Efteling

2nd August 2015

The second day of our trip began with a rare example of reason winning out over emotion. It would have been possible for us to depart our overnight hotel in Hamburg early enough to get to Efteling for opening, but doing so would have given us about four hours sleep and no breakfast. Instead, we were on the road by the relatively civilised time of 7:45am, and some enthusiastic use of derestricted autobahn had us on location shortly before noon.

It is possible to ride all the coasters in Efteling in one day without too much difficulty, but those who only do that miss the best features of what is one of the finest theme parks in Europe. At the same time, a first time visitor who is also a coaster counter is faced with a conflict between the instinct to credit whore versus the desire not to miss anything important. I left the decision up to Megan, who maturely decided that she wanted to experience a selection of attractions even if doing so meant missing one of the coasters. We thus began our day with a twenty minute wait for Fata Morgana, the Arabian-themed dark ride described in detail in my 2005 report.

There was a three quarter hour queue for Bobbaan, and rather than join it we elected to try the single rider queue. This turned out to be the right decision, as our wait time ended up being less than five minutes. Sadly, my first ride on an Intamin Bobsled in many years wasn't a particularly happy one, thanks to the cars negotiating the trough with a rhythmic clattering of the type I'd typically associate with old trains; I'd have been more forgiving if the experience had been thrilling, but it honestly wasn't; every time the car picked up speed we hit a brake section which stripped it away.

Our route took us past Spookslot, and we decided to stop to view an attraction that I've always thought of as neither bad or good; in simple terms, the Efteling haunted house is a show set to Danse Macabre with various moving effects ranging from ghostly figures to wobbling gravestones. The performance today was marred somewhat by another guest taking repeated flash photographs, apparently oblivious to the presence of others just trying to enjoy the performance. I took some small comfort from the fact that the best pictures of dark attractions are those taken with no artificial light and a slow shutter speed.

Spookslot

After a brief lunch break we hit the two other major dark rides, Droomvlucht and Carnaval Festival, the latter being the local take on It's a Small World. Megan had a lot to say about the stereotypical representation of the various Asian nations, and she was right, though I'm inclined to think that a certain amount of license is allowable on an attraction that is thirty years old.

A quick lap on Vogel Rok brought us to the big surprise of the day, delivered somewhat improbably by a thirty-four year old Vekoma. My first review of Python, written during 2005, described the ride using the famously pejorative enthusiast catchphrase; a useful addition to the park. One year later, new rolling stock earned a marginally better review, but the ride was still not something I had any desire to repeat. I'd somehow managed to miss the fact that the trains were replaced a second time towards the end of 2011 with the design previously installed at Gardaland, and it has to be said; the difference these make is astonishing. The ride quality remains in the not very good category, but it is no longer awful, which constitutes a thoroughly impressive upgrade.

We completed one lap on Vliegende Hollander before heading to the new attraction for this year, a heavily customised B&M dive machine named Baron 1898 (#2139). The station building and pre-show rooms are as detailed and ornate as one has come to expect from Efteling, and the structure of the lift hill has been disguised behind an impressive facade built to resemble an old mine shaft, complete with an enormous wheel at the top that moves in tandem with the chain lift mechanism.

The ride itself is short but action packed. The trains climb the lift hill quickly before pausing for a few seconds above the vertical drop. They then plummet into a mist-filled tunnel and a barely-visible inversion on the climb-out, an effect over almost before riders' eyes have adjusted back to daylight. A second inversion, climbing helix, and airtime hill make up the remainder of the layout, with the final brake being hit roughly twenty seconds after the initial release.

The ride looks fantastic and the on-board experience is difficult to fault, with only one mild track kink at the exit of the second inversion. However, it would be remiss of me not to comment on its capacity; in a bizarre decision Efteling has installed the six-across cars introduced four years ago on Krake, rather than the more common full size vehicles typically found on this style of ride. Today one train was being dispatched every ninety seconds on average, giving a throughput of around six hundred guests per hour. There are many parks in the world where that figure would be ample, but Efteling sees enormous crowds, resulting in a wait time that has on occasion exceeded four hours, a decidedly suboptimal figure in a park with a ten hour operating day. We were fortunate to catch it during a brief lull, allowing us to get two rides in less than an hour, but other enthusiasts have not been so lucky.

The last coaster rides of the day were had on Joris en de Draak, which I described five years ago as a winner. Today, however, the only twin-tracked GCI coaster in Europe was very much in the undistinguished category, with neither the fire nor the water sides delivering a particularly impressive ride. Nothing about the on-track experience stood out for me, though I did like the way banners unrolled above the winning train to the sound of cheering.

We finished off our visit with a ride on the Flying Island.

 

Park Hilaria

2nd August 2015

Three nights before this trip I spent about an hour browsing through enthusiast sites to see whether there might be any small fairs near our planned route. Much to my surprise I discovered Park Hilaria, a ten day event taking place a few minutes walk from a hotel I'd booked several months earlier. As usual I decided not to tell Megan about this ahead of time, but instead suggested that we go for a short walk after parking our car. She was briefly confused by the suggestion (it was after all quite late!) but light dawned a few moments later when she heard the faint sound of thumping music somewhere in the distance.

It was interesting to see a fairground set up on both sides of Kennedylaan, one of four main roads into the centre of Eindhoven; one doubts that a major arterial route could be closed for over a week in other parts of the world without traffic chaos. In the Netherlands, however, good urban planning and a population accustomed to travelling by bicycle allows for a variety of different street fairs to take place, the most famous being the event in Tilburg during the last week of July.

Our primary target was Spinning Coaster XXL (Buwalda) (#2140), an extended version of the standard Reverchon mouse built by Concept Rides. I'm given to understand that the expansion is removable and can be deployed on different mice, which could present a horrendous coaster counting conundrum some day, but for now at least the addition is only being used with Spinning Coaster (Buwalda), familiar to many readers from the long defunct Rotunda in Folkestone.

The idea of expanding a travelling mouse is not new, having been introduced several years ago with Wilde Maus XXL, a top quality conversion that set a high standard for others to follow. Unfortunately the visual impact of Buwalda's machine is not in the same league; in blunt terms, it looks like someone has built a frame around a standard ride. The clearest demonstration of this is in the position of the Spinning Coaster sign, which remains in its original position, partially obscured behind the new top layers of track. Additionally, the massive amount of empty space inside the structure is unused, resulting in a queue that extends out into the midway.

Hilaria

Appearances aside, however, the ride experience is good if not outstanding. The new track sections are negotiated without major difficulty, barring some bottoming out at the base of each drop, and the join between the new and old sections is seamless. The standard portion of the layout is taken at a higher speed than normal, resulting in some sharp lateral forces on the turns, and once the spinning motion is unlocked (at the usual point) the experience feels very much like a manually-operated waltzer. Both of us were in fits of giggles by the time we hit the brake run, a sure sign of a very entertaining ride.

We found Fantasy Apple (Buwalda) at the far end of the fairground, otherwise known as Santa's Flying Sleigh (Buwalda) from Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. We completed a single lap out of politeness before finishing our evening with another round of extra-extra-large spinning.