Ever since I had been an owner of the Merlin Annual Pass, a certain park in Germany had been on my radar. Merlin acquired Heide Park in 2007 at the same time as the UK parks and often told passholders that if you ever managed to make it out there, you could get in for half price!
Of course several years after I stopped owning one, I went to check it out, amongst other things.
We landed in Hamburg and spent the first day in the city. Not straight to a park? Not quite yet, decided to visit Miniatur Wunderland first.
Very glad we did too, it was great. Not sure if the pictures will do it justice but this first area was a proper wow moment to me upon entering. The sheer scale of the spectacle and then the intricate detail beneath. I thought model villages would be a bit dull and I was dead wrong.
It has something for everyone, this fully operational airport with live arrival and departures board was mind blowing. The model planes just take off and land through a hole in the wall, all on schedule – pure magic.
There was even a cred.
Make that two. Las Vegas’ famous Togo coaster is hiding back there as well. The other cool feature about the place was the rolling day and night modes, with each scene lighting up in wondrous fashion a few times each hour.
Not often I suggest visiting something that doesn’t contain rides, but here you have it – highly recommended.
Day 2 – Heide Park
Our car was collected the following morning and we hit a relatively brief stint of autobahn before arriving in a nice empty car park.
One of the reasons it was so empty was that it was a little on the chilly side – no more than 2°C. After a slight interlude and welcoming announcement from the park, the flood gates were opened for not many people to head on in.
The Intamin launch coaster and clone of Rita at Alton Towers was the first open ride we encountered. Due to the poor weather they were starting things up in a very gradual and nervous fashion.
Desert Race rode a lot smoother and more comfortably than the original but that only really served to highlight the fact that it just isn’t a very interesting layout. There was the slightest sensation of airtime in the humps that change your direction between endless banked corners, but the most interesting part for me was the very ending, after the first set of brakes, where the track deviates slightly with a nifty little manouevre to avoid a taller building than Rita has to.
My most anticipated ride in the park was the Intamin pre-fab woodie. Only 4 of these exist in the world and they are often heralded for having the best wooden airtime money can buy. I had ridden the other one in Europe (Balder) and came off very impressed. How would the first installation fare?
Not well. It’s an intimidating structure with the massive lift hill and turnaround, but the first drop doesn’t quite disappear from under itself in the severe fashion that I had expected. Cresting the first two big hills provided decent ejector, but in between these the ride was marred by a terrible crunching roughness in the dips. The turnaround didn’t help this, the speed hill did almost nothing and then the train hits a mid course brake run.
The worst part of the ride follows – a meandering helix that offers no thrill and only wastes energy. If the track was well looked after it would have been just boring, but at this moment it was quite jarringly uncomfortable the way it shuffled around all over the place, eventually becoming quite amusing as I observed everyone in the train rocking rythmically back and forth either looking fed up or saying ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!
The final hills were good, but not in the same league as the equivalent steel versions on Intamin and I hit the brakes a little disappointed, having been let down by a legend of the industry. They haven’t treated it kindly.
Desperately wanting to like the ride, I learnt over the course of a few laps that the two seats in the middle of each 6-seater car provided a better experience for not being positioned directly over the wheels. Unfortunately German guests are too efficient at batching themselves and getting everyone to fill empty spaces on trains, so even though I would aim specifically for these seats, more often than not I would get enthusiasically waved through the lines into the wrong row, then regret it as soon I sat down.
The weather was quite grim again so we nabbed the slightly indoors Mack powered coaster Grottenblitz for a brief respite, followed by the smallest in the park – Indy-Blitz for less sensible reasons.
The 2 B&Ms were next priority but they were struggling to open Krake in such poor conditions. As we passed it, a test train was sent and probably came the closest I’ve ever seen a ride to stalling, hitting the splashdown and barely making it through the next element without rolling back. Running it on the edge.
They had managed to open up the wing coaster though. Flug is an impressive looking specimen, very nicely integrated into its area. The entrance pathways are up high and look down over the pit of the station with the track swooping around itself. A sinister theme plays throughout the vicinity, one I had already become accustomed to before my visit. I find it’s very gratifying to hear good ride music in person when you already know it.
The ride shares the same wing-over drop that I was used to from the Swarm, but amps things up immediately after with a blur of a speed hill under a near-miss bridge into another floaty inversion. The ride gets intense again from this moment onwards and remains so for the rest of the ride, alternating between tightly banked corners that cause the other seats to bounce with force and three more disorientating inversions. A very solid package.
Continuing up the hill it was time for a ride on Scream. This Intamin gyro drop tower provides amazing views of the park and surroundings with its rotation at the top, before packing one of the strongest punches I’ve ever encounted in a drop tower. Just look how horizontal those legs are.
The other feature I have to praise Scream for is the way the queue winds around the ride in true spectator fashion. Around the outer perimeter of the structure there are barriers that quake with a thunderous boom every time the ride drops and forces large volumes of air into them. It makes for a fantastic scare to anyone nervous about riding, enhancing the whole atmosphere of the attraction.
After a spot of lunch, the weather warmed up a little and the B&M dive coaster was finally open for business. Like it’s neighbour, Krake has a strong and sinister soundtrack that I was famliar with and it had me buzzing with excitement as I stumbled through the queue. As with Colossos, the station immediately greets with many Germans waving frantically at me – fill those empty seats! Straight in the back row before I’m ready.
From this position, you get less of an opportunity to appreciate the beast beneath the drop but the force with which you are lifted out of your seat is enhanced and more sustained. The splashdown is an unusual feature for a ride of this scale, common instinct for every rider is to raise their legs as if they are going to get wet at this point. The scoops on the side of the train kick up two big plumes of water that make for a great off-ride visual and occasionally soak the outer most seats if you catch a bit of bad luck.
A swift immelman follows (unless it’s too cold) before a satisfying surge of airtime over the next hill. Sadly it all ends too quickly, but at least there’s something to appreciate other than just a drop and the train moves with a lot more purpose than I had come to expect from the ride type. Krake immediately became my favourite of its kind.
It actually started to cheer up a bit after that.
Oh wait, no. We were about to board this little boat ride when the skies suddenly opened and pelted the park with a torrential hailstorm. With only ourselves and the lone operator in the station, we had a bit of a laugh together and watched it all unfold. All the rides had shut down very quickly and almost immediately after, the top of Krake was legitimately struck by lightning in front of my eyes. I had never seen anything like this before.
It all disappeared as quickly as it had arrived, leaving a trail of destruction behind. Announcements were now playing throughout the park – they had taken the decision to close everything down and asked everyone to go home several hours earlier than planned. This was bad news for me – I hadn’t got all the creds! I had been taking it easy all day, not expecting to encounter any issues and suddenly the opportunity had been snatched away from me.
They were handing out rainy day guarantee passes at the entrance, but I wasn’t certain that I could return within the designated time frame. I explained this through a quick chat with guest services – they were interested to know where I had travelled from and they took my details and said they would be in touch.