An accidental visit17th June 2006
With a weekend of coasters ahead of us, we were only in the center of Amsterdam to visit the brand new Dungeon attraction, it being the home of a small but unique roller coaster. George had prepaid for tickets online. We could not, however, find the place, despite directions from the tourist office (cross the bridge, walk ten minutes that way, you can't miss it). Madam Tussauds Wax Museum was running a small horror exhibit, which George assumed was what we were looking for. Despite my protestations, he attempted successfully to use this ticket to enter, absolutely convinced that this was the Amsterdam Dungeon attraction we were looking for. It wasn't.
Nevertheless, it was surprisingly enjoyable to visit a wax museum again after a break of more than fifteen years. We all managed to have a good time there despite it being completely different to what we had been aiming for. The sculptures were sufficiently life like that on more than one occasion it was difficult to tell the wax model from a real person near them; one had only to stand absolutely still near the wall for people to come over and admire your appearance!
Amsterdam Dungeon17th June 2006
There are many words that one could use to describe the Amsterdam Dungeon, but to do so would run the danger of spoiling the attraction for future guests, and there's no way I'd do something like that. There is, however, an important thing that must be stated right away. If you are only interested in coasters, then Reaper (#764) will disappoint you. However, if you enjoy horror attractions, and if you take a particularly sadistic joy in watching people (and occasionally yourself) jump out of their skins, then you will absolutely love this. The words very good do not do it justice.
Incidentally, though officially the tour is in double dutch, all bar one of the guides spoke predominantly in English, only jumping occasionally into the local patois to provide translations for two small children that were in our party. Their command of the language, which covered proper English all the way through to up to date colloquialisms, was seriously impressive. It remains a mild source of embarrassment to me that my ability in useful foreign languages only extends about as far as je voudrais une bud light. Odds are this will remain the case until some country declares its national language to be C++, and in all honesty this doesn't seem likely in the forseeable future.
One other thing bears mention. It is entirely unsettling to see quite how much pleasure George, Darren, and Andy appear to be taking in the idea of decapitating me. No doubt numerous readers would jump at the chance to be in this position. For those that should find themselves in the stockade, however, a word of warning; as I write this, a day later, my throat still hurts because of how hard I was leaning on it.
Fun Fair Boulevard17th June 2006
Parking for the Fun Fair Boulevard was in a giant warehouse, not dissimilar in size to the RDS hall used for the Funderland events in Dublin. The signs from the last major show were still hanging from the ceiling; we parked our rental car under one of the cash register points. This seemed oddly inappropriate, as we cannot imagine anyone paying for a car as distinctly unimpressive as this one. And yes, I'd quite happily take Jeremy Clarkson's job. But I digress.
There is nothing much to say about Super Mouse (#765); the phrase been there, done that comes very much into play. In theory at least you might apply the same to Die wilden 50-er (#766), a travelling Schwarzkopf Wildcat, but the practice is somewhat different. This ride, despite the convoluted name and slight identity crisis (one of the signs read "Rock and Roller Coaster"), remains just as smooth as it must have been when it was originally built more than twenty years ago.
The largest portable log flume in the world goes by the name of Wildwasserbahn 3. It was the tallest ride in sight short of the reverse bungee, and taking photographs from one of those is somewhere between challenging and impossible. At any rate, for me at least this ride was a disappointment. It is certainly impressive for what it does have, namely a backwards drop and a certain amount of dark ride theming, but the major draw, its size, was where things dropped away (pun intended). Though braking distances probably made it a necessity, it still seems silly to have two consecutive twenty metre lift hills followed by two consecutive twenty metre drops. The net result just feels like two run of the mill rides stacked one on top of another; altogether somewhat on the pointless side. One single larger drop would have been worth so much more.
Having said that, this was nothing to the sheer pointlessness of Monsterbrut. From the outside, this appeared to be a fairly impressive looking ghost train attraction with three floors. However, the cars went up to the top and returned to the bottom without passing a single scene at all. The net effect was rather like going up two flights of escalators, looking out the window, and returning to ground level. There was some token spooky scenery on the ground level before the exit, but in all honesty this bordered on the embarrassing. Oh dear.
The powered coaster, Grand Canyon, had a somewhat unusual gimmick that I won't spoil here, but this didn't make up for the braking on the only track descent that prevented the ride building up any speed. Both Andy and Darren chose to sit this one out, as neither is sad enough to count coasters. This did, of course, allow them to take an altogether inappropriate amount of pleasure at the sight of these adults on this tiny powered coaster that must have hit all of ten miles per hour.
Oberhausen-Sterkrade Fair17th June 2006
Oberhausen-Sterkrade is very much a product of the huge tradition in funfairs in Germany. One only need look at the length of the show, a grand total of six days, to see that there must be phenomenal demand. The amount of money taken in during the run has to pay substantial dividends to ride owners, not least pay for the labour required to assemble and disassemble the attractions. Given that some of the larger rides present take more than a week to build up... well, no doubt you get the idea.
Interestingly enough, the attractions here were spread across several areas of the city rather than being grouped together, not at all unlike the St Patrick's Day festivities in Dublin though obviously on a much larger scale. The fair was extremely crowded and we were all exhausted, two factors which served to limit our time exploring. For this reason, we certainly missed some attractions; there was at least one set of rides, featuring a drop tower, that we didn't get close to. However, our two major targets were coasters, and we got them both - that being the main thing.
Though moderately better than the earlier ghost train, Geister-Schloss was probably a three out of ten at most. Probably the most frightening scene was an entirely life like animatronic German engineer enjoying a cigarette on the top level of the ride. Having said that, like the earlier ghost train in the boulevard, the exterior of this ride was worthy of an eight out of ten at least. It seems that the showmen here were far more interested in impressing potential patrons rather than those who had already paid their money. Are they not interested in enticing exiting guests to ride a second time? Half price reriding could surely boost income during quieter periods?
After a surprisingly lengthy search, we finally located Eurostar (#767). For such a large ride it was surprisingly difficult to see, at least from the direction we were coming from. We couldn't have been more than two hundred metres away when it came into view. As the largest transportable coaster out there, the Bruch-owned ride certainly presents an impressive appearance. Unfortunately, that is about the best thing one can say about it.
It seems incredible to me that Eurostar hasn't killed or seriously injured anybody yet. For the second time this year, my travels have brought me to a large portable torture device, with nothing to recommend it whatsoever. The wheels on the ride looked like they've been through the wars, which in retrospect seems more than a little odd, as during my ride they didn't seem to have a lot of contact with the track. The train was shaking and juddering so violently that it would have been funny had it not been so painful. Potential riders can enjoy the same effect presented by Eurostar by hitting themselves repeatedly in random locations with a hammer. The only thing fun about this ride, in a schadenfreude-kind of way (hey, it is German!) is to watch the whole thing shuddering as trains complete the circuit. Once was without question enough, and it was telling to see that two rows of each train had been closed off and loaded with water bottles. Might the operators be having trouble filling the trains? If so, it is easy to see why.
The one saving grace was Spininng Racer (#768), an excellent spinning mouse ride operated with trademark German efficiency. Our lap bars were summarily closed within about two seconds of sitting down, and we were on the lift hill less than five seconds later. It is amazing how efficient people can become when every additional passenger is additional revenue. Other operators of Maurer spinning coasters, not mentioning any names, could do well to learn from this one!
As a final footnote, we wound up having dinner in the Fu Do chinese restaurant in Oberhausen. This, incidentally, was not at my suggestion, proving that people travelling with me do occasionally settle on asian food of their own volition! Anyhow, to the point; the food here was quite possibly the best Chinese I've ever eaten, and considering what we ate (four meals, four starters, four salads, four beers, and three cokes) the total price of fifty one euro was bordering on the astonishing. It would almost be worth returning to Oberhausen just to eat here. If you're in the area, don't miss it.