Funderland is the trading name of the funfair that runs in Dublin for the three weeks following Christmas, starting on St Stephen's Day. It goes without saying that my first pilgrimage to this years event took place on opening day. However, it wasn't possible for me to ride anything on that day thanks to an untimely dose of the flu, though I did take my usual set of photos which were published that day on ThemeParks.ie.
The ride selection in Funderland does not change much from year to year. The vast majority of the machines are either Irish owned or brought in from the English fair circuit, though there are a few token rides from the Netherlands and a handful of German machines too. The latter machines are often the highlights of the show, particularly as they are run as their manufacturers intended!
The weather in Ireland at this time of the year often covers the entire spectrum of Irish seasons (Severe Winter, Winter, Mild Winter, etc) in a two hour period. With that in mind, one cannot but question the sanity of the show promoters this year in bringing in a Log Flume. This wasn't just any log flume, mind; it was one of the ones with the plexiglas shields that result in most of the splash being reflected back into the boat. In Dublin in January? What on EARTH were they thinking?
People often joke in this country that if you do something twice, it is a tradition. It therefore follows that if you do something three times, it has become a sacred tradition which must never be broken (until you have a good reason to do so!). With that in mind, this year was in fact my seventh annual visit to Funderland with one of my friends from college. We arrived at the fair in the early evening after a short train journey from Dublin City Centre.
Wasting no time, we took our first ride on the Wild Mouse. Let me begin by saying that I had not ridden a Reverchon mouse in three months, but to be honest I felt the ride was a bit disappointing. It was not running as fast as I remember, and while the biting cold probably wasn't helping things, it's always cold in Dublin in January and previous years have definitely run better.
The press release for the fair this year informed us that "The star attraction at this year's show will surely be Sensorium - an astonishing laser show from Germany which comes to Ireland for the first time ever. This 3-D spectacular, uses not alone laser technology, but a range of sound and visual special effects. Sensorium has caused a sensation on the Continent and was one of the star attractions at the recent Octoberfest in Munich, Europe's biggest annual festival." Bold words, and even bolder when a quick read of the official web site mentions that the show made its first appearance at the 1997 Octoberfest. Technology has definitely moved on from when Sensorium was built, and some of the effects are more than a little dated, but the overall experience is still well worth the admission charge. I was somewhat amused by the fact that, although the soundtrack had been dubbed into English, the lip sync on the projected character was still happily mouthing syllables in German. They had made an effort to localise the content somewhat though, with the Funderland logo appearing in the middle of the show.
Despite what the press release said, for me the star attraction this year could be found with the rest of the rides indoors. Take/Off is one of the more extreme creations from Huss Rides, with the model here belonging to G. Ruppert Schaustellerbetriebe. My stomach isn't strong enough for more than one or two spin rides in an evening, so I tend to save myself for the rides that are really worth it. As something from the German fair circuit, Take/Off is run on German fair settings, and needless to say, the experience is very intense indeed and not one you will forget in a hurry. It is one of these rides where the major challenge is to walk in a straight line on disembarking. Both of us needed a five minute break after this one.
The other coaster to appear at the fair every year is Speed Loop, a standard Pinfari ZL-42. Last year I recall being startled by how smooth the ride was running. It was closer to normal this time; not rough, but certainly a little on the bumpy side. We only tried out one of the three trains in operation, though, so it is possible they may have been performing differently. At €3.50 a go, I decided I didn't care that much! In the end the only other ride we tried out was the Power Wave spin ride. Thanks to Tom for pointing out that this is in fact a Schwarzkopf-built original, dating from 1979. It is astonishing that a twenty six year old ride can be running quite so well after a lifetime on the fair circuit; a testament to the quality of engineering when the ride was first built.
We left the fairground shortly before 8:30pm. Though I debated a circuit on the kiddie coaster, which would be new to me, I decided it could wait until my second trip down, as I figured (correctly, as it turned out) that the people I'd be there with would want the credit!