Hamburger Winterdom

6th December 2015

Our final trip for 2015 was planned around Drifting Coaster, a completely new coaster design from Reverchon that was due to make its debut at the Hamburger Winterdom under the ownership of FTE Ahrend. Unfortunately a technical issue with the ride resulted in it being withdrawn from the event at short notice, a substantial embuggerance given that I'd already locked in non-refundable outbound flights. The best option seemed to be to visit the Winterdom for a few hours before driving elsewhere, and I decided to refactor our trip to do just that.

Our visit began with Rock & Roller Coaster, a classic Schwarzkopf Wildcat with signage proudly proclaiming it to be die größte transportable familienachterbahn deutschlands mit einzelwagen, or the largest portable family coaster with single cars in Germany. My initial reaction to this statement was that the lunatics in marketing had gone over the proverbial edge, perhaps implying a future in which Kuddel der Hai might become the largest family coaster in Germany with blue paint and a shark theme. It was only later that I began to contemplate what the boundary might actually be between a family coaster and what for ease of description I'm going to describe as a thrill coaster. This ride was after all both taller, faster, and steeper than the largest Roller Skaters, all spinning mice, and even Pinfari loopers that are not generally thought of as friendly to families (or anyone else for that matter!).

The ride is one of six versions of the largest Wildcat model that remain in operation today, and it is the only one to have any theming. The entire facade has been decorated with signage that owes much to the Hard Rock Café chain, and the ticket booth has been moulded into the shape of a jukebox. An enormous brightly coloured sign adorns the lift hill, and a singer with guitar and microphone stands on a platform at its apex. The cars are moulded to look like Cadillacs, and include working front and rear lights as well as brightly coloured LED strips that look fantastic in the dark. As a final touch, a small platform can be found in front of the station featuring a leather-jacketed star of unspecified gender on a motorbike, accompanied by two women in jeans and, bizarrely, a petrol pump.

Rock

The hardware is over four decades old now, but the only hint of that comes from the cars that were designed at a time when people were shorter than they are today. We found ourselves assigned to the rear of a car, and in that location my knees were wedged firmly into the back of the seat in front of me. That could have been quite nasty if the ride had been rough, but the tracking today was perfectly smooth, a phenomenal achievement for a machine that has been travelling the fair circuit since the early nineties.

Our next stop was at High Explosive, a Zierer Flitzer that I'd not seen since the Hannover Fruhlingsfest in 2009. The general appearance of the ride was pretty much exactly as I remembered it, with an elaborate station building with wood-tiled roof and a mining theme. It was a pity not to see the waterfall that the ride sometimes operates with, though the official site explains that certain scenes are omitted when it is necessary to fit the ride into a smaller physical footprint.

Flitzers are becoming increasingly rare nowadays, and that's a shame; the on-board experience on this unit was great, delivering a thrill beyond what one might expect from the diminutive dimensions of the layout. The only feature I didn't like was the thirty-second long looped recording playing in the queuing area; the exaggerated pronunciation of the ride name was mildly annoying the first time, somewhat aggravating the second time, and extremely irritating by the nineteenth time. I found myself feeling sorry for the ride operators, though one assumes that they've developed the ability to tune it out.

The third credit of the day was our second encounter this year with Teststecke that once again was mostly memorable for the attempted prostate exam delivered by the horrible seat design. Megan wasn't impacted by this to the same degree, and expressed delight at the hang time in the second loop. She subsequently informed me that this was feckin' awesome, suggesting that her assimilation of Irish colloquialisms is proceeding apace.

The longest queue at the entire event was for Wilde Maus (Eberhard & Gobel) despite a full complement of cars. The owners were making the most of the demand by charging €5 per person, more than either of the Schwarzkopfs, but the ride experience was actually well worth that as the various mid-course brakes had been completely turned off. The result was one of the wildest mice I've ever been on, delivering ejector airtime on the drops and some seriously scary head chopper moments. The difference between this and some of the more flaccid mice could not have been more pronounced.

Our last stop was at Happy Family, a three-and-a-half storey fun house with an extended section out front. This isn't something I'd normally have bothered with, but I'd received a text earlier in the day from a showman friend who'd asked me to take some pictures of it for him. It was interesting to see just how many activities had been crammed in to the space, especially when compared against similar attractions in the UK and Ireland; there were trick floors, water fountains, rotating barrels, punch bags, a moving staircase, a rope bridge, and a spiral slide to finish things off. I particularly liked seeing Angry Birds, Minions, and Super Mario in the same environment; one can only imagine the negotiation that went into that licensing deal!

Happy Family