This morning marked my second early start in a row, in this case timed to get me to Heathrow Airport by 7:00am. It took the better part of an hour to get there even from a hotel that was technically on airport property, which doesn't say much for the efficiency at England's largest airport. Breakfast, while not worthy of a Michelin star, was very welcome indeed by the time Martin and I sat down for it just before 8:00am.
Before boarding the plane, I bought a card reader for my digital camera. This was ridiculously overpriced as most things are in airport shops, but I decided that I would not be able to get through the trip without the availability of a full card every day. This turned out to be a fortunate decision, thanks to photo opportunities later in the trip.
My first impression of Denmark was that of ruthless efficiency. Passport control was cleared quickly and easily, and a time counter was showing on the baggage reclaim screen indicating some seven minutes wait before our bags would be available. This proved entirely accurate, rather than the guesstimation one might have expected. It was quite surprising to see a solid wood floor in the airport arrivals area; I almost felt guilty dragging my wheeled suitcase across it. The maintenance bill must be ugly indeed.
1st May 2004
Our coach arrived at Bakken almost to the second of our planned schedule. I'd previously arranged to meet Gil here, who I've known across the internet for several years through my various programming projects. It was a pleasure to finally meet up in real life.
The entire group was first escorted into a private area in the middle of the Rutschebanen (#231), the first Scenic Railway of the trip. Scenic Railways are distinctive for the fact that they have an operator who sits on the train with a brake to control the speed. These rides have not been built in many years, and less than a dozen survive today. By an odd twist of fate, two of them are less than ten miles apart in the greater Copenhagen area.
It was within the ride boundaries that we were given our first experience of Scandinavian hospitality; there were several crates of free beer ready and waiting for us. We were introduced to three of the maintenance people for the ride, named Lars, Lars, and... er... Lars (no, that's not a typo). The group was split into two; our group went off for two laps on the coaster first, before returning for a tour of the inside areas. We were allowed to climb up a ladder into the transfer track area and see the maintenance shed where the trains are looked after. As for the coaster itself, it is amazing to think that the Rutschebanen is over seventy years old; it delivers a fantastic ride experience. On the other hand, it was apparently built by an Irishman, so maybe that explains things.
Mine Train Ulven (#232) translates as Wolf Mine Train. From the outside this ride looked to be a family attraction, but the truth was somewhat different; there was an insanely steep first drop which took us completely by surprise. One does not expect a mine train ride to be as intense as this one. As an aside, one might have thought some Danish useful for this trip. The reality is somewhat different; most locals speak better English than I do.
In my hunt to get in the other coasters in the park, we tried out Racing (#233), an ageing Zierer ride. This was originally built in 1971 and travelled the fairgrounds for a while before being installed in Bakken in the early 1980s. Overall it didn't make much of an impression on me; it certainly wasn't up to the standard of the other two coasters. With that done, we finished the coaster roster off with a quick lap on Mariehønen (#234). Gil noted that he hadn't ridden this one in a very long time!
We'd been advised to try out the Double Shot tower, as it was apparently one of the better ones. S&S tower rides can be hit and miss; some of them are very powerful while others feel relatively weak. This one was the most powerful I've encountered to date, and a huge amount of fun; a well designed tower ride does not need to be particularly large. From there we rode the Fireball, a rather good spin ride that was marred only by a ridiculously long programme. Neither of us felt like doing much else afterwards, so we decided to take a long and relaxed lunch break.
The last activity in the park was a group photograph on the Rutschebanen. However, rather than pose at the base of the ride, the park had other plans. Our group travelled to the top of the lift hill by train, before it was parked on the turnaround allowing us all to climb out. Needless to say we were all astonished at this opportunity; the word dangerous is inadequate to describe this activity. There was a small ledge to the side where everyone could stand when a train was coming. A very special thanks to Bakken for allowing us to do this, and an additional thanks to (insert deity of choice here) that none of our group missed their footing!
1st May 2004
On arrival at Tivoli Gardens the entire group made a direct line for the brand new Daemonen (#235). In hindsight it might have been sensible to head somewhere else first, as the resulting wait was the longest of the day. Having said that, a single rider vacancy in the front row allowed me to avoid the worst of it. My first circuit was extremely intense but marred by some severe headbanging. Fortunately this turned out later to have been bad luck, as a second ride in the back row presented no difficulties.
The second new Scenic Railway credit of the day (the only time I ever expect to be able to say that!) was even older than its brother at Bakken. Rutschebanen (#236) is a small and compact ride with a long section of track enclosed within a pitch black tunnel. On balance I preferred the version at Bakken, but there wasn't a huge amount between them.
The Odin Expressen powered coaster was one of the better ones in my roster, with a final turn into a tunnel that was taken at considerable speed. From there we made a brave attempt to ride the Karavanen kiddie coaster, but it had unfortunately been closed off for the night. Instead, we headed to the Skaersliden fun house. Once again this proved to be not quite to the level of the rather impressive one earlier in the day, but it was still an interesting way to spend a few minutes.
From there our group, which at this stage had swelled to ten people, decided to ride Det gyldne Tårn, my first S&S Turbo Drop. I have ridden all the other varieties of S&S tower, and while I still consider the Space Shots to be my favourite, this one was without question superb. It has taken me a while to enjoy tower rides, but I'm definitely there now.
The final ride of the night was the rather unique Monsunen, which is as far as I know the only flying carpet ride in the world to feature inverted seats, i.e. those where riders legs dangle freely. It is decorated with water jets, which appear to come close to the ride but never actually hit the riders. This is a particularly fun variation on the standard magic carpets and one which I would love to see take off in other locations.
The end of the evening firework display was a perfect ending to a superb day in two wonderful Danish parks.