Phantasialand28th July 2004
Phantasialand made European headlines in May 2001 thanks to a catastrophic fire which destroyed two classic roller coasters designed by Anton Schwarzkopf. These rides were replaced with the Winjas (#317), a pair of indoor spinning coasters with some unique features, such as a vertical lift and some tilting sections of track. During our exclusive session we were able to get in multiple rides on each track. Most of us felt that the Fear side was slightly better, though the Force side was still a top quality ride.
We had been advised to head for the River Quest before the queue built up, and for this reason most of the group went there en masse. The experience begins like any other rapids, though something seems a little strange after the boat slides sideways into a vertical lift. When the doors open at the top of the lift passengers get to stare at a substantial drop. The boat is held in place for a few seconds to give you a chance to imagine how wet you are about to become, before it is released to splash down, completely drenching all those on the leading edge of the boat. This is followed by a whirlpool, which the boat drops into, and some more steep drops, one of which goes past a waterfall that is well able to pour into the boat. The ride is not a dry one, but it is certainly unique.
This was followed by a group takeover of the Mystery Castle, a fully enclosed shot and drop ride built by Intamin, quite possibly the only launched tower that company has ever built. The design involves face to face seating which is a lot of fun; however, the total ride time was no more than fifteen seconds, which seemed far too short given the length of time spent loading and checking the cars.
The park is home to a mine train which, named in full, is Colorado Adventure - The Michael Jackson Thrill Ride. There are a multitude of jokes that can be made about this, but it's probably safer to just not go there. Naming aside, however, the Colorado Adventure (#318) is an excellent ride thanks in no small part to its length. Three lift hills are needed to give the train enough energy to make it around its course, and while a little more padding in the trains wouldn't hurt the experience on the whole was top notch.
At this stage the group separated somewhat, more of a relief than anything else. I ended up at the Geister Rikscha, a dark ride through the underworld that borrows a few things from the Haunted Mansion rides at the Disney parks. From there we went to the Feng Ju Palace, a quality haunted swing attraction that was on course for a ten out of ten before it finished with the room upside down, completely destroying the illusion. The last and probably best coaster in the park proved the Temple of the Night Hawk (#319), another long ride featuring three lift hills. The ride is enclosed and taken for the most part in darkness, with only the occasional projected image on the wall.
The Hollywood Tour boat ride was the last thing we tried before lunch. It turned out to be a somewhat interesting boat ride with some very strange scenes (a monkey on water skis wearing a life jacket, for example), though I'm not entirely sure what the connection was with Hollywood.
Andrew and I ended up at lunch with Peter and Niki in the China Garden restaurant. It was an interesting experience trying to order off a menu entirely in German with no translations, but fortunately the waitress had enough English to do some rudimentary translating on our behalf. Given that all the ride signs were available in both German and English, I was surprised that the same was not true in the restaurants, but perhaps translations are on the way in future? At any rate, the food was very good, but the service was horrendously slow, the meal only appearing after about three quarters an hour, coincidentally a few minutes after Andrew complained to the waitress.
After eating we located the Stonewash Wildwash Creek log flume, and we used one of two exit passes we'd received from the hotel to beat the queue. With four of us in the boat, we ended up very wet indeed, not least due to somebody choosing to splash water in from the side of the boat. Since we were already wet, we decided to use the second exit pass at the River Quest rapids, completely finishing the job.
Wild-und Freizeitpark Klotten28th July 2004
The third and final surprise park of the trip was Klotten, added to the itinerary thanks to its installation of a brand new custom wild mouse design from Gerstlauer. At present the park map refers to the ride as Achter-Bahn (or Roller Coaster), but the manager assured us that its official name is Heiße Fahrt (#320), or Hot Ride in English. The name, or rather its German translation (!!) will likely make more sense when its theming, a large volcano, is complete; at the moment, the track moves round a large ugly concrete structure. The park intends to put both a log flume and restaurant into this structure over the next few years, assuming visitor numbers continue to rise.
The new coaster runs with four cars, each of which can seat four people. The design is such that three can be out on course at any given time, keeping capacity up. The front seat was pretty good, though the back was a bit on the jarring side. I managed a total of thirteen circuits during our exclusive session, most of those in the front half of the car. As an aside, special thanks to park management for allowing us to use our cameras to film and take photographs on ride.