This is my first photo TR here so I hope you all enjoy
I recently graduated from my Masters at University, and so I decided to plan out a trip through Europe in order to celebrate and take advantage of my final ‘summer’. The intention was to visit some of mainland Europe’s major theme parks before finishing by visiting my girlfriend’s parents (which happened from 13th August to 18th). Plans had to shrink and change as I began to factor in travel times, rest days and more cultural visits on the way, and in the end I visited 3 theme parks:
Efteling – 2 full days (*+2 below half-days)
This is my favourite theme park in the world, and was also the subject case study for my masters Dissertation. *Sadly I was ill on what was supposed to be my first two days, and so I pushed my full days back eliminating my intended 3rd full day and a visit to Utrecht (provides a reason to go again I guess)
Heide Park – 1 full day
This was the only completely new park to me, and was visited alongside day trips out to Hamburg and Luneburg as well.
Europa Park – 3 full days
….and needed all 3 of those days! The park was very busy and, since my only trip there before this trip was one day only, I appreciated the luxury of many days. This portion of the trip was taken with 3 other people, unlike the rest of the trip which was solo (bar a few hours in Efteling).
I was tempted to visit Hansa Park, Tripsdrill and Toverland along the way, but in the end these would have been extra long journeys and instead I opted to revisit other parks or have relaxing days. Phantasialand was considered, but I spent a holiday in Cologne the year before, and so the urgency to visit wasn’t there this time.
My starting point was my home in the UK. Thankfully my local airport recently started doing trips to Amsterdam, and so this is where I began. By 5pm of planes, trains and buses I reached my hotel and had made it to Efteling for a brief few hours. The park was absolutely heaving, and I was feeling tired and groggy, so very few rides happened on the first day. On Summer Saturdays the park is open until midnight, and though I didn’t stay nearly that long, I enjoyed the entertainment in each of the squares.
I will skip over day 2, and instead provide a more detailed report of the better two full days.
Efteling has been my favourite theme park for just over a year now. I’ve been there twice before (summer 2013 and winter 2014) and I fell in love with the place when I went there to use the park as an academic case study. I was writing a dissertation on the use of architecture in theme parks and how the layout of rides and parks is used to create fictional narratives. As a result of this I became extremely familiar with the park, and I haven’t looked back since. Whilst the rides are not necessarily as exciting as those in the USA nor as well-themed as Disney parks, the general balance of thrills, theming, atmosphere and lush surroundings makes it the most rounded park I know, and it’s a park in which I can truly lose myself.
Huis de Vijf Zintuigen - the thatched main entrance
For those who’ve never been to the park, I will try and summarise some of the main rides and the general layout of the park. The front entrance is an impressive thatched structure holding the ticket booths, which then spills out onto the first plaza, where the Arabian themed dark-ride Fata Morgana can be seen across the lake. Fata Morgana would be the first ride in the park on the first day, due to the large queues on other rides. Fata Morgana is a very impressive dark ride with plenty of animatronics, rich environments and special effects. Given the ride was made in the 1980’s it did not feel dated, and, as with everything in Efteling, the level of care taken on maintenance through the park was great. Some small bits didn’t work here and there, but the level of cleanliness was exceptional.
Fata Morgana viewed from the entrance
Fata Morgana up close
The main promenade to the centre of the park didn’t exist when the park opened, but it now provides the main route to the heart of the park from which guests can drift out to other parts of the park. One of the first rides I decided to approach from this section was the big new ride, and the only one I had never ridden: Baron 1898. Baron 1898 was excellent, and, though time is really needed to tell, may be my new favourite ride in the park. The new dive coaster was a fantastic overall experience. Yes, the layout was not long nor was it nearly as intense as other older B&M coasters. However, the free-fall is very fun and during its short coaster layout the ride never repeats itself. There’s air-time, some good forces and plenty of floating. To review Baron 1898 based on its layout alone, however, would be to do it a disservice. The exceptional station building is not only beautiful from the outside, but has two wonderful pre-shows and a short dark-ride section for the coaster. Really these elements work with the roller-coaster part to form the overall attraction. It’s a story experience, and I feel to review everything after the drop only would be pointless. The highlight of my days at the park and of my holiday.
My first view of Baron 1898 and its unique support structure
...about to drop...
The attraction entrance marks the beginning of the overall experience. The whole ride is themed very well, bar the slightly barren queue line.
On a lake near to Baron 1898 is the main ‘hub’ of thrill rides in Efteling: De Vliegende Hollander (water coaster/dark ride), Joris en de Draak (duelling wooden coasters) and Python (old Vekoma looping coaster). Of the rides in this area, I enjoy Joris en de Draak the most, and I feel it’s an under-rated set of wooden coasters. They’re not that tall or fast, but there’s lots of air-time and fun drops.
Looking towards Joris, De Vliegende Hollander and Python
Boats of DVH in front of Joris en de Draak
Joris en de Draak
The Dragon lurks nestled within the wooden coasters
View from the queue-line
De Vliegende Hollander is incredibly well-themed in the queue and station building, and though the ride is quite fun it does not quite live up to the hype. I have enjoyed it more and more with each visit I make to the park since my expectations have shifted.
De Vliegende Hollander's amazing station building
Entering the smuggler's tunnel through a sliced painting
One impressive station
Amongst the vast forest areas of the park are lots of hidden gems. Spookslot, the park’s walkthrough haunted castle, is a weird little attraction. I’ve always found it fascinating as it’s quite unique, but to call it ‘great’ would be inappropriate. It’s worth going into the attraction expecting a quaint little attraction rather than a truly haunting and impressive experience. There is a short walkthrough section with eerie sights and oddities and a small show on a cycle, which if anything is more impressive than the main event. The main show depicts ghosts and ghouls rousing from their slumber whilst synchronised to Le Danse Macabre. It’s ok at best, but worth seeing if only for its uniqueness. Also amongst the woods and lakes are the Gondoletta tow-boat rides, the Bobbahn bobsled track, the Pagode observation island and a plethora of kids rides and shops which, whilst not amazing, all round out the park nicely and provide things to do and pleasant spaces in which to relax.
Spookslot's sheltered entrance
Inside Spookslot's main show
Gondoletta and its cute surroundings
The Marerijk (fairy realm) section of the park contains some of Efteling’s most iconic rides, and some of its oldest attractions. Villa Volta is an exceptional Vekoma madhouse which is themed to a cursed house. Though low on special effects the preshow has animatronics and the main vault room is very well themed with some of the best music in the park. Droomvlucht is near to this ride and is one of the best dark rides I have ever been on. The ride takes guests through the world of dreams, and by dreams they apparently mean fairies and trolls. The level of detail is astounding, and it is a personal favourite in the park.
Villa Volta's building holds the preshows and main rotating room
Hugo animatronic in Villa Volta
Droomvlucht's unsuspecting entrance
The oldest part of the park is the fairytale forest (Sprooksjesbos), and this is a roughly 90 minute self-guided walking tour through life-size dioramas, statues and mini-shows representing a large roster of famous fairytales. Whilst it seems some ignore this section of the park due to not having ‘rides’ I would argue it’s one of the best parts of the park. Some of the shows are very impressive (Chinese Nightingale has a visit from an ominous representation of ‘Death’), some funny (Emporer’s New Clothes) and some downright moving (The Little Matchstick Girl). I love to use this section of the park as a way to unwind as it feels quite secluded from the busy and more thrilling sections.
Long Neck in Sprooksjesbos
Tranquil gardens in the forest
The sleeping Troll King
My two full days would be spent exploring much of the rest of the park as well, and I realise I have not covered a huge portion of the park in this already lengthy review. My final ride of the trip would be taken on Baron 1898, which helped to bookend a wonderful few days in Efteling. After this it was onwards to Hamburg and Heide Park! …
My next hotel was in Hamburg, which is where I’d be staying for the next 4 nights, giving me 3 full days to explore the city and its nearby attractions. From my hotel in Waalwijk I took the bus and then train to Amsterdam before flying directly to Hamburg. Hamburg was an interesting city, but not one I found exceptionally enjoyable. It’s a very industrial port city, and whilst there were lots of bars, restaurants and shops it wasn’t a city I found to be a place I just enjoyed being in. Whilst I could spend a whole day chilling in Amsterdam or Berlin I found Hamburg a bit difficult, potentially because I was alone the whole time. This being said I did see many attractions and did some day-trips, first of which was Heide Park.
The day began on the wrong foot, but this wouldn’t impact the overall day too badly. I was informed that there would be coaches to take people from Hamburg Busport to Heide Park directly at 9am. I got there to be told I had to prebook, and all 4 coaches were fully booked. I had looked online extensively before my trip and I saw no mention of being able to pre-book a place, let alone anything saying it was a necessity. I did, however, quickly work out how to get there by two trains and a 30 minute walk, and actually made it to the park only 30 minutes later than originally intended.
Approaching the actual park and I was quite impressed with the lovely entrance area. My first port of call was picking up my ‘Express Butler’ (a little digital queueing device bought as an extra), which would be used virtually the whole day due to being alone in the park. The queues weren’t well signposted, but the staff were helpful (even if my German and their English weren’t good). There were no maps in English as the park seems to exclusively cater to local Germans, but the Express Butler instructions could be acquired in English, which was excellent.
Heide Park's entrance plaza buildings
My first major ride, and the ride that sparked my interest in the park, was Krake, Germany’s first and only Dive Coaster. I remember having seen the theming around the drop and this made me want to go for a long time. Of course, since this time, Baron 1898 was built, and that ride being fresh in my mind might have impacted my opinion of Krake.. Baron felt like an immersive experience, with the preshows, station and ride all forming one experience and telling a complete story. Krake had the theming, but it all felt a bit inconsequential. However, comparisons aside, Krake’s main drop and station were well themed, and the ride was great fun and was my favourite in the park.
Krake's main drop into the Kraken's mouth
Flug der Daemonen was up next, having used the Express Butler to shorten my queue time. The Flug der Daemonen ride was quite well themed and the setting was pretty good. The ride being surrounded by buildings and being partially on the side of a hill meant that it was hard to photograph, but it was the best themed ride in the park and the most immersive. Sadly the ride station wasn’t nearly as good at the surroundings, and was pretty poor. Regarding the ride itself, I have only ridden one Wing Coaster (The Swarm) and this was the better of the two. I must admit that I’m not totally sold on Wing Coasters as a whole as they feel sluggish sometimes, but I did ultimately enjoy this ride and The Swarm.
Flug der Daemonen as viewed from near Krake ... it's a hard ride to photograph from pathways!
Flug Der Daemonen
My Express Butler was to be used for virtually every ride except for the few little boat rides that the park has in spades. There are a ton of little mack boat rides dotted around the park, and most of them were quite strange. Unlike Efteling this was boring-strange rather than good-strange, however they did fill them time between the big rides. Whilst the coasters were generally quite fun in the park, there was always this underlying feeling that the park was missing a lot. Sure the park was generally well-kept and had lots of big coasters, there wasn’t much in the way of decent scenery rides or the kind of well-made ‘filler’ that parks like Phantasialand, Efteling and Europa Park have in droves. The lack of any indoor rides or dark rides was especially glaring, and as I am a fan of these I noticed this a lot.
Kapn's Tor is buried somewhere around this theming, one of the more detailed sections of the park.
Colossos was probably the ride that stood out to me. Though I enjoyed the thrill of Krake more, Colossos was the big ride that really felt new and unique to me. With most of the other ride there was a sense of ‘I’ve done this before’, but Colossos was something I’ve never done. I really enjoyed this ride. It was a touch rough here and there, but the drops were incredible. The station and queue looked a bit rubbish, but due to Express Butler I didn’t spend much time in either.
Colossos towering above the hedges
The rest of the day after lunch was spent going on many of the older rides in the park and spending a bit more time wandering around. To its credit, though I have commented on patchy theming and decoration in places, the park is very picturesque throughout. There were no awful eyesores, I just wish there was more extensively themed attractions. Desert Race was exciting, though as it is (almost) a clone of Alton Towers’ Rita it was very much a ‘been there, done that’ moment. Big Loop was very rough, and eliminated my desire to subject myself to the Vekoma SLC – Limit – afterwards. Again though, Big Loops is very similar to other old Vekoma coasters, such as Efteling’s Python.
Limit - not today!
Unexpected bonus of the day was Grottenblitz, the park’s powered Mack mine-train. I expected virtually nothing from it, and it was actually quite thrilling, and featured one of the few indoor moments in the whole park as it dived into a horse filled forest section that went around one of the many filler water-rides.
I left the park around about 4pm, having felt like I’d done everything I wanted to do. My review of the park is somewhat mixed. I felt like much of the day was spent noticing that the majority of the rides were very similar experiences to other rides I’ve done in the world. Colossos was an exception to this, but it often felt like a ‘compilation album’ of other rides from Europe. I realise why this is though. I am travelling internationally to many parks, and so I have experienced things that the German public probably haven’t. If I were a local I wouldn’t have other Dive Coasters, Wing Coasters or launched Intamin launchers to compare, but sadly I do, and in these instances I’d done these other rides between a month to a few days earlier, which probably skewed my perception a bit.
A lovely final view across the lake towards many of the coasters
Would I recommend travelling internationally to visit the park though? – Probably not. This being said, the park is very good. I had a lot of fun on the rides and commend the park for their good upkeep and broad selection of coasters. This is the kind of park I’d be happy to have within a few hours drive.
Next up, adventures in Hamburg: Hamburg Dungeon, Miniature Wonderland and Hamburger Dom
Nice TR so far, and it sounds like a nice small Europe tour! I totally agree with you, Heide Park is kind of a been there, done that experience. One thing that really makes me wonder is those goddamned colourschemes. Who told them that white tracks and green supports is the greatest combination ever, and why didn't they go all the way and turn Colossus, Krake and Desert Race into a green and white nightmare aswell? Right now I would choose Hansapark over Heidepark, that Kärnan thing is really mindblowing and intense as hell!
Alex Poulsen, danish rollercoaster fanatic, settled in Copenhagen, pretty much born and raised in BonBon-Land.
I must admit that I didn't mind the colour schemes of the coasters, though I agree it's a touch repetitive.
gardyloo! wrote:Is Colossos seriously getting rough !? Hopefully it hasn't lost its ejector air time
I really only mean 'a bit' rough. It was a bit jolty in parts, but not to any level that is either distracting or that came even close to spoiling the ride. It was an excellent coaster, and the air-time was amazing. I ended the ride with tears streaked down my face from the wind force and a massive grin on my face.
PART 2B – MINIATURE WONDERLAND, HAMBURG DUNGEON AND HAMBURGER DOM
I was in Hamburg for 3 full days. Much like for Efteling these 3 days were set aside for the parks in case I felt I needed more time and wanted to visit more. In the case of Efteling time was taken due to feeling unwell, but following my day in Heide Park I didn’t fancy returning to the park. Instead I seized the opportunity to visit a few other tourist attractions in the area (including a visit to a nearby town).
Following a morning of general sight-seeing around Hamburg I managed to get into Miniature Wonderland. Located in a Hamburg warehouse, this wonderful sight is the world’s largest miniature railway. I cannot recommend this enough. This was easily the best thing I did in Hamburg. To explain the attraction briefly, it is an enormous and intricate model railways spanning across multiple rooms of a warehouse. There are miniature trains, mountains, fields, towns, people, funfairs, concerts and even an airport in which planes take off into other rooms with the use of metal poles that raise up and down. More interesting still is the fact that the maintenance workshops and work in progress scenery are all visible as part of the attractions, laying out on display the intense effort behind the attraction. My photographs do not do it any justice as it’s hard to photograph the whole attraction, but suffice to say it is worth every cent of the 13 Euros entry.
The fun-fair within a miniature wonderland
working airport model
This is the closest to showing the scale of the attraction I could manage.
Later that evening I went to something I would never normally touch, a fun fair! To explain, I am a big fan of theme parks, but not entirely comfortable with fun-fairs. I tend to find them rather loud and a bit intimidating, and so going to one put me outside of my comfort zone quite a bit, especially as I was travelling alone. This being said, Hamburger Dom, the fair hosted in the centre of the city 3 times a year was unbelievable. I may not have ridden anything due to the price (and my potentially unfair perception of how safe fun-fairs area) but this was a must-visit, if not for the right reasons.
The sheer scale of the fun-fair dumbfounded me. Everything was loud and garish and all the rides were amped up to their most grotesquely insane setting. I felt a touch unnerved by the massive police presence, however I was captivated by the spectacle of the whole thing even if the rides didn’t appeal to me all that much.
A sea of lights and loud music
I didn't ride it, but I was impressed by the sheer scale of the ride!
Ghost train complete with roaming staff member to scare riders
There's space for a bit of a chill
The next morning I roused earlier than expected, and in a semi-spontaneous decision I decided to wander down to the Hamburg Dungeon attraction based in the same building as Miniature Wonderland. I knew that the only English language tours were at 10am on weekends, so it wasn’t totally spontaneously, but I hadn’t seriously considered going until I noticed how poor the weather was that morning. For the uninitiated the Dungeons chain is owned by Merlin Entertainments (Alton Towers, Heide Park, Legoland Parks and Madame Tussauds and a few other European theme parks) and each one of their ‘Dungeons’ follows the same basic blueprint themed to the relevant city with a few unique scenes depending on what each city is known for (in Hamburg’s case there were extra scenes based on pirates, smugglers and docks). Each ‘show’ within the attraction (which takes 90 minutes overall) is undertaken with actors in period costume to immerse you in the experience. Shows included in most of the ‘Dungeons’ include a torture chamber, a judge’s courtroom, a mirror maze, a bar with a ‘ghost story’ and a cramped walk through old streets. Most of the Dungeons also include a boat ride and a drop tower.
Hamburg Dungeon was very well themed and the boat ride was probably the best of the two I have been on (I have done the London Dungeon and York Dungeon – the latter not having any rides), but drop tower only had the single drop, and was weaker than the longer London counterpart. The additional scenes involving the pirates, docks and smuggling were good, as these were not things I’d experienced in the other two Dungeons, however on the whole the attraction was not as well structured as the London one nor as scary as the York one (which, though ride-free, is the strongest Dungeon I have been to). All-in-all it was a fun attraction, but due to similarities to other Dungeons it’s not a must-do unless you’ve never been to one before.
The warehouses that the Dungeons and Miniature Wonderland reside within. There are no photos of the Hamburg Dungeon I'm afraid!
Before my exit from Hamburg I managed one day-trip to the quaint German town of Luneburg. This town was charming, and provided the scenic experience I was hoping Hamburg would have provided.
Nice report so far! All of these parks are on my to-do list. The ambience of both parks so far is very appealing. I recently watched a pov of Baron 1898 and was really impressed with the layout. It almost looks like it could beat out the "bigger" Busch dive coasters I've been on. I'd also love to see how Colossos stacks up with El Toro.
redfoot12 wrote:Nice report so far! All of these parks are on my to-do list. The ambience of both parks so far is very appealing. I recently watched a pov of Baron 1898 and was really impressed with the layout. It almost looks like it could beat out the "bigger" Busch dive coasters I've been on. I'd also love to see how Colossos stacks up with El Toro.
Whilst I will concede that having the shortest drop out of all the Dive Coasters is noticeable on Baron 1898(I've been on Krake and Oblivion, and both felt taller, even if the former is only marginally so), Baron's layout made up for this. I can't comment on the Busch park Dive's as I've not been on either, but based on POV's I feel that Baron more than makes up for its diminished height. Also the theming and overall experience make it more exciting as an attraction compared to Krake or Oblivion (not that I dislike either of those).
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