Day 11, which was primarily dedicated to travel, ended up being an abject failure.
It began rather nicely with a whirlwind tour through a new country cred, a certain principality by the name of Monaco. We hit the streets bright and early so as not to get caught up in those densely packed roads.
From there it was planned to be a simple 6 hour drive to Switzerland, more specifically Lucerne, where we hoped to visit a museum/chocolate factory dark ride and do some further general sightseeing. Perturbed by our experience at Naturlandia we figured it was best to book a timeslot for the attraction, though it appeared to be completely empty for the entire day, even on the day, and opted for the latest possible time just to be safe.
Italy was open for transiting only, no mingling (nor did they recognise UK vaccine status at that time if you wished to stop off and visit something specific anyway), so the idea was to speed run it straight to the next border. The Italian roads just weren’t letting that happen sadly, from multiple bouts of standstill motorway queues to the endless starting and stopping of roadworks that almost became parody, it took about twice as long as it should have to finally reach Switzerland.
Despite all that, there was still a reasonable chance of reaching our next destination in plenty of time as we bought our Swiss Vignette (a fixed fee sticker to drive on their motorways) at the border. Our driving woes didn’t end there however as the ridiculously huge Gotthard Tunnel, the longest road tunnel in the world at the time of opening (now a mere fifth), didn’t want to play ball either. At over 10 miles in length it’s a rather surreal experience to cruise through, but the fact that it’s paced by traffic lights at the entrance, which inevitably bring all motorway traffic screeching to a halt, causes an absolute nightmare of yet more standstill queues.
Battling until the very last, we reached Lucerne with what we thought was just moments to spare, but it wasn’t to be. The final faff of city driving, parking and not being familiar with the surroundings upon arrival tipped the balance and the day was over. Fortunately the ticket desk were able to swap our booking for a voucher that could be used any time in the next 5 years.
This instantly became an Ange Michel 2.0 situation for us though, I can’t just walk away from that empty handed. The cogs began to turn. How can we make it back, during this trip?
Oh well, regular, basic, stress-free sightseeing it is.
This here is the Löwendenkmal, or Lion Monument.
That there is the Jesuitenkirche, or Jesuit Church.
And this one looks like a bit of a Kapellbrücke, or Chapel Bridge to me. History lessons available on Google.
The catch with Switzerland however, no parks (except Conny-Land, Conny-Land is cool), so perhaps foolishly the journey was only half done and our hotel was still another 4 hours away. Next stop, Austria.
Again it took far longer than necessary and we quickly began to resent these massive tunnels, with the Arlburg Road Tunnel stopping us dead for an hour at traffic lights because it had decided to be one-way for the night. All 9 miles of it. With a toll at the end for the privilege.
I believe the day gave way to a new record for hours behind the wheel on any of our road trips, impressively (or perhaps not) surpassing the 850-odd mile journey from Massachusetts to Tennessee, even though this was only a mere 850-odd kilometres. In the end we had a criminally short amount of time in a gorgeous hotel for that night. I was at least glad to be back in this part of Austria, because I’m a big fan of it. Let’s see how well it treated us.
Day 12 – Freizeitpark Familienland
I had been very tempted by this park while in the area almost exactly 5 years prior. It seemed a little pricey for a +1 and (believe it or not) too far out of the way at the time. Oh, how the desperation (enthusiasm? no, that’s not right) has grown exponentially since those days. Luckily they’ve doubled their cred count since then too!
The morning began in amazing fashion as we joined a single train wait for the main coaster. A single train wait is the entire queueline for this ride as the park is very tiny and cute, basically sitting within the footprint of said coaster. Problems were occurring with the train parking in the station, however.
So this guy just walks out onto the track, sees that it’s a sensor fault, whips a spare one out of his pocket and changes it on the spot. Train parks correctly. One test lap. Back open.
That would have been the day over in most other places and I can’t overstate how satisfying it was to watch.
#1 Big Bang is yet another custom Zierer ESC, after just a few days, this one again has a nice refreshing layout.
A couple of mild twisty airtime moments against a stunning backdrop, it was well worth visiting for. Trains are still developing those rattles though.
#2 Wicky is an extended SBF Visa job, once again not a spinner, with a funky little pair of speed hills between helices, hidden behind this viking (pirate? no, that’s not right) hut.
Satisfied with that haul it was time to visit an old friend.
The reason I was in the area all those years ago was to visit this fabulous little park. Just this year they’ve opened a rather special new coaster and I figured it would be rude not to check it out, given half a chance.
#3 Fridolin’s verrückter Zauberexpress is no ordinary family coaster. It’s a rare ART Engineering build, of Ba-a-a Express and Duplo Dino fame, but it does a lot more than those. So much more.
Sometimes I hate silly claims, sometimes I love them. I love this one. World’s lowest height restriction on a multi-launch coaster.
The trains are awesome for starters. Comfy little seats and Fridolin himself, loving it, on the back.
The station has a couple of nice effects with a screen and some projections to enhance the starting sequence which takes riders backwards out of the station, seemingly by mistake, before launching forwards through it and into the layout.
Into this nicely decorated first section, waterworks and all.
It bursts through (at low speeds of course) this misty little hut and into a little twisty.
Hold onto your wizard hats, here comes the second launch. This gives just enough momentum (in a satisfying manner) to crest the highest point of the layout and complete the final two turns back into the station, where it accelerates again for a second lap. 5 launches total. Brilliant, beautifully done, this park just nails everything and it’s joyous to behold. (Is it worrying that this might be better than everything I’ve recently talked about in France?)
With the newness sadly no longer new it was time to get assaulted by Wild Train.
This was my first ever Pax back in 2016 and taught me everything I know about how ridiculous their tracking is. The results are still as quirky and powerful as ever, with dangerous levels of airtime being delivered in all the wrong places as it ducks and dives through those impossible clearances.
Children seem to be unaffected by it. Adults are not. Best coaster of the trip so far, non-ironically this time.
ABC drop towers with themed storylines. A mixed bunch at best. Knightsride Tower has always been the standout for me.
From this fellow chilling in the atmospheric and scary queueline (mainly because it’s dark and devoid of guests), to the tension building sequence of rising up through various scenes.
You reach the top. You get poked in the back. You flinch and cry out in terror. You drop before you’ve sat back in your seat (and it’s a damn good drop). It’s all perfectly executed and gets me every time.
Sindbads Abenteuerreise, the fun-loving scary dark ride. Love it.
Almost as much as I love the soundtrack for Mami Wata. IMAscore out of their comfort zone often results in them at their best and sometimes you can’t beat standing under an ambient speaker at a park, hearing it blare a piece of music you know so well. I bought the CD on my last visit and it’s still a playlist regular to this day.
Oh, and as a turntable + elevator lift Hafema log flume this ride is also spot on. Well worth the soaking.
Something else I hadn’t tried before was these old-timey cars.
They don’t look much on the surface (nor can I find them on their website now) but they do double through a shed with various little scenes from around the world in it. I like a hidden surprise.
Turns out this tiny park has even more to offer. On the running theme of unintentionally hilarious 3D films I’ve got going here, this cinema was playing a certain number that can best be described as discount Pandadroom, with turtles.
I feel like it’s a very generic film that you could perhaps find at many parks around the world and yet I’m just not sure. Maybe it’s unique or maybe it’s that the German dub is just a little… off character, in the best way. A deep and wise voice that just doesn’t match the face of the main protagonist as he explains how humans are ruining the planet in a wistful and woeful way.
He reminisces about various adventures from his youth, alongside a friend, in which humans destroy the ocean, the ice caps and the rainforest (I miss Pandadroom so badly right now). The special effects are used very sparingly, making them totally on point and real crowdpleasers.
The conclusion finds him old again, on a beach, helping a newborn turtle learn to walk to the sea, but there’s a road in the way. It cuts to black with him looking straight at the audience with a sad, yet at peace expression that to me says ‘that little one isn’t going to make it, and it’s your fault’. It’s simultaneously light hearted and able to bring a tear to my eye.
What is this park doing to me?
The day was seen out simply re-enjoying the many standout attractions of this wonderful park, primarily seeing how much Wild Train the human body can take. Visits like that make this all worthwhile.
I’m starting to sound way too positive. Don’t worry, Prater’s up next. I hated the place last time.