The plans for our latest adventure were assembled at relatively short notice when it became apparent that a change of job would give me almost two weeks of unexpected holiday time. I decided that I'd use part of it to relax at home, but it would have gone against everything I stand for not to go coaster chasing with the balance. Travelling long haul wasn't a realistic option for various reasons, but fortunately there were a couple of major new credits in Europe within easy reach, and I was able to come up with a routing that got those in while also doing some embarrassing yet entertaining barrel scraping along the way.
We thus found ourselves at Dublin Airport for a very civilised mid-morning flight to Stockholm. Though suboptimal from the perspective of maximising our time in country, the route was the only direct service between Ireland and Sweden, and the connecting options we found would have involved considerably more effort for negligible gain. On arrival we dropped our bags at the airport hotel and enjoyed a quick lunch before catching the Arlanda Express into the city terminal. From there it was about a ten minute walk to Kungsträdgården, where we were able to pick up tram seven to Gröna Lund. (Various web sites state that it is possible to buy tickets on board the tram, but this is no longer the case; they must be purchased from vending machines at the station platforms, and these only accept credit card. The software does not allow more than one ticket to be sold at a time, which resulted in a phone call from my bank suspicious of two identical transactions two minutes apart).
20th August 2016
Gröna Lund can be found on the Kungliga Djurgården island in central Stockholm. The park is visible from some distance away both for its coasters and its three tallest rides: Eclipse (a 122m Funtime StarFlyer), Fritt Fall (an 80m Intamin Giant Drop), and Katapulten (a 55m S&S Combo tower). These are to be joined next year by Ikaros, a 95m high drop from Intamin that will tilt riders to a ninety degree angle ahead of their plunge back to earth. This addition will make the park one of only a handful in the world with four standalone tower rides, a curiosity that probably won't be used for marketing campaigns in the immediate future.
There was a lengthy queue to get into the park when we arrived just before six in the evening, both due to the unusually good weather and a live broadcast of Sommarkrysset. All of the major attractions had three quarter hour waits, and as we only had five hours before closing time we reluctantly agreed to skip over Eclipse, reasoning that it would almost certainly be available on our next visit to the area. In reality we'd have struggled to do everything else on our list were it not for Megan deciding to eschew the two kiddiecoasters, a truly heretical action justified by the desire to land her one thousandth credit in the right place.
Given the waits it seemed sensible to take our photographs before the sun began to set, and we duly did a lap of the park with cameras in hand before joining the multitudes waiting for Jetline, one of the last designs to come from the pen of Anton Schwarzkopf. Four trains were in use, and though there was a little bit of stacking the capacity was nevertheless more than double that of the other coasters. We ended up in the back row of train number two, from where the ride was almost completely smooth from start to end, a definite improvement over a few years ago. The highlight was (as always) the twisted second drop, and while it didn't feel as aggressive as I'd remembered it was nevertheless a wonderful moment. (It was only when writing up this report a few weeks after this event that I realised that this ride was credit #995 for both Megan and I, a mildly entertaining coincidence that would have been very sad indeed had we arranged it on purpose!).
Our second stop was at Twister, described by me five years ago as "something truly special". Those words, positive as they are, fail to do justice to what I'd argue is the most impressive wood coaster design built in living memory. It seems almost incredible now that engineers from the Gravity Group came up with a layout with powerful airtime over every single hill despite having to work with a fifty foot height differential and around the clearance envelopes of two existingcoasters. Today the ride was running very well indeed, reflecting the fact that those responsible for maintaining the track know their business well. I also liked the way the queueing area was decorated with photographs of other coasters from around the world; these were evidently generating quite a bit of interest from other guests, as we spotted two separate groups looking at POV footage of featured rides on their mobile phones.
We accidentally joined a dedicated front row queue for Kvasten but we were only three trains from the front when we realised our mistake so decided to stay put. The ride was the premiere of a new layout when it opened nine years ago, and it was also one of the first members of the Vekoma Suspended Family Coaster family to feature lap bar restraints. Though the design has appeared in other locations since, the original remains a fabulous ride, all the more so for the fact that the track passes underneath one of the turnarounds on Twister and through a heavily themed building. It's a shame that the layout doesn't allow for two train operation, but that constitutes a relatively minor niggle for what is a top notch coaster.
The park is home to a custom wild mouse built on the superstructure of Jetline. The queue for Vilda Musen was clearly not designed with larger visitors in mind, as the switchbacks were sufficiently narrow that more rotund readers might not actually fit through them at all. We stood sideways while we waited and watched a video screen showing a looped series of on-ride videos that were unbranded but very obviously supplied by a well-known American theme park site, including Cyclone, Kingda Ka, Millennium Force, and Voyage. We boarded in the front of a car, and from that location the ride experience was excellent, with smooth tracking, strong laterals in the hairpin turns, and no bumps at all.
After four top notch coasters it was regrettably time to renew my acquaintance with Insane. The wait time of less than five minutes in an otherwise busy park reflected the fact that the ride is, in simple terms, a category one turd. The first part of the layout was pleasant enough, with the cars rocking back and forth in a gentle manner. However, the three big drops were actively unpleasant, with the third delivering a horrible slam ot the back of the head that felt like someone had taken my forehead and forced it into a solid wall. The intensity was commendable, but the brutality certainly was not, to the point that I wouldn't be at all sorry to see the ride being sent to the great midway in the sky.
We decided to recover from our injuries on Kärlekstunneln, a dark ride known in English as the Tunnel of Love. The attraction, which first opened in 1917, featured flume boats moving through a lengthy routing filled with a wide variety of scenes reflecting amorous adventures, including partly clothed fairies with exposed boobs, a baker kissing his customer, and a boy and girl looking longingly at each other from a distance. Almost all of the imagery was protected by plexiglass screens, an unfortunate downgrade made some years ago to avoid damage from misbehaving teenagers.
We went from there to Lustiga Huset, one of the few really elaborate fun houses remaining in regular operation and a definite highlight of any visit to Gröna Lund. All the usual effects were present, including moving steps, a spinning barrel, a crooked house, a slide on rollers that delivered a pleasant posterior massage, and a wood-paneled mat slide with an airtime hill. We were dispatched on this by an operator who tilted the entire boarding platform forward, sending us back to earth at speed. I added a little braking of my own in the interests of self-preservation, but honestly this wasn't necessary; next time I'm in the park I'll happily go at full speed.
Our last stop of the evening was on Blå Tåget, a 1935 ghost train ride that was fully renovated for the 2011 season. Some of the effects within were standard fare, but there were also several unusual elements including two points where the startling animatronic was located underneath the ride car. Towards the end of the layout there were a few strings hanging from the ceiling, and one of them managed to snag Megan's glasses, pulling them right off her head and throwing them to the ground. We ended up waiting about half an hour for a member of security staff to pause operation briefly for a search, though it could have been far worse; in major corporate parks we'd have had to wait for the ride to close for the evening before that could have happened.