No more new coasters today, I’m afraid we’ve peaked. There were far too many insignificant options on the table to pad out the return leg of the journey with, to the point that I was still making decisions the night before while I should have been sleeping. Tweestryd sounded like a good idea at the time, zoo, a +2 and 40% off with a Plopsa pass. Local knowledge led me to believe that they rarely, if ever, run both sides however due to a lack of popularity and the sheer China-ness of that fact took the wind out of the sails.
Located near the heart of Utrecht in the Netherlands, this is more than just your average train museum. It’s home to a number of themed attractions and is simply one of those places that would always otherwise be skipped because they don’t have an rollercoaster. I found it to be well worth the time, reasonably priced and a refreshing experience. Think I need to vow to do at least one thing like this a year that isn’t based on upping the coaster count. For health reasons.
The star attraction, for me, is a dark ride by the name of Stalen Monsters. It’s a home-brew design that has you sitting in a little pair of railway carts on a powered track system (made by Kumbak no less, of other random train fame). It takes you around various varieties of the namesake Steel Monsters, a.k.a. big old trains, which doesn’t, on the surface, sound that great to anyone but a train buff.
It’s really well done however, very well paced, maintains a good level of intrigue and there’s something highly satisfying about having all the real life props forming the ‘theming’ of a dark ride system as opposed to just theming ‘theming’. On top of that the system itself is pretty special, with elevation, speed and directional changes all being woven into the journey and even managing to add a certain level of thrills where you might not expect.
Before the ride itself there’s a highly detailed queue of exhibits as well as a little preshow room with video that was entirely unmanned. With the place being basically empty on a weekday this added a good deal more to the adventure. Well worth the visit alone.
In the outside section there’s a simulator by the name of Trial by Fire.
Plenty going on in here too, before a preshow that starts off historic and ends by setting up something slightly more fantastical. An engineer character gives us briefing that can best be likened to Smuggler’s Run. Teams of 6 have different tasks to perform on one of the three simulators, though the catch here was that there was only the two of us in the entire room.
It’s slightly less evenly spread on the interactivity. The front row of 3 has a variety of levers and buttons to play with while those in the back only get to man the ‘dead man switch’. We were running up a million things at once like a ‘70s keyboardist although it doesn’t really appear to do anything to the sequence.
The sequence itself was a little bizarre, but entertaining. Once again things have to get a little ‘runaway rollercoaster’ down some ridiculous and unrealistic track but before long we’re doing Back to the Future 3 style jumps to different places in order to keep things interesting and/or perilous. Again I loved the distinct lack of staff presence here, adds to the mystery a bit and the vehicles themselves looked pretty fantastic.
The last of the big things I was into was this themed walkthrough, The Great Discovery, which involves time travel of the more subtle variety. You board a little elevator which takes you back to the days of Robert Stephenson, where you’re unleashed into this intricate world replicating the old town and his workshop.
I’m led to believe you’re usually presented with an audio guide for this to explain the details but this wasn’t happening on this occasion so it was all taken in on visuals. Of which there are many great ones, but also fun little tricks like a mouse moving in the rafters.
The second major area contains De Arend, one of the first two locomotives in the Netherlands, situated in a station from back in 1839. Trees and all. Pretty cool.
Other stuff around the museum includes the usual displays, along with miniatures and the like.
A mini game simulator that actually is responsive to what you’re doing.
And plenty more real live locomotives in their natural habitat which you can mostly just freely wander around.
They also have a show, for kids, but it’s all in Dutch, and a set of the famed Dutch snack machines – but they were all empty! A real trip ruiner.
In all seriousness though, a great place to stop off for a few hours.
And then things went wrong. I had wanted to get to Plopsa Station in Antwerp next for some more dark ride action and to get one final, final use out of that pass, but the roads were having none of it. Catastrophic traffic on the attempt to escape the Netherlands. Catastrophic traffic on the attempt to get in/around Antwerp. Absolute carnage.
In the end it transpired that I couldn’t have arrived until 15 mins before close which, given it wasn’t just a Wickie Coaster and something I had a modicum of interest in, wouldn’t have really worked. Even at the point that this idea was bailed upon, my backup plan then ended up being cut very fine as well.
Plopsaland de Panne
Oh yes, one last hurrah on the new sensation for the season.
To make matters worse in the massively faffy ending to the trip, they were only running one train on it and therefore I queued the longest I ever have for Happiness by a significant margin, picking up just a single lap in my hour on park.
Worth it though, gleaning perhaps one of the best rides, of many, experienced on it. It worked up one hell of a spin and I had that golden top hat exit moment in the back row, rotating from sideways to backwards as it takes the plunge in a literal heart in mouth, stomach wrenching terror of a drop. It was at least double the magnitude of the Time Traveller version and that one’s already beyond insane. Scary thoughts seeped their way into my brain on the brake run after all that wait. If it rode like that time, every time, it could well be a number 1.
The chunnel was trying to be a bit more spitey on the way back, with tons of aggressive warnings all the way along the French motorway saying ‘severe delays into the UK, expect to queue for several days’. This didn’t happen, instead we got automatically booked on a slot an hour earlier due to turning up in good time. Even inside the place all the signs were apologising for the devastating disruptions and yet, beyond a little slower than usual passport queue, nothing was actually wrong. I’ll take it.
Short and sweet, but quite the map. They’re always fun.
Total countries – 5 New coasters – 18 Total coasters – 23 New dark rides – 5 Total dark rides – 8 New parks – 5 Total parks – 10 Zierers – 7 Best new coaster – Fønix of course Distance travelled – 2000 Miles-ish Spites – –1/17 (-5.88%)
It’s been many a year since I last dusted off Denmark and they’ve certainly been pretty busy since then. In the absence of any real need for yet more Eurodemption, along with the fact that it feels like I’ve pretty much cleaned the continent out, it was time to head out to one of my favourite European nations before Sommer came to a close. But first we need to get there.
Our morning chunnel came and went without a hitch, besides the hideously early start, so it turns out you can go somewhere, sometimes. With several countries to pass through and a reasonably significant distance to drive, the first day of the long weekender was filled with a sporadic selection of creddities.
Day 1 – Plopsa Indoor Hasselt
With just a week left on our old Plopsa season pass it felt like as good a moment as any to mop up the remaining offerings at no additional cost. Hasselt was the initial stop on the journey and the family entertainment centre is located in what very much felt like an industrial estate, which was very unassuming and slightly confusing to navigate.
They do have a nice vibe these places, especially when they’re quiet, even though we’re clearly not the target audience.
In fact we were in and out in easily under 10 minutes. #1 Wickie Coaster was a solid stock Zierer and had disturbingly similar visuals to the one in Poland. As is the intention.
Next up was one of the many parks in the Netherlands that has often been considered, but never committed to, while we planned various escapades throughout the region. Thanks to geography and a deal on Belgian website Tripper.be (do check it out if you ever have plans in Europe, it’s pretty solid), today was the day to make it happen.
The place begins as an indoor play area, again one in which the average adult would feel vastly out of place. Luckily there’s a welcoming sight just outside.
it’s not often you get a Wacky Worm with a mine train aesthetic, but I’m all for diversity. The Loch Ness Monster in the middle of #2 Dolle Pier is also an added bonus.
#3 Tyfoon is slightly more substantial and rides rather unusually for its style, though it’s the only Zierer ‘Comet’ to have existed. It’s full of relatively aggressive turns and block sections banked at 30° angles which wouldn’t feel out of place on a coaster manufactured by Pax. Not sure what they were up to when making this ride for Tivoli Gardens in 1989, but I’m all for uniqueness.
2022, Hellendoorn Acquiring our complimentary tickets was straight forward and immediately the park atmosphere was off to a better start. Damn kids.
Most importantly though, #4 Balagos – Flying Flame was open, so a courtesy visit brought the fruits of a +1. Soon to be the only one of two Vekoma ‘Tornado’s in the world, it rides pretty damn good with the new rolling stock made by Sunkid. For what it is anyway. There’s some unnerving laterals in the first drop while the unforgiving metal lap bar digs into your skin and I even caught some air on the big turnaround between inversions. Better than Loopen, though the memories of guests faces on that one still make me laugh.
Can’t have it all though, a delay in parts has left this relocated Mexican spinner out of action for the season. Don’t think we can get away with coming back a third time.
Something else that was unfortunately missed before, due to crowd related reasons, was Jungle Expedition. A quaint little boat ride with an interactive puzzle, some animal action and a surprise cave scene to finish.
We also gave Discovery Club another courtesy lap and it fared much better when experienced in a lighter mood. The simple act of walking down the queueline stairs uninhibited was incredibly cathartic and we had great fun setting off the many effects on this quirky dark ride.
Satisfied with the park’s redemption arc, there was time for one more freebie before the day was out.
Plopsa Indoor Coevorden
It all looked somewhat familiar on the outside, though this one is located in a field on the outskirts of town.
And then it was just plain creepy on the inside. You’d barely know we had travelled several hundred miles since the morning at all, save for this being called a #5 Wickiebaan instead of a Wickie Coaster.
All in all a highly successful +5 for the count. Onwards!
I’d been exicited about a return visit to Efteling from the very moment I left the park after my first ever visit in 2016. The park had left a great impression on me and I immediately rated it as one of my favourite parks in the World.
Today’s return visit however wouldn’t feel anywhere near as impressive as before, thanks mostly to a lack of maintenance and a rather impressive decline in staff quality, the park felt far less special and magical than it had 5 years before.
The day did start very strong though with our first ever rides on the brand new (to us) Symbolica.
In a park home to 2 of the best dark rides ever built, they have managed to best both with this incredible, massive, trackless dark ride around the Palace of Fantasy. In fact, I’m feeling bold enough to say that, hands down, Symbolica is now the best ride in the park
Like the other 2 outstanding dark ride offerings from the park (Droomvlucht & Fata Morgana), to attempt to explain the experience would do it a massive disservice. I think therefore it would be better to say, my first ride through on Symbolica I wasn’t able to take anything in because I was that awestruck by what I witnessing and on all my re-rides I was never not blown away by how awesome the experience is. If none of that made any sense, is it good? It’s good.
It would upset me (slightly) to learn after my return home that a few rather important effects that the ride opened with were not in operation on my visit. These missing effects may have made the difference from Symbolica being considered one of the best dark rides in the World and it actually being the best dark ride in the World. This was just the beginning of Efteling’s attractions missing effects today but it bothers me more that they are already letting their new star attraction fade away.
Droomvlucht was next and I’m so happy to report that even after 5 years of travelling the World riding some of the best dark rides out there, Efteling’s suspended offering into a World of fantasy is still one of the very best. It’s just a shame some of the effects weren’t working…
Then it was time to visit Hugo over at Villa Volta.
Unlike Droomvlucht, time, and the existence of the always incredible Hex at Alton Towers, have made me rather jaded of the once pretty awesome Villa Volta. You sit through far too many minutes of preshows, that not even the locals are paying attention to, to finally be presented by a completely average Vekoma Madhouse. It’s fine, but not the legend I once viewed it as.
Next up, disappointment.
After spending far too much faff trying to reserve a slot to watch the show, only to be presented by a mostly empty arena, it was time for us to watch Ravelijn for the first time ever.
I think 3 factors are to blame for my lack of enjoyment, lack of maintenance, meaning the show wasn’t operating as it should, Covid stuff, meaning it was operating even worse than it could have and my high expectations for what many people call one of the best park shows in the World.
Bottom line, nothing exciting happened, and then it ended. I seriously hope that when Covid is gone and the park remember how to maintain attractions that it can return to its former glory, if it was ever that impressive to begin with and I haven’t been misled from the start.
Speaking of misled…
Fabula, the replacement to the incredible PandaDroom is far better than people have given it credit for.
Is it better than PandaDroom? No.
Did PandaDroom need replacing? No.
Is Fabula a fun, cute, 3D film with many nods to the past attraction? Yes, and I enjoyed it.
Max & Moritz
Next up was the final of the new (to us) attractions we’d need to experience today and it came in the form of the duelling Mack Powered Coasters, Max & Moritz.
Neither coaster was all that impressive on its own, but as I package I quite enjoyed Max & Moritz. The station theming is pretty impressive, the on-board audio is a nice addition and both coasters were at the very least fun.
After some lunch, which was pretty great (you can’t deny the Kaassoufflé), we made our way over to the fantastic Fata Morgana, the park’s legendary water based dark ride.
Much like Droomvlucht, with the exception of a few effects not working, Fata Morgana was every bit as wonderful as I remembered it.
What wasn’t as wonderful as I remembered it was Vliegende Hollander.
Either I’m remembering it wrong or the previously incredible dark ride section that begins the ride has had quite a few effects deactivated. This really mattered because the coaster section somehow felt even more pointless this time around.
Joris en de Draak
Then came easily the biggest disappointment of the day, they have ruined Draak…
A coaster that I adamantly defended as my favourite GCI and one of the best woodies in Europe was running absolutely awful today.
Slow, enough to ruin the duelling aspect and take out 90% of the airtime, and fun.
Rough, not the good kind, but the kind that gives you an instant headache.
This awful ride experience was also preceded by the worst operations I’ve ever witnessed at Efteling. We were left sitting in the train for over 5 minutes while the staff chatted to each other and with every passing minute I could feel the magic of the experience fading away.
Oh and before we move on, the amazing fire breathing dragon doesn’t even work anymore…
With Draak instantly dropping 12 places in my wooden coaster rankings, I really needed something to cheer me up. Thankfully Vogel Rok was kicking serious freakin’ ass today and might honestly now be the best coaster at the park.
Way more forceful than I remember from 2016 and featuring more effects than I remember from back then, Vogel is the only coaster to have improved between visits.
After a few more rides on Symbolica, we checked the time and discovered we had just enough to get a lap of Baron in before Aquanura started. So we sent Heartline’s wife to go find us a nice viewing spot as we jogged our way over to the park’s B&M Dive Coaster.
In 2016, with just over 100 coasters to my name, I thought Baron 1898, as a coaster, was pretty forceless and uninteresting. In 2021, with 900 coasters to my name, I was right.
Not discounting the amazing theming attempts and the awesome soundtrack, Baron as a coaster, really doesn’t do much for me at all.
During the Aquanura show, which was great as always, I was thinking to myself is it me or the park to blame for today’s visit not being as impressive as before. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s probably a bit of both, but more so the fault of the park for a lapse in maintenance and staff quality. Either way I really hope they can turn it around soon and that I when I inevitably return in the future the park can blow me away again.
Thanks for reading, click here for day 21 of my trip report, where we visit Movie Park Germany to check out their new Intamin.
Today saw us jumping over the border from Germany in order to attempt the Dutch triple, which is totally something I haven’t invented just now because it makes me laugh…
We started with a park that we’d been putting off since 2016, Duinrell, AKA, the frog park.
There he is, and what a pretty park he calls home.
The reason we’d put off visiting for so long was the park’s coaster line up consists of only clone attractions. I won’t rant about clones here because it upsets people, I’ll just leave it with the statement that when time is tight I’m much less likely to visit a park that’s full of coasters I have already ridden or can ride elsewhere as opposed to trying something new.
With that being said Duinrell’s coaster line up isn’t bad and thankfully all 3 of them are well presented.
Starting with the frog coaster, a Zierer Tivoli Large with the aforementioned frog leading the way.
Next up was Dragon Fly, a Gerstlauer Family Coaster that was pretty fantastic honestly.
I love the paint scheme of this coaster and the way it perfectly compliments the wonderful scenery, I told you it’s a pretty park.
Also carrying the exact same paint scheme was the final coaster of the park, the much less fantastic Gerstlauer Eurofighter, Falcon. At least it looks great.
With that we were done and we had managed to complete the park so quickly that with seconds to spare we didn’t need to pay for parking.
What a lovely, relaxing and friendly visit that had been, which made our visit to Hellendoorn seem 10 times worse than it already was, and it was already disgusting.
Full disclosure, after emailing the park with the issues you’ll soon hear about, they have apologised, promised it will never happen again and sorted us out for a return visit in the future.
Was it bad? It was bad.
As first everything seemed fine, we parked up, walked to the admissions area and were let in by a friendly member of staff. Almost as soon as we stepped foot in the park though it became apparent that the park was full of school trips. Not the teens that ruined my last trip to Walibi Holland, but young children, hundreds of them, can’t be that bad can it? Oh, it was…
The first test of endurance was the queue for Donderstenen, the park’s Zierer Force Two.
It was here that it became clear that this visit was going to be horrible as we queued surrounded by a sea of school children who were screaming, shouting, pushing and queue jumping non stop.
It appeared that the children had 1 member of school staff per every 100 of them. It also appeared that these school staff members didn’t care at all in trying to control the awful behaviour of the children.
It once again appeared that the park both didn’t have the staff to deal with all the children and that the ones that they did have didn’t care about controlling them either.
Therefore it fell to paying visitors to try their best to control the situation in order to rescue their day out at the park. This duty fell to a wonderful man we named “Dutch Jesus” in the queue for Donderstenen, who repeatedly stopped queue jumping, while the school and park staff actively ignored it.
The park’s only dark ride, Discovery Club, was next and it’s here that the situation changed from deeply unpleasant to potentially dangerous.
We were forced to queue in the dark, on stairs, with several hundred school children shouting, screaming, pushing and repeatedly punching the walls.
Unbearable doesn’t quite cover standing there unable to even speak to your friends over the extreme noise.
Did the park have any staff trying to control the situation? No.
Did the school staff try to control the situation? No, they encouraged it…
How was the dark ride? Amazing, because it meant the queue was over…
Can’t get much worse than that right? You’d be wrong…
At Rioolrat, the park’s mostly enclosed Vekoma Junior Coaster, the situation changed from potentially dangerous to actually dangerous.
The entire outdoor awful switchback queue for Rioolrat had poorly constructed (literally driftwood covered in chewing gum) Covid barriers between every row of people. Cue 40 solid minutes of hundreds of school kids violently shaking and trying to push these barriers over onto people.
People in the queue were actively afraid that these barriers were going to fall and injure them, which led to paying visitors having to once again intervene, this time a man we named “The Tall Man”.
Did the park try to stop it? No.
Did the school staff try? No, they were playing on their phones…
How was the coaster? Better than the queueline…
With that we were completely done with the park, our plan was get the final coaster and leave this hell, but the park had other ideas. The park’s Vekoma looper, Balagos, was closed, with no sign of any work being done to it…
Right, that’s it, let’s get out of here.
On the drive to the next park we all came to the conclusion that we’d just experienced one of the worst park visits of our lives and that whatever the outcome we needed to let the park know our disappointment.
I really hope the park keep to their word in their email response and that nothing like we experienced happens again to anyone else because that was awful.
It turned out though that all we needed to calm down and put our faith back in the Dutch park scene was a visit to the joint 2nd oldest park in the country, the brilliant Waarbeek.
After purchasing tickets in what is more a gift shop than an admissions area, we were personally led into this charming little park.
We headed straight to the park’s star attraction, the oldest operating fully steel coaster in the World, Rodelbaan.
At first the ride station was chained off with no members of staff in sight, but soon, after being alerted by another visitor, a friendly member of staff came over and opened the ride for us with a smile.
She gave us a little speech about how important and special this coaster was, and then we were off, quite literally riding a piece of history, and it rode well.
No seriously, despite being 91 years old, Rodelbaan was awesome and I couldn’t shut off the part of my brain that kept saying “this is special man, savour it.”
After a few laps of roller coaster history, we made our way over to Goldmine Express, which is a travelling coaster that the park were borrowing for the 2021 season.
Before leaving De Waarbeek, it felt right to go for a walk around the whole park, leading to the discovery of views such as this…
All I can ask now is what happened at Hellendoorn? Two peaceful, beautiful, friendly parks either side of an absolute car wreck of a park, it doesn’t make much sense to me. Regardless De Waarbeek was great and it’s a must visit park for any true coaster fans.
Thank you for reading, please click here for day 19 of my trip report, where I ride the newly crowned second greatest coaster on Earth, The Ride to Happiness, and unbelievably become a fan of Plopsaland De Panne.
One of the reasons we ended up arriving too early for F.L.Y. last year was that we had originally planned to use that day for a much dearer old friend to pick up some new attractions, but the various national restrictions at that time just weren’t playing ball. This year, they were.
Day 20 – Efteling
Not seen that shot before.
Instead of the usual joke about being here for the +1s, I’ll be up front. I wanted Symbolica, badly. I’d left it so long now that I had almost forgotten why that was.
Though the queue soon reminded me of that. The whole attraction oozes that Efteling quality from the moment you set foot inside the building and this impressive animatronic waffles on at you about not going any further.
Cheeky Jester Pardoe has other plans though, and invites us deeper into the attraction for some magical mischief.
Descending the square spiral staircase gives us this clue as to what we’re in for. A trackless dark ride of course, the perfect hardware for some sorcery. The ride has three different ‘tours’ which form three different loading areas in the station. While they follow the same overall storyline, each one contains a couple of key differences during the layout. The cars also have touch screens in the front which can be used to interact with things at certain points during the ride.
We began with the treasure tour and, in their batches of 3, the cars set off down a castle corridor, amusingly getting up to some overtaking antics that I love to see from this type of hardware. The first main room is rather magnificent, a big wizard’s lab with floating planets in which another animatronic Pardoe appears out of nowhere and casts a visible spell on each car.
Through the next corridor, cars move out onto a balcony overlooking a very Efteling style diorama scene before moving on into an arboretum type room which, for some reason, has a friendly whale in it, behind a glass wall. The glass can’t take the strain and begins to crack, with water beginning to pour out of the gaps. Time to back away quickly past another Pardoe who tells you to hurry up.
At this point the cars spilt off again ino their own respective rooms, themed to whichever tour you’re on. Magical stuff happens and the interactivity comes into play a bit before moving into a large cluttered area full of furniture and artifacts where other cars appear from all angles. At some point during this they reach another tour exclusive point, pausing for a while in a little side area while you get another opportunity to mash the screen and make things move or light up.
Finally it’s time to pass through the cellar, getting shot by wine corks and crashed into by stacks of pancakes along the way, before entering the last big room with everyone else. There’s a banquet with the castle family inside a big ballroom where the cars dance around each other and a couple of twirling couples. A fun and light-hearted way to end the spectacular experience.
I can’t fault the thing really, other than for having several effects out of action since the opening days (biggest one being the whale himself) – something that appears to be occurring quite regularly with Efteling as of late. Maintenance aside, easily one of the finest dark rides in Europe. Managed to pick up the heroes tour later in the day, which nicely leaves one more to aim for (music tour – sounds like the best) on a future visit!
Took some time to look around the actual dioramas of old. Love their distinctive styling.
Wanted to try the ‘Raveleijn’ show this time around, having never made time for it before, so we booked the earliest slot of the day on the app, then had a panic and nearly lost it again after overthinking and trying to be cheeky and change plans on the fly.
In the meantime, nearby Droomvlucht was a must. I love being immersed in the soundtracks of Efteling and this one feels so nostalgic already, floating through fairy worlds, amazing music blasting.
Villa Volta had a similar effect once you actually get on board, but the preshow ratio is a bit off (not helped by not understanding the language) and seems to go on forever, particularly on rerides. They were also playing a weird cut down version of the main theme on a perpetual 30-second loop in the queue, which of course we then heard 100 times over, that took the edge off it a bit.
After making a lucky recovery, it was time to head into the Raveleijn arena for what should have been a spectacular show.
Had big expectations for some reason and they were a little misplaced. I’m led to believe this was a slightly cut down version, for covid, but knowing what I know now, the fundamentals I took issue with would still be there.
The birds they use are cool, cleverly trained, pretty magic. The horse stunts aren’t the best, a bit more OK Corral than Colourful Yunnan Paradise. One of the horses in particular was kicking off and giving the rider a tough time, which only dragged out the fairly insignificant sequence even further while it sorted itself out. The elephant in the room is the big mechanical dragon, Dragonicon (though I do like that he has a name). As the next in a long line of effects no longer working, he doesn’t rise up from the floor any more, so he’s just there, chillin’, throughout all of the rest of the show. Once he starts kicking off, when the narrative dicates, the impact just isn’t there, although fire effects are always a winner in their own right. It wasn’t clear (without translation at least) who was good, who was bad, who was fighting what throughout, even through the use of simple colours and the manner in which certain characters were introduced, so it all felt a bit inconclusive. Oh well.
Let’s see what they’ve done to my beloved Pandadroom, now known as Fabula.
It’s a Mack Media overhaul of the old ‘save the planet and the pandas’ 4D cinema, with new characters, new plot, new everything. And it’s decent. The pre-show sets up this grumpy bear in a cave who doesn’t like to share his space with the other animals, cruelly sending them out into the rain. A tiny wizard bloke decides to teach him some morals and magic begins.
Once in the actual theatre, the bear gets sucked into various portals to new habitats and transformed into a different animal, to suit each one. A squirrel from the cave accidentally gets caught up in this and, through the course of several adventures they become best friends, eventually living back in the cave, happily ever after. There’s some good little nods to the attraction that came before, some subtle, some as obvious as several pandas in a forest. Sadly the big tree effect didn’t go off (broken?), though it felt like it easily would have been incorporated. It’s charming and a bit of fun, just not quite the emotional and musical powerhouse that it once was.
The last new attraction (finally, some creds) was #1 Max Moritz, the duelling powered coasters that replaced old Bob.
Of course there’s a good bit of lore behind the scenes for this, two kids and their soap box racers.
I thought that they could pull off something a bit more special though, bring the Mack powered coaster into the 21st century a bit more. Plohn’s is better, what does that say? Plus points are all the little details and effects in the station (how long will they last?) and the genius onboard soundtrack that plays a catchy tune, slowly for the first lap and then more quickly for the second. In terms of duelling and interaction however I found it all a bit sub-optimal. The track layouts aren’t particularly decorated (or even interesting) and there’s only one real moment of crossover between the two trains at any point – you’d expect at least a handful. There’s also some weird pacing going on in the climax of one of the sides.
Time for some classic coasters. Vliegende Hollander was just as gorgeous as I remember on the inside, although the water projection wasn’t working…
And just as anti-climactic on the outside. Segues nicely into Joris en de Draak though.
I’m very disappointed. What were usually my favourite GCIs on the continent were running very poorly both on-ride and operationally. The queue was fairly hefty and yet dispatches were taking 6-7 minutes, with the staff just lounging around without a care in the world between laps. Sitting onboard the train with enough time for the entire ride theme to play through multiple times does absolutely nothing for the atmosphere of a fast-paced racing coaster and it ended up becaming somewhat of a chore.
Then once it did get going it was just a bit weak. Cracking layout with very little delivery. With a broken dragon of course, so no namesake water or fire either.
Which left big Vogel Rok to be the best coaster in the park for the day. All the effects budget must have gone into this awesome indoor coaster, it was running better than ever with all sorts of trickery happening. The onboard audio is sublime, I just love singing along to it as it swoops around. Perfection.
Oh, yeah, they’ve got Baron 1898 as well. The world’s most beautifully themed, but least intimidating dive coaster. With the usual nothingness of a layout. I still love the theatrics of it at least. And mist. Mist is good.
Fata Morgana was the bomb, as always. Stuff wasn’t working of course, but I think that’s been the case ever since my first visit and it still kicks ass.
Stayed to watch the Aquanura show at the end of the day and was left feeling a bit… deflated. There were a lot more holes in Efteling this time, I used to think they could do no wrong and yet it’s either overexposure on my part or their standards are slipping. I always got the impression they pride themselves on being better than the rest and through a variety of factors that just didn’t feel evident this time around. Still a lovely, fulfilling day out of a park and I adored Symbolica, but they ain’t on a pedestal any more.
There’s a handful of Dutch parks we keep meaning to visit but, for whatever reason (including not being allowed in last year), they never quite happen. This was the day to change all that, for better or worse.
Day 18 – Duinrell
Duinrell lost out to Drievliet last time we were in the immediate vicinity, it couldn’t compete with just a trio of clones, but turns out it’s a lovely place.
We began on the brown one, #1 Kikkerachtbaan, a Zierer Tivoli Large with unusual concrete troughs and signature frog train.
Then rode the brown one, #2 Dragonfly, a highly competent Gerstlauer family coaster with an impressively senior ride op. If I work when I’m old, this is the gig for me.
Lastly it was the turn of the brown one, #3 Falcon, also known as Rage.
It didn’t quite pop as much as Rage, though it does look a lot nicer. Love the frog in the plane.
Beautiful park, but all too easy. Pro tip – parking is free if you manage to be in and out within an hour, which we did, in no hurry at all.
I was rather hoping that Hellendoorn would be in the same sort of league. It was not.
The stones on #4 Donderstenen amuse me, but it was in our first queue that we noticed a significant presence of school trips on park. Children in various hi-vis colours were persistently attempting to queue jump everyone and everything, clambering over railings and some rather grim temporary covid barriers that had been erected. It fell to one hero in the queue, a man trying to enjoy a day out with his son, to stand his ground and put a stop to this as the lone operator was simply unable to. Kids will be kids I guess, oh well.
We next joined the queue for Discovery Club, a dark ride I had been rather looking forward to. In complete contrast to the vague attempt at covid control on the last ride, this one auto batches you through a revolving metal gate to then leave you standing in an extremely cramped corridor and then narrow set of stairs, packed wall to wall with loud, screaming children, running up and down. There was a member of school staff here, though all they managed to do was actively encourage them to be as loud as possible by initiating various chants and rhythms through banging on the walls. This went on for at least 20 minutes, the line barely moving, while we were barely able to hear ourselves think, let alone have a conversation. Once again, a single member of staff on ride obviously had no time to intervene.
Putting all that aside for the briefest of moments, the ride was nice, one of those rarer interactive shooters with the rotating cars and seats facing outwards in 4 directions. There’s tons of little details and trinkets in the scenery, which is comprised of an endless collection of artifacts, though the movements of a certain few seem to be getting a little tired.
If we thought that was bad, try #5 Rioolrat. The covid barriers were back, though falling apart and interestingly held together by graffiti, driftwood and chewing gum. Yet more children were out in full force, literally shaking the barriers to pieces, banging on them, causing them to collapse onto other guests and frankly being quite dangerous. There was also a member of school staff here, sitting on a fence looking at his phone and making no attempt to stir up any peace. Yet again it fell to other paying guests who were visibly disgusted by the situation to make a vain attempt to control it. Yet again there was zero park staff presence, another automatic barrier forms the outdoor batch point and just one person operates the ride, deep inside the themed building.
This went on for a ridiculous amount of time, no less than 40 minutes for a queue of no more than 100 bodies and I don’t even know why. Once finally inside, you have to navigate some slippery stairs with a waterfall and some sewer tunnels with a very Raptor Attack vibe. It would have been quite cool but we were having one of the worst days at a theme park imaginable by this point.
The ride sucked, even for a Vekoma junior in the dark. I thought you were cool, Rioolrat.
We were so done with the park by this point. Just one more cred to bear, a stupid Vekoma looper, and then we can leave, never to return. Walked over to it. It was closed. Goodbye.
I know school trips aren’t a park specific or specific park problem, but I feel an establishment like this should at least be prepared for the situation by having a little more staff presence at critical points such as the queue lines of their two major operating attractions. Failing that, there is a practice within the industry to publicly advertise on your website calendar as to which days are due to have school trips, allowing guests to factor this into their decision on when to visit. We certainly weren’t alone in feeling unable to even enjoy the day here, every other family or group of adults were clearly not having a good day time and I feel more sorry for them – park visits are two a penny to me, but can obviously mean a lot to others.
In all fairness to the park, they have since admitted fault and invited us back next year. They had the cheek (or at least their automated system did) to send us a survey asking ‘how was your visit?🙃’ the very next day. We responded of course in an honest and constructive (as per the above), but sometimes brutal manner. Fast forward a few weeks and the eventual reply stated that they completely agreed with absolutely everything we said, it was a massive issue for them and they were making plans to do something about it.
Couldn’t end it on that note though.
Things couldn’t be more different here as we became one of only a handful of cars in the car park for their last hour of operation.
Back to tranquil, forest parks with not an ugly barrier, or guest, in sight.
Their star attraction of course is old #6 Rodelbaan, claiming to be the oldest steel coaster in the world (though RCDB appears to believe otherwise). They even let us know that fact before pushing the despatch button. It’s definitely good for its age, a fun little ground hugging layout that loves to interact with all the surroundings and has a few satisfying humps up its sleeve.
They’ve also managed to keep hold of a bonus travelling cred for an extra season, #7 Gold Mine Express, a ride that was once Mini-Lynet at Fårup Sommerland. Actually it goes one better than that. It was Lynet, until they built Lynet.
Regardless, +2. Another great little park that was an overwhelmingly positive experience to end the day on.
When visiting in 2016, I left Toverland rather underwhelmed. Yeah the park has some really nicely themed areas but they also have 2 massive dimly lit warehouses. Sure the park has the wonderful Troy but they also have the incredibly average Booster Bike as a main attraction. It probably also didn’t help proceedings how busy the park was during our half day visit.
Thankfully, a mere 3 years later, major changes have taken place at the park and turned Toverland into something really special.
And it all begins at the entance. Gone are the days of entering a dimly lit warehouse. You now enter the park through their beautiful new entrance plaza. The fantastic Troy to your right and the stunning new Port Laguna directly ahead.
I was not expecting this. Neither was I expecting a massive smile to uncontrollably appear on my face as we walked through Port Laguna and heard it’s gorgeous score blaring.
Then we arrived in Avalon, another area that was new to me, this one even more beautiful and much more important.
Because it was home to Fenix, the park’s new (to me) B&M Wing Coaster.
I don’t think my words or even my pictures can do this coaster and area the justice it deserves. It’s truly breathtaking what the park has created here, a stunning area, with an insane level of detail, that feels alive with wonder and magic.
The queue for Fenix really continues the trend of going above and beyond in the theming department. There were several moments when I just stopped walking to admire my surroundings. At the end of this luscious labyrinth, you reach the station, which is also stunning.
Fenix, as just the coaster hardware itself, is good fun, though nothing too impressive. It wouldn’t really make sense for it to be an intense experience like Flug der Dämonen. But on the other hand it doesn’t flow as well as Wild Eagle, a tamer example, that I feel Fenix is much more akin to.
Ultimately though, when looking at Fenix and Avalon as a whole, the park have a done a fantastic job and I’ve no doubt it has and will continue to do wonders for the park.
Sadly Merlin’s Quest, Avalon’s other star attraction, was closed all day, which was a massive shame because it looks amazing.
After 3 laps of Fenix, it was walk on and I wasn’t taking any risks today, we headed over to Dwervelwind.
Me and Heartline discovered that Dwervelwind, the park’s Mack spinner, is really hit and miss. Sometimes you’ll barely spin and it’s a bit boring, sometimes you’ll spin so fast you’ll barely be able to see when you hit the brakes. For our one and only ride today, Dwervel was playing it safe.
For my brother’s sake I put myself through a lap of Booster Bike. It was alright and it was amusing to watch him struggle to get into the stupid seats, much like I struggled 3 years ago.
Next up my brother rode Toos-Express, a Vekoma Junior coaster located in the dimly lit warehouse that used to be the entrance to the park. While he rode I strolled around the foul smelling warehouse and realised just how far the park has come in 3 years.
We went for food next at Katara Plaza. The choice of food was insane, it was delicious and easily the best food of the trip.
We saved the best for last. After riding and being let down by countless GCIs recently, I was certain that I wouldn’t view Troy as strongly as I did 3 years ago. I was wrong, it still kicks serious ass and stands tall in a sea of mediocre GCI creations. Great airtime moments, vicious laterals and a relentless out of control feeling, Troy is certainly one of Europe’s best wooden coasters.
After 3 laps my brother said he needed a break, so we went back for a few more flights on Fenix.
Having now run out of things to do, and still having 2 hours before we needed to leave, I wanted to keep bouncing between Troy and Fenix but my brother said he’d rather leave and take the drive back to the Channel Tunnel slow. To compromise, I said we’d ride Troy 5 more times and then visit the gift shop, then we’d leave.
What a great final day of the trip today had been. Toverland had been the surprise of the trip. I was expecting to ride Fenix a few times, ride the other coasters once and then want to leave, but I’d have quite happily spent the whole day here. It’s crazy how far the park has come in only 3 years and I look forward to what’s coming next.
The drive to the tunnel went fine and we arrived 1 minute after the “do not arrive more than 2 hours early” rule expired. Meaning we got on a much earlier train, free of charge.
When I first visited Walibi Holland with Heartline in 2016 I had an amazing day and walked away very fond of the park. Lost Gravity and Goliath were top 20 coasters and I absolutely loved the way the park presented itself. It was edgy and out-there but in a charming kind of way. I’d always defend the park when a doubter said they didn’t like the park’s atmosphere and I’d regularly make jokes with Heartline about the stupid things we should do next time we visit the park. Such as powering through the entrance plaza blasting the Lost Gravity theme.
Sadly 3 years later and the park has completely lost it’s charm and the only atmosphere left is that of digust.
I’d been wanting to revisit Walibi Holland for some time but what finally brought me back was the park had just opened Europe’s second RMC, Untamed.
We made sure to get to the park 30 minutes before opening today because over the last few days I kept seeing online that Untamed either had stupidly long queues or was broken.
Until official park opening time, Walibi hold you at several sets of automatic doors inside of the park’s large entrance building. This was fine for about 5 minutes, but then suddenly several hundred school kids arrived behind us and Christ did things get disgusting. Spitting on the floor (we are inside remember), shop lifting, fighting, pushing and worst of all making insane amounts of noise. You couldn’t hear yourself think, let alone have a conversation. So I pulled out the park map and used my finger to show my brother the quickest route to Untamed.
Finally we were released, no fanfare like Heide, just sweaty doors slowly juddering open while kids push you out of the way… Credit to my brother, who hates kids more than I do, he was determined to not let these bastards beat us to Untamed. He seriously took off and I struggled to catch him for a while.
Not to brag but we were in the first batch of people to make it to the coaster. In the queue we went and IMMEDIATELY these kids were jumping fences, meaning that if went the correct way through the queue we’d lose everything we just ran for. So we did the same. Credit to the staff members just watching the kids do this by the way…
I see my brother wiping tears from his eye, I know this is a shambles but it’s not that that bad man. “I took a plant to the eye while ducking under that fence.”
In all that unpleasantness I had forgotten what the journey was for, but now I remembered, it was Untamed time. Straight into the back row we got and off we went into the wilderness.
I struggled so damn hard ranking Untamed, it almost broke me and I’ve decided to take you on the journey I was forced to go on. Before riding Untamed, my RMC ranking was as follows: Twisted Timbers > Wicked Cyclone > Lightning Rod > Twisted Cyclone > Wildfire
I massively enjoyed the outwards banked pre lift section, it didn’t really do anything but it was just so dumb it amused me. Then we hit the lift, which was an interesting experience. Every time the lift motor surged, which it kept doing, the entire lift structure swayed. No other RMC I’ve ridden does this, are we sure this has been signed off guys?
Thankfully the lift didn’t collapse and soon we were hauling around Untamed’s insane looking layout but there was a problem. For reasons I still can’t explain, on this first lap, nothing was riding how it should. The airtime moments were good but nowhere near as strong as other RMCs and the inversions felt sluggish and boring. I was willing it on to kick my ass, while faking a smile and making all the right noises, even though it wasn’t earning them.
We hit the brakes and I turned to my brother, “how was that for you?” “it’s good.” “it is but it should be a lot better than that.”
The queue had only gotten to around 20 minutes by this point, so we went straight back around for a second lap. This time in the 2nd car of the train, things were A LOT more impressive. The airtime was almost to the level I demanded, the inversions were throwing me around now and I was really starting to enjoy Untamed’s spread out layout.
I consider Twisted Timbers and Wicked Cyclone to be a tier above the rest, so was very happy with where Untamed was sitting now, I’d just have to come back later to confirm things, as the queue was now 90 minutes.
Next up we went to Lost Gravity and entered one of the worst queuing experiences of my life, 45 minutes of non stop school children being disgusting. Throwing things, smoking, screaming, shouting, spitting, fighting, it was deeply unpleasant and not once did the staff even attempt to sort it out either.
To add to that, the once great queue is now a shambles. No audio, no effects, full of litter and graffiti. I had told my brother how fun the queue for Lost Gravity was before the trip and now he was looking at me like I was crazy.
As for the actual coaster though, it’s still an outstanding piece of hardware and offers an experience that’s hard to find anywhere else. Airtime moments so violent it hurts coupled with those awesome winged cars, it’s just as good as I remembered from 3 years ago but now with experience I respect it even more.
Goliath was next and with it came another awful queuing experience. The school kids were up to their normal antics but had now added climbing ride area fences and blasting offensive music offensively loudly to their list of crimes. A man visiting with his young children asked the assholes why they were being assholes, to which they replied by being assholes. Did the staff do anything? I’ll let you guess…
2 F-16s were circling the park while we queued, if only they were there for target practice…
Goliath itself though was running far better than it was when I last visited. The airtime moments were much more powerful but this did help to highlight just how boring Goliath is between those moments.
I was hungry now, so I decided to grab something from the new food place near Untamed. The long queue followed the same format as Lost Gravity and Goliath and to rub salt in the wound, the woman serving was extremely rude to me. Oh, and then the food was unedible, so I threw it straight in a bin…
With Heartline, I got my entire lunch from the famous Dutch snack vending machines that they have on park. So I walked over there to find them all empty and several broken…
My brother needed the Tivoli cred, so that was next.
Then we finally found food in the form of tornado potatoes, which weren’t great but desperate times and all.
Untamed was listed as closed on the app, so we decided to pay it a visit and see what was happening, praying it wouldn’t be down all day.
When we got there a man was grinding the track on the prelift section, that’s ruined my plans for more re-rides I thought, but we stayed to watch anyway just in case. This was the right decision because about 20 minutes after we arrived, Untamed reopened. We entered the queue and walked straight onto the coaster, of course choosing to sit in the 2nd car.
This time, Untamed showed us what it was truly capable of, and Christ is it a fantastic coaster when it decides to be. The airtime moments were now so intense they’d instantly start me having a laughing fit. The inversions were insane and executed perfectly, with the final barrel roll being the highlight. I spent the entire ride laughing, making stupid noises and being violently thrown all over the place.
Then we hit the brakes hard and a sudden sick thought came to me, I think I like Untamed more than Twisted Timbers.
I NEED to be sure. Straight back in the queue (only 5 minutes at this point) and straight back on, in the golden 2nd car. Yeah, it is better than Twisted Timbers, for sure, but only just. When running properly, Untamed matches the strength of the airtime on TT, though it does have less airtime moments. It’s the inversions and more varied layout however that help slightly push Untamed above for me.
Still not quite believing what I was saying, I decided it was going to take 3 laps in a row, to which Untamed responded by giving me the best ride so far.
Content to leave Untamed alone for a while, we went back for another lap of Goliath, as the queue was now less than half of what we queued earlier.
Next up I went back to Lost Gravity and decided to use the single rider queue. Due to the 4 x 2 winged seating on Lost Gravity, the single rider queue was flying. This meant I was able to rack up 4 laps, while my brother went to get the cred on El Condor, the World’s worst SLC, which I wasn’t going to put my body through for no gains. I fell even more in love with Lost Gravity during this alone time, getting assigned a winged seat every time. My favourite lap was when I was put on a car full of 7 boring people, who didn’t react or even smile during the carnage, while I’m there screaming, flailing, laughing and they are looking at me like I’m the strange one.
Speed of Sound
I probably should have just stayed at Lost Gravity for more alone time but I decided to follow my brother to the park’s Boomerang coaster. The normally dreadful queue was made 10 times worse by the last of the school kids getting in 1 last ride.
Knowing the enclosed queue for Platform 13 would have been hell on Earth, we waited until we were fairly sure all of the school kids had left the park before attempting it.
There was certainly evidence of their presence, as the entire queue was full of litter that you needed to step over…
The scare zone walkthrough, AKA the best part of the ride, was awful compared to how it was last time. Litter everywhere, no effects working, too many lights on. Another instance of telling my brother, “this queue is really cool” for the park ruin it…
Platform 13, the coaster, wasn’t running very well either. It was rattling and smashing me about, which it didn’t 3 years ago.
While my brother was buying merch in the gift shop, I heard a bloke say that Untamed was down. It was now an hour from park close, so that’s exactly where we were heading, this doesn’t sound good.
As we got there the queue was being evacuated and so was a train that had come to a complete stop in the first set of block brakes at the end of the ride, yeah this isn’t looking very promising.
I went to speak to a lovely bloke who was positioned at the ride entrance, it turned out he was an enthusiast too. He told me that the coaster had come into the end brakes too fast (from my last few rides I completely believed that!), which had triggered the computers to shut down the ride. This is a common fault that happens on coasters all the time but the issue here was Untamed was brand new and onsite engineering were struggling to restart the ride from this position. RMC had left the park earlier today and were currently flying back to the US, so the park were struggling to get external help too.
I felt for the poor bloke, and the park too, this was an instance that was completely out of their hands, but everyone was kicking off, as if the park closed Untamed just to spite them, as opposed to it being an extremely complicated piece of equipment suffering teething problems.
Speaking of idiots like this, 2 UK based “enthusiasts” were refusing to leave the air gates, despite the rest of the queue having been fully evacuated. Thankfully security soon put an end to their stupidity…
Everyone waiting was offered a voucher to come back tomorrow for half price, a very good move from the park.
With that our day at Walibi Holland was over and I was conflicted. On 1 hand the park itself had been a series of awful experiences, which has absolutely soured my opinion of the park. On the other, I now had a new coaster in my top 10 and a new favourite RMC, so it was worth it.
Thanks for reading, click here for the final part of my report, where we visit the wonderful Toverland.
The other park I had allocated to this trip intrigued me. While on the surface it didn’t appear to have a headline European coaster, the website sold it as a wondrous fairytale place full of a great number of fascinating attractions. A more successful train and bus combination soon led us to find that the website was right.
Aside from the breathtaking entrance, the first memorable moment of the day involved some French guests arguing with staff at the internal cut off point for those with Exclusive Ride Time – certain tickets allowed you to access select attractions half an hour before the general public and we happened to have these tickets, they did not. After some faff we managed to bypass proceedings and headed to the top right corner of the park where I knew all the biggest thrill attractions were.
It was a beautiful but brisk walk through the well kept greenery and scenery as there seemed to be a fair amount of crowding already.
Without hesitation, it was straight into the queue for the Kumbak water coaster, except to call it that is a total injustice. Although it has status as a rollercoaster, it has one of the most intensely themed dark ride sections out there and this forms almost all of the appeal that surrounds the attraction. To begin with, I didn’t know that queues could be this intricately detailed, stumbling through narrow corridors of pirates and pubs. I have to mention now that a significant part of what makes Efteling so special is the ride soundtracks, each one lovingly composed to suit an attraction perfectly and become an instant classic for anyone who appreciates park music. The audio used around Vliegende Hollander is an excellent example of this.
Once on board, the boat leaves the station and heads off into the misty darkness, in which you can see nothing but the lamp hanging at the front. It’s a mesmerisingly magical start to proceedings that is backed up by impressive water projections and other surprises along the way. Eventually it is time to ascend the lift hill and head out into the coaster portion of the layout which, with the large and lumbering vehicles, really leaves a lot to be desired. It goes through the motions to finish the experience with an outdoor splashdown, something that I find breaks the whole concept of the ride and it’s a shame, because at least half of it is world class.
With experience in wooden coasters limited to fossils found in the UK, this duelling GCI woodie was by far the most dynamic and exhilarating of it’s type and shed new light to me on the potential of modern installations. The relentless onslaught of twists, turns and hills combined with the continuous raw rumble of the material upon which the trains ride had me hooked.
And that’s without mentioning the theming. A huge dragon animatronic resides within the layout, breathing fire at every opportunity. Water effects punctuate the track sections out by the lake and the station contains active banners that furl and unfurl above riders heads depending on which train won the race, accompanied by cheers or jeers from the audio system. Again, Joris has a fantastic soundtrack that really inspires the theme of racing and/or battle and it’s great to sing it aloud mid ride while egging your train on for the win.
The last coaster in the section sadly doesn’t quite live up to the others. An old Vekoma looper with no theme or inspiration, it sticks out as a bit of a relic from a previous generation of rides. While not as rough as the Vekomas I suffered back at Walibi, the layout of two loops and two corkscrews provides very little to get enthusiastic about.
Heading back in the direction of the park entrance, we tried the rapids ride next. An amusing animation was playing on screens in the queue that was supposed to discourage guests from standing up during the ride, showing that they would obviously tumble headfirst into the water upon doing so. This meant that the highlight of the ride was a stereotypical local guest, complete with smoking joint loudly declaring ‘ULTIMATE EXPERIENCE’ part way through the layout, standing up and then instantly almost falling out as the boat collided with a wall.
Fata Morgana is a mesmerisingly well themed boat ride, depicting scenes from 1001 Arabian Nights and, of course, complete with an amazing soundtrack. I loved everything about it.
Something I didn’t love however was the Intamin Bobsled. The pace of the ride was consistently interrupted by the car colliding with block brake sections at 45° angles with a jarring force and because of this it never did anything remotely interesting.
Hidden away in the forest nearby is Spookslot, an unusual attraction that involves a single scene of animatronics that slowly build in activity to the tune of Danse Macabre. It went on a bit and never got particularly impressive, but I like the tune and the attempt.
Further into the forest is Pandadroom, a wonderfully imaginative 4D cinema experience that both entertains and educates about the conservation of animal habitats. The soundtrack again is amazing and is often emotionally stirring to me.
After a spot of lunch using the dining vouchers that came with our entrance ticket package (a great concept), we let the food settle while riding the flying island. I had never seen one of these before and they look rather surreal with that hefty arm holding up all that weight by means of a single pivot.
I’m sure the B&M dive coaster being constructed here will only enhance the already incredible lineup Efteling has to offer.
But until that’s open, the final rollercoaster of the park resides within this building. There’s a fantastic effect in the station while queueing, through which shadows dance across the walls and the sounds of a giant eagle flapping it’s wings resonate throughout the area, building the tension very well. The ride itself is a blast, adventurous theme music plays loudly through onboard speakers as it climbs through the darkness and then enters a series of disorientating drops and turns that all seem way faster than they probably are and the result is thrilling and fun. Best Vekoma of the trip.
Another Vekoma mad house ride lurks within the ominous Villa Volta. Again the preshows were lost in translation (and particularly lengthy in this case) and though the ride sequence music might just be able to rival Hex, they seem to have entirely missed the point of the hardware swinging action building to a climax, with nothing but a checkered floor to show for it.
But perhaps the best dark ride yet was still to come in the form of Droomvlucht. Suspended trains take you up and down through spirals packed with beautiful fairytale scenes and, as you might have guessed, the music suits it perfectly.
Time was actually running on at this point and I had slightly underestimated both the busyness of the park and the amount of attractions worth doing. There was still the massive fairytale forest walkthrough area of the park to see and the last timeslot of the show Raveleijn had already run past. We opted to save both of these for another time and instead take it easy, using our food voucher for hot drinks and cake (the concept just got even better) before taking in some rerides.
An already fantastic day was rounded off in spectacular fashion with the closing show set around the lake near the entrance. All the familiar and wonderful soundtracks from rides throughout the day are used here in conjunction with the water and fire effects and I’m a massive fan of this type of orchestrated culmination in a park experience. It gets me right in the feels.
Before a sad departure, the CD containing all the ride music was of course purchased from the gift shop. It will undoubtedly become a very treasured possession from this absolutely outstanding theme park.
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.