There was a definite sensation of a satnav moment for the last few minutes of the drive to Jagdmärchenpark Hirschalm as we followed a series of single lane roads into the middle of nowhere. Our target turned out to a completely empty car park across the road from an apparently deserted building that looked like an inactive roadside restaurant. My immediate thought was that we'd programmed bad coordinates, but then another car pulled up and disgorged its contents through a front door which was, despite all appearances, open.
We made our way inside, found the coaster, and began the hunt for someone who might be an operator. The best candidate seemed to be a woman in a purple jacket who was following us at a discreet distance, and sure enough she turned out to be the person we needed. With her assistance we picked up a series of tokens, deciding on the spur of the moment that we'd buy tickets for all three amusement rides. Our first stop was at the Sommerrodelbahn, an alpine slide from Wiegand with a height differential of 18m and a track length of 260m. We found it possible to cover the entire course without braking, as the turns were sufficiently wide to be negotiated with a large safety margin even at full speed. The descent was quite short, coming in at around twenty-four seconds from start to end, but we neatly sidestepped that as an issue by riding a second time.
The highlight of the morning turned out to be Familienachterbahn (#2222), a standard model Big Apple from SBF Visa that was taking almost ninety seconds to complete one lap of the course, some twenty seconds longer than some pretty slow footage taken in 2014. The top section turnaround was negotiated in the manner of a snail working its way across a window ledge, and I strongly suspect we might have stopped altogether if both of us had chosen to sit in the back of the train. The Free-Fall-Turm was almost anticlimactic after such an entertaining coaster, with a programme that consisted of a series of short floating drops rather than any covering the full seventeen metre height. The view from the apex made it clear just how remote the park actually was, as the only thing on the visible horizon was fields.
We were on the way out the door when the cashier came running after us. After about half a minute of confusion it became apparent that general admission fee we'd paid on the way in covered the nature park, and this was not required for those only doing the rides. We were duly refunded our entry fees, taking a nice chunk out of the overall cost of the day.
11th May 2016
The drive distance between the two main parks on our list today was almost three hours, which was a little too long to do without a stop. In an ideal world we'd have broken the journey at the Stoaninger Alm alpine coaster, less than a kilometre away from our route, but we were too early in the season for it to be open on a weekday. Instead we decided to drop in at Gmunden, which had the added benefit of being almost exactly at the half way point. There was a catch that we'd not allowed for, however; the only road through the city was under construction, forcing a lengthy detour. It was tempting to abort entirely, but we were far enough ahead of schedule that we decided to stick with the plan.
We were not entirely clear about the access route to the Grünbergflitzer, but eventually determined it to be via the Grünberg Seilbahn, a cable car that operates every half hour with a journey time of around ten minutes. The round trip fare of €16.90 was more than we would have liked, but reflects the fact that the system was relatively new, having been installed in 2014 following a ten million euro investment. The ticket office at ground level had a large sign indicating the coaster's operational status, which today was showing as betrieb, a wonderfully German word that should not be confused with außer betrieb.
The ride itself was decent and included a few uphill sections, but it's worth noting that the layout was far less crazy than some of the other Brandauer coasters, in particular those at La Colmiane and Serlesbahnen Mieders. Though it's slightly pejorative to do so, I'm inclined to describe the experience as a Wiegand design; a solid attraction and a crowd pleaser, but not an extreme thrill ride that I'd go out of my way to return to. The most memorable portion for me was the lift mechanism at the end, where a ski lift mechanism pulled the cars along a straight pipe back to the mountain top. We disembarked with around ten minutes to spare before the next cable car, which was just about long enough to take a few photographs.
11th May 2016
Some years ago I drove to Freizeitpark Familienland during a weekend trip to Germany, only to find a padlock on the gate and no signs of activity anywhere. It turned out that management had taken the decision not to open due to an outside temperature barely above freezing, presumably reasoning that there wouldn't be enough visitors through the gate to cover wages. The Roller Coaster was removed twelve months later, though it did subsequently rematerialise in Finland where I hope to catch up with it at some point. Today's visit initially looked like a second failure, as the gate leading into the park was closed and the ticket office was empty, but the sounds of happy children could be heard from beyond the fence, and there was no padlock. It turned out that there was a doorbell that had to be rung for attention, and when we did that a cheery young lady turned up, sold us tickets, and buzzed us in.
The star attraction in the park nowadays is Big Bang (#2223), a custom design from Zierer based on the track and train system premiered at Bowcraft Playland in 2006. The new coaster follows a circuitous route that sits above the main midway of the park, wrapping around assorted slides and play structures, and it looks great. Unfortunately the ride quality wasn't as good as it might have been, as the single ten seat train suffered from quite a bit of vibration regardless of where we sat, but it wasn't bad by any means, and we did go for a total of four laps.
There were only a handful of other guests today, and for that reason the big attractions were being operated in rotation. It was particularly interesting to see that the controls for the Piratenschiff had been installed on the station platform for the coaster, allowing a single member of staff to control both rides.
We spent the better part of an hour exploring the park and trying out various attractions. One highlight was Wikingerland, a viking-themed area with an oval shaped Splash Battle equivalent that took us through an enclosed cave. The exterior theming looked great, with a variety of cartoon warriors in assorted poses, though the interior was fairly understated, hiding a static model of a dragon and nothing else. Megan also partook of a Giant Slide, and ended up airborne after picking up rather more speed than usual. Our visit concluded with Wild Raft, a spinning rapids ride of the type typically seen on the fairground circuit, and this was great, even if it did leave me somewhat damp for the long drive back to Vienna.