After just about surviving the night, we were happy to escape our crappy hotel and get back on the road on route to…
Familypark, and it was far from what I was expecting in several different ways.
Firstly, the park is massive, both in terms of foot print and number of attractions. Secondly, the park was far busier than both Fantasiana and Familienland combined. Lastly and most importantly, the park was incredibly well presented. All these things combine to make me wonder why I’ve never heard anything about this park before.
After a much longer and far more interesting walk than we were expecting, we arrived at the first coaster of the day, Götterblitz.
Götterblitz would be my third time getting to experience a Mack Youngstar Coaster and it may have been my favourite one to date. Though I put this down to having reached a level of experience where I can truly appreciate how great Youngstar Coasters are for the entire family. That, or my inner Mack fanboy is now far less easy to drown out.
After a few laps of Götterblitz, no really, it is that good, we next attempted to head to the park’s only other real roller coaster.
It was now that we entered the, “oh my God this place is massive and actually really nice” portion of the day, as we got lost many times looking for Rattenmühle and ended up discovering interesting things on the way.
Like this pretty flat ride.
And this giant crow.
Finally though, we made it.
I’m so happy to say that Rattenmühle continues the trend I mentioned on the first day of this trip report. The trend that says this trip is full of great Gerstlauer Bobsled Coasters and each one is better than the last.
While maybe not quite as wacky as Speed Rockets (layout wise), Rattenmühle is a better overall package. It’s spread out layout is full of fast changes in direction that really throw you around, hidden surprises and nice pops of air time. The rat theme is amazing and executed to perfection and the coaster’s setting looks fantastic.
What also helps make Rattenmühle so special is the way it’s theme bleeds out into the nearby area, giving us gems such as…
Yeah, I like this park.
With both the coasters ridden, we took a slow walk back to the park entrance, looking for any other ride to experience on the way to make our visit extra worth it.
Maybe not this one…
We ended up settling for the park’s brand new Zamperla NebulaZ flat ride named Stellarium. While very impressive from a visual perspective, the actual ride experience this thing offered was completely pointless in every way.
With that our time at Familypark had come to an end and it had been good fun, certainly much more than just a stop off between Fantasiana and Wiener Prater.
No, that distinction belongs to Böhmischer Prater.
In a small section of park land between 2 housing estates lives Vienna’s “other Prater”.
After far too much hassle trying to park, we finally made our way into the “park”, which could best be desribed as a collection of “are they open?” heritage rides placed either side of a straight path.
Thankfully though, their star attraction, Shark Trip, was clearly open. So after paying a lady who was quite literally doing 3 jobs at once (operating Shark Trip, a flat ride and selling tokens for both), we took our seat on the shark and were treated to several fairly brutal laps.
Then it was time to leave the “other Prater” and make our way to the actual one.
I’d always really wanted to experience Wiener Prater but I’m not sure why.
It could be the sheer amount of coasters up for grabs, currently 13. It could be the mystery of the place, despite it being really well known, I knew very little of the place. It could be because I’m a sucker for a city park. It could be because I enjoy the funfair atmosphere I assume the place has. I wasn’t sure but I did know I couldn’t wait to get started.
So after finding a cheap and easy car park just outside, I wasn’t expecting that, it was time to enter the park and empty my wallet.
In case you didn’t know, Wiener Prater is free to enter, then you pay to experience each ride, as they are all owned and operated by different showmen. It’s a super costly way to do things, but in a strange way does add a level of character to the place.
The coaster that drew first blood was probably the best in the park, Megablitz.
This custom Vekoma MK-700 was so much fun. Crushing positives, a real sense of speed, wicked laterals and unnerving air time, all while you’re sitting in the massive roomy seat and the lap bar is nowhere your body.
If I didn’t have another 12 coasters to ride, I’d have loved to have taken up the ride again for a discount offer because Megablitz is that good.
The park’s piece of crap Vekoma Boomerang was not however, yet it cost 2 whole Euros more for a ride than Megablitz…
Maskerade was next.
This custom Gerstlauer spinner in the dark was far from anything special, but I did enjoy getting to experience the entire ride to myself.
As a man who loves when brakeman woodies are done right, Hochschaubahn is not. No forces or fun at all to be found on this thing. You just sit there as it happens, while you’re thinking of anything else you could be doing.
I’m so glad to say that I didn’t have to ride this thing alone, as another dirty credit obsessed bloke jumped on just before it started.
I absolutely hated this disgusting thing and it’s going to take all the strength in my body to not start a profanity fuelled rant about how much it deserves to be destroyed in a fire.
I normally don’t mind Volares but this was a literal torture device. A torture device I paid 7 freaking Euros to experience. They should be paying me 7 Euros to ride it…
Never again, never defend.
Feeling like I’d been thrown down 30 flights of stairs and in a mindset where I was ready to fight the next person who looked at me the wrong way, it was time to take a break from the credits and experience one of the park’s many dark rides.
This was a fantastic decision because Eisberg was amazing and managed to bring me back from the dark place the torture device took me.
Eisberg is an interactive dark ride, where you use a camera to “shoot” targets on your journey, “shoot” enough and amazing things happen. Full of animatronics, comedy, character and fun surprises, Eisberg is a must ride when you’re at Wiener Prater.
Back to the coasters now.
Roller Ball was next, the exact same model as the one at Parc Spirou, yeah, still sucks…
I’m kind of embarrassed, for many reasons, to admit that I like Insider, but I do.
Firstly there is the coaster’s insane, pitch black, laser and smoke filled, pumping techno music queueline, which was pretty amazing to experience on my own. Even better was the World’s most difficult mirror maze under the same circumstances. I’m not ashamed to admit I was lost for good few minutes here and that if some Austrain women hadn’t shown up I may still be there.
Then there’s the coaster. An off the shelf Maurer spinner. A layout that I’ve ridden and not enjoyed very much at Skara Sommarland. But in the darkness, not knowing where you’re going, with the music blaring and all the special effects going off it was a pretty fun experience.
Super 8er Bahn
Up next was another surprise hit.
I was expecting Super 8er Bahn, the World’s only Pinfari FC80 to ride awful and bring back all the pain from the Volare. Thankfully however it was almost worryingly smooth and provided a fast and forceful ride that I honestly enjoyed.
The last and one of the worst Reverchon spinners of the trip.
Zug des Manitu
I got to ride Zug des Manitu, the park’s kiddy powered mine train coaster, on my own. Which would have been pretty embarrassing had the operator not been so friendly.
Rattenmühle I’m so sorry…
In the same day, the trend continued and Gesengte Sau became the best Gerstlauer Bobsled coaster yet.
Layout wise at least. Rattenmühle still wins on setting and theming, although the 2 headchoppers on Gesengte are great.
Despite occupying an area the same size as the previously mentioned Reverchon spinner, which is a travelling design, Gesengte Sau is the tallest, fastest and longest Gerstlauer Bobsled ever built. This creates a crazy twisted compact design that’s full of steep drops, fast changes in direction, air time, strong laterals, wacky transitions and a real sense of character. I really enjoyed Gesengte and just like Megablitz I’d have loved to have gotten another ride, if I wasn’t swiftly running out of money.
The final coaster of the day for me was Wilde Maus, an off the shelf Maurer mouse, one of the better examples of these that I’ve ridden.
We decided to treat ourselves with a proper meal tonight, after last night’s incident, so we went to our second ever Rollercoaster Restaurant, well third if you count not eating and leaving in disgust at the Europa Park one.
Once again I really enjoyed the experience and the food. Yes it’s pricey, but there aren’t many places where you can experience it. Plus I’m one of the fussiest eaters ever, so if I like the food then it’s always a win.
I hope one of the few others in the World can be the ultimate Rollercoaster Restaurant, because Prater’s one had one major thing missing from the Hamburg one (the ability to order from a touch screen) but then also had 2 major things that were better (robots putting the food onto the track and a better atmosphere with awesome lighting).
After a stroll around the park at night, it looked pretty stunning to be fair, we retrieved the car before driving back to last night’s stupid hotel, where nothing had changed. As we were walking in, key cards in hand, holding a couple of bags each, a member of staff who was leaving asked us if we were residents at the hotel, yes, sadly…
Heartline’s wife then asked if she could have another towel for the room, to which after much confusion the member of staff replied no. This has to be a set up, how can a hotel be this inept?
Thank you for reading, click here for day 14 of my trip report, where we visit Merlin’s Kinderwelt, before everything goes wrong in Slovakia.
After our painfully short sleep we woke up to discover that the location of the hotel was just as stunning as the hotel itself.
In fact, the Austrian scenery (this was my first time visiting) was beautiful the entire way from the hotel to the first park of the day.
Which was Freizeitpark Familienland, a small park that I’d discovered while planning another trip a few years ago and from that point I labelled it as the park with the Zierer ESC that’s surrounded by mountains. To be fair that’s an accurate description of the park but dig under the beautiful surface and you’ll discover that the park is almost unfairly so much more.
Ignoring a few key exceptions from France, I’d never felt truly welcomed by any of their admissions staff. So it was such a breath of fresh air to speak to the man at the entrance of Familienland. There was no hard faces, there were no harsh words, no demands for masks or covid passes, just a chilled out friendly bloke welcoming us on park and it felt great.
First up we headed to the park’s star attraction, the previously mentioned Zierer ESC surrounded by mountains, Big Bang.
They were experiencing some form of technical issue as we entered the queue, this led to one of the greatest introductions you could have to a coaster and a situation that couldn’t have been anymore Austrian.
There was a fault was a proximity sensor on the coaster’s brake run. From previously working at a park I was worried, these kinds of faults would normally take 3 – 4 hours to resolve. You’d have to wait for engineering, evacuate the coaster, station and queue lines, source the new sensor from the workshop, harness up, spend 30 – 45 minutes changing the part and then finally complete multiple test runs.
Or if you’re Austrian…
The ride op himself does the work, the guests in the station and queueline spectate in amazement, the new sensor is already under the station just in case, you scale the track harness free, you spend less than a minute changing sensors and then you test it once before reopening immediately. It really does make you wonder why the rest of the World can’t be trusted to do this..
Enough about how amazing the Austrians are, how does Big Bang ride?
It’s great fun, has real character and is officially the best Zierer ESC in the World, simple.
Next up was Wicky, which was sadly the last coaster and last attraction that we’d need to experience at the park.
You wouldn’t think so looking at the coaster’s rather epic station and entrance but Wicky is actually just a SBF Visa Twin Helix.
What did make it kind of special though was the friendly ride operator and the many other full grown adults having a blast while riding. There’s something in the air at this park I’m sure and I love it.
After a few more laps of Big Bang we sadly had to part ways with Freizeitpark Familienland. Thankfully I’m happy to say that it’s a park that I’ll never forget and I couldn’t think of a better introduction to Austria.
Apart from maybe…
Oh, this was something really special.
Heartline had raved about this park so much and in so much detail that this visit really felt like a homecoming to me, even though I’d never been before. I knew the rides, I knew, loved and owned the park soundtracks and this all combined to make this incredible park even more wonderful.
Knights Ride Tower
The first attraction you come to after entering the park is the amazing and visually stunning Knights Ride Tower.
Inside that awesome facade is an abc rides drop tower but describing this attraction as simply a drop tower would be selling it criminally short.
After entering the attraction you come face to face with a massive animatronic dragon in a room that’s full of sinister dread. Or at least it was to me, because I knew I was one door opening away from an abc drop tower.
Tower rides get under my skin at the best of times but abc towers in my opinion have the most intense drop out there, so naturally I was freaking out big time.
The door opened and the loading area kept the same level of theming and dread that the previous room had. The single lap bar that feels like it’s doing nothing came down and the ascent began.
You pass four heavily themed scenes on your way to the top and then it’s time to come back down and I’m pleased to say that Knights Ride Tower lives up to the abc claim of having the most intense drops out there.
I lost count of how many times I rode this amazing attraction but 3 things were constant on every ride. The level of theming always surprised me, the drop always scared me and I always loved every second of it.
Fridolin’s verrückter Zauberexpress
After that amazing introduction to the park, we next headed to their brand new coaster, Fridolin’sverrückter Zauberexpress.
Before we move onto the coaster itself though, I can’t not mention how great the brand new area the coaster lives in is. It looks fantastic and seeing this level of detail and attention from a relatively small park is so impressive.
And that’s just the toilets!
Fridolin’sverrückter Zauberexpress is the first Family Launch Coaster from ART Engineering but better than that it’s actually multi launch. In fact the coaster is currently the only multi launch coaster in the World that children as small as 90cm can ride.
Despite being designed to be suitable for children of that size, Fridolin is far from boring, even to a jaded enthusiast like myself. The launches are fun, there are some nice forces here and there and the waterfall section is always worrying. Even if you can’t find any fun in the coaster itself though, I’d find it impossible for anyone to deny how well presented and adorable it is.
And then it was time for Wild Train…
Where do I even start…
I love Pax (the insane Russian coaster manufacturer) and Wild Train is easily the best Pax.
I love airtime and Wild Train delivers some of the most extreme and intense pops of it in the World.
Wild Train is absolutely insane! We rode this amazing piece of engineering so many times but I never got used to the brutality of the airtime. Me and Heartline would bounce between laughing so hard it hurt and then screaming in fear every time we rode Wild Train and I can’t really think of a better way to explain why I love it so much.
Sindbad’s Abenteuerreise was next on the list.
This ghost train style dark ride takes you on a journey through some of Sindbad’s most harrowing adventures. I spent the entire ride freaking out which I think made the experience more fun for everyone involved.
Then it was time for me to experience Mami Wata, Fantasiana’s fantastic Hafema flume ride.
There was something so magical about hearing the ride’s soundtrack in person for the first time, after I’d listened to it on a regular basis ever since Heartline’s first visit to the park.
Mami Wata isn’t a long ride, but I’m not complaining, I like how it gets straight to the point, unlike a lot of other flume rides. The theming is wonderful, both the drops are great fun (you will get wet!), the music is amazing and like other rides at Fantasiana it’s an instant classic.
For reasons of wanting to please the Dark Ride Database, wanting to dry off from Mami Wata and wanting to spend as long as we physically could at Fantasiana, we next checked out the 4D Cinema.
This ended up being a fantastic decision because the film they were showing was incredible. Think Efteling’s PandaDroom but much more slow paced and solemn, narrated by a super deep voiced German turtle and with an ending full of uncertainty. It was accidentally great in many ways and absolutely worth the time investment.
For all the same reasons again we next rode the old timer car ride. I couldn’t tell you if it’s small indoor section elevates it to dark ride status but I can tell you that I enjoyed it.
Sadly all good things must come to an end. So after a ride on the Ferris Wheel, another couple of laps on Fridolin, many more laps on Wild Train and 2 more visits to the Knights Ride Tower, it was with a heavy heart that I had to say farewell to Fantasiana. But not before getting myself a copy of the Mami Wata soundtrack CD and a kick ass lenticular Knights Ride Tower postcard!
If it wasn’t too obvious I absolutely loved my visit to Fantasiana and I can’t wait to return.
Today had been amazing, Freizeitpark Familienland had been great and a breath of fresh air, Fantasiana had been one of my favourite park visits ever and my favourite K-Pop group (fromis_9) had just come back. All was well, until it wasn’t…
Tonight’s hotel, where do I start…
Gone were the mountain views of last night’s hotel, replaced with a literal scrap yard. Gone was the feeling of being the only ones in the hotel, replaced with being crammed wall to wall with undesirable characters staring us down at every opportunity. Gone was air con, replaced with a fan that turbo charged the hot air into your face. Gone was common courtesy, replaced with staff who just didn’t care. Gone was the ability to get boiling water at a hotel, replaced with having to eat cold tortillas and drink warm ‘yoghurt.’
Do you want to know the best bit? This hotel had a better rating on Booking.com than the stunning one from the night before. I can only assume bribes were accepted, I can’t wrap my head around any other reasoning.
Thank you for reading, if we survive the night then please click here for day 13 of my trip report, where we visit Familypark before I spend my life savings at Wiener and Böhmischer Prater.
The last ‘major’ park in Austria for me is a bit of a tease. Though coast2coaster would have you thinking it’s a healthy +4, I was shocked and appalled to discover that it’s only really half that. I’m all about that Rattenmühle though, even for the name alone.
First stop was #1 Götterblitz, the original ‘other’ layout of the Mack Youngstar model, a criminally undersold family coaster. This one once again reminded me why that is, they’re offensively smooth and give you just that little bit more to think about with the forces here and there.
Well there’s one of the issues. It was the first time I’ve seen one of these operate and it even had a queue!
The other issue was a Butterfly that, even if it counted, was closed.
The park is still deceivingly large though, there’s a lot of nice looking other stuff around that we didn’t do.
Construction, get excited.
And here we are, the main event. #2 Rattenmühle kicked ass, as it rightly should have. It had a very nicely themed station and a unique, interesting and punchy layout. Every time I ride one of these Gerstlauer Bobsleds I keep thinking it’s the new best one.
For all the stuff we didn’t ride the morning had felt a little empty, so we gave this weird looking Stellarium a go, having never seen one before. It’s a cool visual, watching all the arms intertwine and never quite crash into each other, but it lacked a little on force. I was hoping for Magic Carpet style lurches and all I got was a light breeze.
Next stop was the affectionately dubbed ‘other Prater’, a small collection of rides elsewhere in Vienna that should be better than the real thing.
Spot the inconsistency.
In reality it was a bit of an incohesive place, transitioning awkwardly from interesting heritage
To cheap creds. And you know what we were here for. #3 Shark Trip.
But if you really want a ridiculous hit of creds in Vienna, there’s only one place to be.
Doing a solo run of this place at lunchtime, offpeak, was a pretty grim experience that I really didn’t care for. It was a monetary exchange of 50 euros for 11 coasters and nothing more. Staff were rude, the place felt like a dump and it was a complete faff.
This time round I entered the park care free and at ease. A couple of new coasters to grab, a handful of dark rides to try and the opportunity to watch someone else suffer through everything I didn’t have to. That’s how you need to experience this park.
We began at Megablitz, which is the only attraction I gave the honour of a reride, as it was by far my favourite of the bunch last time around. Much like the Jet Stars and Jumbo Jets of earlier in the trip, this Vekoma is a ridiculously forceful set of twists and turns that take place in single file seating and it’s really damn good for what it is. Loving the look that new paint job too, glad to see it getting some attention. It’s a bit off the beaten path compared to most major attractions here and always seems less popular than it should be because of that.
Stuff I enjoyed not doing:
Well, not so much that one. Such a tease.
Stuff I didn’t do but wish I had.
Stuff I did do. Eisberg is amazing and that’s all you need to know.
But for context it’s an interactive dark ride where the ‘guns’ are cameras. It contains elevator lifts, big talking polar bears and tasteful physical comedy. Dangerous for me to say it, but put it on your must do list, with a higher priority than the coasters.
Especially when said coasters involve a #4 Roller Ball, again. Oh well, set complete. Let’s hope they stop at 3.
After sitting out another hundred coasters we decided to dine at another Rollercoaster Restaurant that they now have on park here, next to a Flying Theatre I didn’t really want to pay for and that mercifully doesn’t open in the evenings (5pm close if you’re interested).
The restaurant had a rather different vibe again to ones we’ve tried before, with an emphasis on interactive table games (though not during covid times) and dancing robot arms. The food was good, the service was sneaky. Be wary of being offered ‘sauce’ with a portion of fries like it’s a friendly bonus, it comes as a handful of those ten a penny sachets and they charge you a pound, per sachet, for the privilege. I prefer the places where you order on a tablet for this very reason.
I had two missions for this visit and one of them was to finally suss out what went on in here, with conflicting evidence floating around on the internet. Blue Planet is a dinosaur walkthrough with several disctinct features. Aside from the walking, which contains dinosaurs, it has a mysteriously unattended lift near the start with crude screens on the walls. The lift shakes around for what feels like an age, playing loud sound effects and trying to intimidate you with repetitive footage of angry dinosaurs. It ain’t very good.
You then walk through some dinosaurs and come to the fun part, a mysteriously unattended simulator room under the name Dino Tour. As you enter and sit down, the doors shut you in and a statuesque driver with elf ears (no idea why) pretends to take you through the jungle a bit while the room jiggles around in all directions. Animatronic dinosaurs attack from the outside, all physical, things get scary and then you have to escape.
You then walk through some dinosaurs and come to the other fun part, a mysteriously unattended lift with an open side that descends down a rock face. Halfway down, big old dinosaur (not pictured) comes out of the rock to get you and the lift performs a little evasive manoeuvre, tilting away from and then back towards the wall. Just as you hit the bottom and exit the floor does a little jump scare jolt to leave a lasting impression.
I thought it was fantastic overall. I love the complete lack of staff interaction even though there’s some technical ride elements going on inside, really adds to the anticipation factor particularly if your party is alone. Dangerous for me to say it, but put it on your must do list, with an equal priority to the coasters.
It was having many teething issues with block sections and temporary ceasing of operations. A couple of engineers were hovering, one of whom was actually in Gerstlauer overalls. They were working hard and managed to restarted it several times over the course of our queueing.
The ride is very vertically stacked as a layout and contains some pretty huge drops with some great airtime, good pacing and some solid all round fun. I was really impressed by it. Every time I ride one of these I keep thinking it’s the new best one.
My final investigation was into Jack the Ripper, the haunted walkthrough.
I’m no real fan of these types of things, there’s a lot of walking through unpleasant situations with a deadpan expression, though I’m probably just doing it wrong.
Eventually you reach a room where the atmosphere (not that I liked the atmosphere) is ruined by a member of staff awkwardly telling you to wait for a lift, in a room full of loud screaming, ultra violet light and set pieces. Have you tried Blue Planet, sir?
While waiting you can watch this amusing animatronic scene of Jack himself stabbing a woman. She slowly crumples to the floor in a highly convincing manner as he slithers away.
I think the lift itself tried to do some stuff but I already had scary elevator fatigue by that point and have legitimately forgotten what went on.
At the bottom of the lift is a mysteriously unattended haunted swing ride (the origins of a madhouse). It’s no Hex, it travels at a million miles an hour and is super disorientating, in a rather unpleasant and sickly way. You leave on an anti climax and the experience is over. Don’t put it on your to do list. Spend the money on a cred instead, even if it has to be the Boomerang.
Well aside from that downer at the end, which is entirely my own fault for committing myself to research these type of things, I really enjoyed my second visit to Prater. The lesson is come at night, don’t come alone, and experience a wide variety of attractions. Bring lots of money too. Lots of money.
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.
The park website for Fantasiana having bold claims of being home to the best dark rides in Europe caught my attention during the planning of this trip, although it was a little out of the way.
The journey down into Austria was somewhat stressful due to the fact I forgot to research any implications of the country border crossing here and many signs along the autobahn were giving indication of a permit or sticker being required for driving on their neighbour’s roads. I became sure that at some point I was just going to race up to a toll booth type situation and have to have an awkward conversation complete with language barrier about how much I had messed up. Luckily after much German sign scrutinising there was a break off point in the centre of the road, before we reached the border, that sold the stickers on the spot for no more than a few Euros.
Day 3 – Fantasiana
The entrance to the park takes you past an indoor walkthrough section with fairy tales in display cabinets. A very common theme in this part of the world.
Sindbad’s Abenteuerreise was somewhat more scare orientated compared to the adventures that I had imagined and the result was a rather loveable and quirky ghost train type experience.
The queue had this bloke waffling on about something while water gushed from his mouth and that was only the first of many delights.
My first experience with a Pax coaster and visually there’s something off about it. The hideous shaping makes for a great ride though, supplying vicious airtime way beyond what anyone would expect for something this size.
He’s definitely not ducking there is he? The clearance in parts seems way off for standard regulations and that’s part of the charm – I like a bit of real peril with my rides.
Knightsride Tower was running on a time slot basis. This was a really good attraction as well.
The queue had smoky animatronic dragon and spiders. The ride that followed was a very interesting drop tower sequence compared to other rides of this ilk, utilising various positions to present you with actual dark ride scenes, along with good music and bonus effects. Although the drop itself was short, it was well timed and packed a punch.
Mami Wata was yet another hit, squeezing a good amount of fun into a tiny space with the use of turntables and elevators with the signature craziness of a Hafema build. The ride also comes with its own ImaScore CD, which was instantly purchased and remains one of my favourite theme park tracks.
They had a train with some dinosaurs, all the rage these days.
They even booked a band for the day.
Killed some time with re-rides until after lunch, when Castle Dracula opened. This was a scare attraction that started out with a solo trip through a mirror maze and then became many animatronic and effect based scenes. It acted as though it was quite an intense experience for a very family orientated park, with a couple of groups leaving the queue prematurely during the warning announcements. This seemed a little unnecessary from my assessment of the inside, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
While the bold claims on the website may not be fully true, Fantasiana is definitely a little gem of a park with some very good attractions as well as probably having the nicest atmosphere of the whole trip.
Satisfied with the success of that find, we raced back over the border for this jolly fellow.
This park is hidden away deep in the woods somewhere, filled with lots of play equipment, plus more dinosaurs and fairy tales of course.
It is also home to a small Gerstlauer shuttle coaster, which is somewhat of a rare breed. Gipfelstürmer is very good fun for its size, the flat section of track at the top of the reverse spike lift hill means that the back seat gets whipped forwards into the first drop with quite a jolt. Another snappy twisted hill moment also means there’s a few more forces going on compared to the Vekoma equivalents. It has a great name to say as well.
No, that’s a crane in the background, not another cred unfortunately. The park were building a water slide or something.
I ‘just happened’ to have an 8 hour stop in Vienna on the way out to China. Due to its location and lack of anything particularly interesting, Prater was never a place I wanted to make a dedicated trip to. This was the perfect opportunity to pop in and tick that box.
Day 0 – Wiener Prater
Walked straight on to the first ride of the day, some sketchy bloke with a sketchy mouse. Must have done at least 10 of these this year, unfortunately. Got a decent spin, nothing life changing.
This was quite mighty in size for a Pinfari, but it didn’t do much with it. The operator was rude to some Chinese tourists that decided to join me for the lap. It’s a sign of things to come.
Spent a good chunk of time after that wandering around and stumbling upon everything else, just to find it all closed. It was early in the day and the other rides don’t seem to have the same hustle as the first 2, they’re all run by invidual people rather than a collective so there’s no common rules or structure to the place. It’s quite easy to accidentally walk out of the park and end up in some apparent slums in several directions. That combined with several ‘staff’ that were mooching around their rides and being either less than useless or downright rude with my requests for information and the whole place really started to grind me down very quickly.
Next thing to become available. The operator was mean to me this time and impatiently pushed the restraint down as I was half in, trapping me in the middle of the 2 seats. Physics dictates that the middle is not a good place to be seated when these rides hit corners at high speeds, resulting in an awful ride.
I’d been told to go away earlier as he was too busy sweeping the floor, but now the man was sitting in his ticket window. He followed me up the stairs to run the ride, then disappeared as soon as it dispatched, leaving it unattended. I want to say that’s cool, but it didn’t feel like it in this instance.
Was reasonably interested in trying this Gerstlauer spinner. The weird ‘dark ride’ section full of mirrors and then “OMG! elevator lift” got me a little more interested. Then it did absolutely nothing through the main layout. I’m having more fun on my spinny chair while writing this than it is possible to have on this ride.
This powered coaster was the best thing so far, even if just for the name. Starting off backwards for half the layout caught me off guard, then it turns into quite a violent little thing, particularly in that tunnel.
This brakeman woodie was a pathetic excuse for a ride. I didn’t work where out the brakeman was going to sit as they were so rude and it was such an awkward experience to even present yourself as a customer. I ended up with the miserable bloke breathing down my neck and regretting his life throughout the ride. Why are these things allowed to exist alongside the mighty Tivoli?
I’m losing count of the crap now. There’s a Maurer spinner called #7 Insider, another indoor attraction. Only remember powering through a mirror maze and some lasers to get on an uneventful disco ride. Assume it’s a standard model by how much I didn’t enjoy it.
At last, a ride that brought a smile to my face.
Quite a ridiculous little thing, a rare custom Vekoma. The positive forces it produces are so sustained it was taking the air from my lungs. The only coaster I was tempted to reride, but thought it was probably better leaving it with that single memory. Easily the highlight of the park.
Only a few things left to do, various walk-bys had taught me that the Boomerang was still dormant. Decided to get the Zamperla Volare out of the way.
Had a ton of room behind me on this ride, which you experience lying on your stomach. I seem to remember getting reasonably clamped by the back restraint in the past so it took me a little while to work out that some more tactical endurance was required in the inversions this time to stop me flopping backwards and causing injury. Still don’t get the hate for these rides, they’re a very long way from the worst thing ever. Knowing I’ll have to ride more doesn’t concern or offend me.
Went for some food to kill time, Boomerang still spiting. It’s sad to think (considering how common and bad they are) that it was one of the main things I wanted to do in this park and that missing it would even bother me.
Did the non-fancy ferris wheel to kill some more time, my logic was that it didn’t have windows and would provide better pictures.
That and you get to at least look at the old timey one.
Saw the boomerang testing while I was on the wheel, so headed straight back over there. After asking a few people in the area when it was going to open and either getting grunts or a simple expression that said ‘get lost’ as a response, I sat on a bench for an hour. Eventually an old man and woman rocked up on a bike and told me 20 minutes. Cheers.
This version is special in that it has strange lap bars (a slab of flat metal across your stomach) rather than over the shoulder restraints. Restraints make such a huge difference to ride experience and this is another great example. It gives the top half of your body the freedom to move around a bit and not have to brace for ear impact. The track was unusually smooth too and I actually felt something other than survival in the inversions. Makes me wonder if these things weren’t so scummy throughout the industry and this was the only one, would it be considered a good ride? Probably not.
Having earlier written off another kiddie coaster as a no, unless they let me ride the cars as rollerskates (it’s just that small), there was one more thing on the list.
(The yellow track on the right. I just felt more comfortable taking a picture of the fountain). I’d been bluntly told to go away earlier as they were too busy counting money to take any more, but it was now delighting a couple of kids. I waited for my turn and got 9 too many laps.
I wasn’t taken with this place at all. The staff were beyond rude, none of the rides are very good and overall it just felt like a chore. I’m very glad I did it as a layover, paying for flights specifically to come here would have been an insult. The pricing structure of this park makes it quite an expensive day out if you want to do a reasonable amount of rides. The total cost of a single ride on each of the coasters and the cheaper ferris wheel came to 50 Euros, which is significantly higher than admission to the majority of actual theme parks, at which you’ll likely have a much better day out and be able to ride as much as you want.