridges! Ornate lamp posts!

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The building in the background here is the Stopera -- Amsterdam's combined City Hall / opera house.

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I'd probably be more willing to do another boat tour if it were on a smaller, open-air boat like this.

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With a little bit of sun, Amsterdam looks quite nice.

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Boats and cars lined up along the canals.

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The Munttoren -- a guard tower that was a part of the city's old fortifications.

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Yeah, I had to walk back through the touristy area again, but while I'm in the neighborhood...

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...yep, another Stroopwafel. Worth it. Always worth it.

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So, I was heading back to the Westerkerk, which I saw briefly in 2016.

 

At some point between then and 2019, I realized that you could actually climb a lot of old church towers in Europe -- including this one!

 

But this one didn't do appointments in advance, and when I stopped by, they didn't have any openings for a couple hours. That wouldn't have gotten me back to the TPR meetup in time, so I had to pass... for now...

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Kind of a funny looking statue of Dutch writer Eduard Douwes Dekker -- who went by the pen name Multatuli. Multatuli is Latin for "I have suffered much." Real life of the party kinda stuff here.

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Canals and big domes.

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More neat old architecture near the center of the city.

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Magna Plaza -- the former Amsterdam Main Post Office. It's now a shopping mall. Regardless of its current use, it's a fantastic late-1800s neo-gothic / neo-renaissance building.

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The crowds were out again on Dam Square...

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...under the dome of the Royal Palace.

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Just passing through Dam Square this time, though.

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Headed east -- and passing De Oude Kerk (The Old Church). It's Amsterdam's oldest building, dating in part back to 1213.

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Out on the water on the northeast part of downtown.

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Some very large boats docked out on the IJ.

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A row of buildings along the waterfront...

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...including Amsterdam's main public library.

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Remember this big weird-looking green thing that I saw from the A'DAM Toren?

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This is the NEMO Science Museum.

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No, I wasn't going to actually go in the museum, but the huge outdoor terrace looked like it was worth visiting.

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The museum was established in 1923, and has been housed in this unique-looking building since 1997.

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Looks like my nice sunny morning was starting to go away...

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...but there's still time for some more photography.

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That's the central station, viewed from a bit of a distance.

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Boats in the foreground, and the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the background.

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Sciencey things at the entrance to the museum.

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But I'm heading up to the terrace, which is open to the public.

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Easy to get up top -- a big staircase leads the way.

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A freeway tunnel goes underneath the museum, and continues under the IJ, emerging on the north side of the water.

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It's really quite a novel setup -- a science museum, a public terrace, and a road tunnel all sort of built on top of each other.

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Getting up to the top.

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The seating area at the top. There's also a restaurant / cafe up here.

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You can look down and see small boats...

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...and large boats!

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The city skyline is dotted with steeples and spires...

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...like these two.

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A view west over the water, looking toward the central station.

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Here's the Scheepvaarthuis again.

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Another view of the Basilica of Saint Nicholas.

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Pedestrian bridges down below.

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Further off in the distance, the A'DAM Toren.

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...and they built swings that go out over the edge of the tower.

 

Those were definitely not there in 2016!

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Back at ground level, and starting to run out of time...

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...so I crossed these bridges on my way back toward the central station.

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Another look at the buildings and ships on the water.

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A final glance back at NEMO.

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On the waterfront near the public library, the other tall buildings, and a huge Chinese restaurant.

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Somewhere around here, I stopped at a restaurant called Pippers -- "home of the mini sandwich." Exactly like it says -- they specialize in tiny sandwiches, small enough that you can order two or three.

 

I ordered two to go, as time was running short.

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A sign advertising the Future Cities expo in Amsterdam, which is also probably the only time Avenged Sevenfold is ever going to appear in one of my trip reports.

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Bikes everywhere!

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Alright, there's the entrance to the Metro station...

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...so I headed down into the station, found /all/ of the ticket machines were broken, and had to run another block away to the station's other entrance.

 

I had a train I needed to catch. You don't ever want to risk missing the TPR bus.

 

(I made with a good 10-15 minutes to spare)

 

With that, we were off to Efteling, and then Toverland. You've already heard those stories.

 

So we'll move on to the final Amsterdam adventure...

Edited by The Great Zo
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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Amsterdam: Part 4

 

My last trip report segment ended with our departure from Toverland, as we narrowly escaped some thunderstorms. With the weather all cleared up, we got back to Amsterdam in the late afternoon, with an opportunity for one more trip into the city.

 

This time, I wasn't going to be wandering aimlessly. I had two places to go, both of which were planned out as high priorities before the trip had even begun.

 

We'll start, as usual, at the central station.

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To say the weather was nice would be an understatement -- of my four trips into Amsterdam, this was by far the best.

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Rowing a boat is one way to travel in Amsterdam.

 

Another is by tram / streetcar. This was my first time using the tram system in Amsterdam. It's not particularly fast, but it's better than walking if you've got a ways to go.

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I took the tram to the Westerkerk, making yet another appearance in this trip report.

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Two days prior, they didn't have any open slots for tower climbs that were going to work for my schedule.

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You can see people on the outdoor platform of the Westertoren, to get an idea of where the tower climb tours end up.

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Also, the Westertoren's big crown up top is a defining feature. It's actually the Imperial Crown of Austria of Maximilian I.

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The tower tours are inexpensive -- only €9 per person. The problem is that each tour only allows six people. Six is a very small number.

 

Was I going to get in?

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Yes, I was! I got either the last or second-to-last slot for the final tour of the day.

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It's a long way to the top, and it all starts through this door.

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It gets ... steep.

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Steep and spiraly.

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There are several stops at landings along the way up, where you can see some of the inner workings of the tower.

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The bells are of greatest importance -- not surprising, since it's a church tower.

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Not only are these bells on display, but the tour guide actually invites you to tap on them to hear them ring.

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Some of the bells date back to the 1600s, cast by the Hemony brothers.

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This is a 17th century baton keyboard, which was an instrument originally used to play the bells of the Carillon.

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The inside of the tower is an interesting mix of brick and wood.

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The stairways just get steeper as you get further up.

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Finally, just below the outdoor platform, you find this huge swinging bell -- it's probably 5 or 6 feet across.

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One more stairway above this bell, and you're at the top.

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Duck through one more doorway, and you're on top of Amsterdam!

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The city's insignia on the side of the Westertoren.

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One little problem -- they only allow 10 minutes on the outdoor platform before you have to begin the trip down. 10 minutes isn't a lot of time when you take as many pictures as I do. I had to work quickly.

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I'll share some of my favorites from another nice view over Amsterdam. It's much different from the A'DAM Toren, where you're way north of the central part of the city.

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Here, you're basically right atop the canals -- and you can look down at the boats as they pass by.

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A bridge below the Westertoren.

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The open area in front of the church is the Westermarkt, and this bridge carries the Rozengracht road west from there.

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Houseboats on the canal.

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Looking northwest, and enjoying the view of the canal houses about as far as the eye can see.

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In this picture: pedestrians, bikes, boats. Not in this picture: cars.

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Do the Dutch lead the world in interesting buildings? They just might.

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Looking north, toward the A'DAM Toren.

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You can really see the swings in action from this angle.

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The round dome of the Koepelkerk, a former Lutheran church building.

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A wide view east toward the center of the city.

 

Here's one big advantage to doing an evening tour with clear skies -- with the sun to the west, and the central part of the city to the east, everything was lit up perfectly.

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There's the central station...

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...and the old Basilica of Saint Nicholas, backed by a modern Movenpick hotel. More fun with architectural contrast.

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The steeple of De Oude Kerk.

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Looking into the very center of Amsterdam.

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You can see the tops of De Nieuwe Kerk and Magna Plaza in this picture...

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...and the Royal Palace and the Magna Plaza tower in this one.

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A wide view southeast.

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This cluster of skyscrapers is part of a business district about 5 miles south of downtown Amsterdam on the Amstel River.

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The tallest one, on the left, is the Rembrandttoren -- named after the famous Dutch painter.

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Here's the view south on this amazing July evening.

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Another big church...

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...another weird building.

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The Rijksmuseum makes another appearance...

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...as does the Zuidas business district.

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Like many big European cities, the tallest of the modern skyscrapers are kept away from the historic downtown core.

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Oh, and perhaps this is one of those storms we skipped out on after we left Toverland.

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A little cloud porn to end the photo set.

 

We climbed down the tower, and I chatted a bit with the guide, who was hoping to visit some theme parks in the US at some point in the near future. I hope she made it!

 

With that, I was off to my second destination.

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No, my second destination was not Phantasialand -- nor was it on the agenda for the trip.

 

I'm just going to take this opportunity to note that Temple of the Night Hawk is so incredibly terrible that it may be the only coaster on the planet that VR actually improves.

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Instead, it was back on the tram to head a little further west.

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Ryan S had also headed into Amsterdam to visit a museum, and we agreed to meet up here later in the evening.

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Here's our destination -- a place called Foodhallen.

 

Can you guess what kind of place it is?

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Yep, if I'm not at a theme park or climbing to some kind of high point, I'm visiting a food hall.

 

And this one was /spectacular/.

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It's obviously not the architectural marvel that Rotterdam's Markthal is, but I actually preferred the restaurant selection here. Quite a lively atmosphere, too -- it was a Saturday evening and the place was absolutely packed.

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Once we found a seat upstairs, Ryan and I took turns getting small orders from a bunch of different places around the hall. Tapas, Vietnamese, burgers, Chinese, tacos, pizza, sandwiches, desserts -- it was hard to decide.

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Bicycle-as-a-decoration is very Amsterdam.

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Foodhallen isn't as well known as other attractions in Amsterdam, perhaps because it's not right in the center of the city, nor is it along one of the Metro lines.

 

It's well worth taking a tram (or a long walk) and checking out, though. It's one of my favorite food halls that I've been to anywhere. Maybe don't go on Saturday night, though.

 

With that, we hopped on a tram, then hopped on the Metro, and got back to the hotel. Another big day of coastering was coming up. That's the end of Part 4 ... and the end of all the Amsterdam stuff.

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