With large portions of this trip being dedicated to sightseeing around major city areas such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Brussels I opted not to hire a car at any point and instead attempt everything by public transport, a habit I would quickly drop in future.
The train journey out to Harderwijk was interrupted by an unexpected line closure that resulted in a replacement bus service for a significant portion of the journey, followed by yet another bus that still left an exhausting walk with luggage over cobblestones to our hotel in the quaint inner town area.
Buses were becoming the bane of my life by the next morning, with the shuttle to the park taking what felt like an eternity while I gazed through the trees, eager for my first glimpse of an Intamin mega coaster – it’s surprisingly well hidden.
We finally entered the park with the least visually aesthetic mascot in the world and headed straight down the central plaza, opting to head right at the end for no particular reason.
This meant that the first attraction of the day became Merlin’s Magic Castle, a Vekoma mad house. Experiencing Hex at Alton Towers will always set expectations rather high for other iterations of this ride type and of course the driving factor in that is the storytelling, so we’re instantly put at a disadvantage here with the preshow being lost in translation. You can tell it doesn’t have the atmosphere of a genuinely ancient building and backdrop but the ride sequence itself was rather entertaining with seemingly random magic and a lot of shouting.
Sharing the same area of the park is this Vekoma woodie and the speakers outside it generated a seemingly unfathomable mystery. They were playing a piece of music that we instantly recognised from an online game (the same game that I actually met my partner). The game is Chinese in origin and we had assumed that the music had been composed specifically for it, so were very surprised to hear it in such a setting. This either means that the music has origins elsewhere or that whoever was running the sound system at the time knows the game.
Enough distraction, how was the ride? Not great. The lap bar restraints are unusually restrictive in their positioning and the layout itself had very little to offer in terms of significant moments. It just sort of happened around me.
Following that disappointment I decided to head straight round to the dead end at the opposite side of the park that contained the very reason we had come here. Heralded as one of the finest coasters in Europe I was obviously very keen to experience this Intamin first hand.
And it was like nothing I had ever experienced before. With a background in only UK coasters, my perspective on the word airtime was instantly changed forever. This ride was doing things to me that I had never felt before as it took the first drop and crested each subsequent hill, I was being launched out of my seat and into the restraint and there was this wonderful lurching sensation of fear in my stomach as it did so. It was totally addictive and Goliath became an instant favourite.
Future note: sadly in my continuous pursuit of the hobby, I have managed to almost immunise myself against the effect of the sensation described above. While airtime still remains the most enjoyable aspect of any ride for me, that more basal or instinctive physical thrill that it once provided is now a distant memory that never made it out of 2015. These days I get jealous if I’m in a car that goes over a steeply humped bridge and someone else remarks that it made them feel something strange. Depressing, isn’t it.
As we alternative between positivity and negativity, this was probably the worst rollercoaster I have ever ridden. The Vekoma SLC is notorious for combining a rough ride with huge, stiff restraints that are perfectly positioned to bash your ears off and punch you repeatedly in the head. This was the very first installation of such a ride and it was nothing short of awful.
To recover from that, we took a spin on the rapids, which mainly gave me anxiety from watching the other guests in our boat decide to wash their hands in the water, between the physical gaps across each section of seats, gaps that flex and close and could easily have caused injury.
To calm down further, Ferris Wheel. You have to cross this central area of the park many times to navigate around the place and it stood out as always playing the same song throughout the whole day – Uptown Funk. A song I will forever associate with this park, for better or worse.
From the height of the wheel, I spotted the next target. Can Vekoma turn it around at any point today?
Well I wouldn’t put it down to the hardware at all, but I did enjoy it. The queue is essentially a horror walkthrough with several effective scare moments related to underground trains and stations. The airgates leave you ominously unaware of what lies beyond and build the tension rather nicely before boarding the coaster.
The layout is actually an outdoor clone of the famous Rock’n’Rollercoaster at Disney parks, something I was yet to ride due to being a weak minded fool in my younger days. It didn’t inspire me with much enthusiasm for riding those in the future, suffering from similar tracking issues and poor restraints that were becoming the order of the day. The special effect on the final brake run was a fantastic moment that may have just made up for it again.
Let’s get the last of the Vekomas out of the way then. The other universally hated and far too common layout known as the Boomerang. In what was meant to be considered a clever use of space by designers, it uses the shuttle aspect of going both forwards and backwards to make 6 on-ride inversions out of three physical track pieces. I wasn’t prepared for how the backwards half would ride and so it rewarded this by repeatedly bashing the back of my head against the seat. What am I getting myself in for?
The final coaster of the day was much more acceptable – a tame Zierer Tivoli designed for smaller children. What am I getting myself in for?
The final ride of note was the park’s log flume, which confused me upon passing, seeing that some guests were deciding to sit facing backwards up the first lift hill. ‘Is this really allowed?’ I thought. It turns out yes, as there’s a couple of hidden turntables in there, making the second drop traditionally backwards and so if that bit can be, why not the rest of it? This feature was a pleasant surprise and made it better than your average log flume.
Now that a fair assessment of the park as a whole was complete, it was time to get as much as possible out of Goliath for the day. I finally understood what these coaster marathons were all about and it was glorious.
It saved the park really, as I wasn’t particularly fond of any of their other attractions. While it was a nice enough place to be, it definitely needed that something special to make it a worthwhile visit overall.