Europa Park16th April 2012
Europa Park has for many years been one of the best theme parks in the world. Owned by the Mack family, it combines top notch theming with an excellent selection of roller coasters, several dark rides, lots of flat rides, and some superb dining options. The one major omission, according to the enthusiast community, has been a wooden coaster. This deplorable situation has now been remedied with the installation of Wodan (#1741), the fifth European installation from Great Coasters International.
The new ride is very impressive visually, towering over its area of the park and crossing over Atlantica Supersplash and Blue Fire. The station building and nearby landscaping are both striking, with the overall effect coming close to that set by Joris en de Draak two years ago. The ride operates with three trains and a single rider line, which should provide the throughput required by a park such as this one.
The first drop is one of the best I've ever experienced on a wood coaster, with a descending twist that takes riders breath away. Unfortunately, this is the best portion of the ride by a fair margin. There is no question that Wodan tracks well and feels fast, but the design lacks force, to the point that I'm almost tempted to describe it boring. At the risk of offending a few people, my overriding impression is that Wodan is to wood coasters what Silver Star is to steel; a family coaster masquerading under the guise of an extreme thrill ride. The general public love it, making it perfect for the park, but as an enthusiast I can't help but wonder what could have been.
Needing a slow moving seat for a few minutes, I decided to ride the Pirates of Batavia attraction, followed by the Europa Park Historama attraction. The latter is new since my last visit, reusing the same structure once used by the laser show, and it can be missed without any great loss. The queue line is vaguely interesting, showing off the various awards and presentations made to the Mack family and photographs of various celebrities spotted at the park over the years. The show itself however manages to take the history of Europa Park and turn it into fifteen minutes of relative boredom, with the only interesting portion being a visual display of laser light and water fountains in the fourth segment.
On the roof of the Historama building is the world's first looping restaurant, and this is both faintly ridiculous and seriously cool. Food and drink orders are delivered to tables by means of a roller coaster track, with two lift hills, a loop, and a descending spiral over each table. Diners place their orders on a touch screen monitor at each table, and each have their own bill which is managed via an electronic smart card which is handed out on the way in the door. The whole idea works surprisingly well, and appears to be a hit with the park guests; throughout my visit there was invariably a queue to get a seat.
Having several rides of the new coaster under my belt, I decided to spend my remaining time working my way around the other major coasters, taking in Blue Fire, Euromir, Eurosat, Schweizer Bobbahn, and Silver Star. It is a credit to park maintenance that every one of these rides was just as good as I remembered.