Travel Note

3rd June 2017

Bulgaria is not the first or even the second place a coaster enthusiast might consider for a weekend trip. RCDB lists only four permanently installed credits in the country, along with two powered dragons, and all are cookie cutter rides of the sort that can be found at travelling funfairs around the world. We decided to visit mainly because there was a cheap direct flight on a Saturday morning, coming in at just €49 per person for the three and a half hour journey from Dublin to Sofia. As always our schedule was planned around the various parks, though we managed to fit in some tourism too, not least a visit to a spectacular house (pictured below) in the outskirts of the city.

Snail House

Our flight was operated by a Sofia-based aircraft and crew, and as per usual for Ryanair the "Boarding" message went up on the display while the inbound aircraft was circling over the Irish Sea. A cursory glance at Flightradar24 indicated a predicted nineteen minutes until landing, which air traffic control subsequently turned into thirty. When the aircraft eventually landed it taxied to a different gate, making me wonder for a moment if we'd been corralled into standing in the wrong place, a feeling reinforced a few minutes later when the boarding message vanished. In due time, however, a flight crew appeared, and perhaps ten minutes after the scheduled departure we were finally allowed on board.

The crossing was uneventful enough, with the only factor of interest being some fairly obvious tension between the two members of cabin crew assigned to the front of the aircraft. The number one was obviously in a foul humour, and she was taking out her displeasure on a junior subordinate, who looked like she was about to cry. We observed the poor lady being sharply criticised on more than one occasion for what can only be described as trivialities, and I'd have been tempted to intervene were we not all sitting on a moving aircraft where any less than favourable commentary from a passenger tends to be turned into a security issue.

Passport control was remarkably efficient, with all desks open and several rows of self-service machines for European citizens. I decided to go through the latter, and I'm amused to report that the machine was localised into perfectly serviceable Irish (which I can't imagine all that many Bulgarians speak fluently). I'd been a little worried about how long it might take to sort out a rental car, given that no preferred service was available, but the staff member on duty was friendly and efficient, taking less than ten minutes to give me my keys. All told we were on our way out of the airport about thirty-five minutes after landing, which is better than I've experienced at many more mainstream hubs.

 

SkyPark

3rd June 2017

SkyPark is a collection of a dozen rides on the roof of the Paradise Center shopping mall around twenty minutes drive from Sofia Airport. The mall has surface car parks on three sides that are visible on Google Earth, but readers would be better advised to go to the enormous underground one accessed via an easily-missed ramp on the southern side. There's no problem going all the way to the lowest level, as there are lifts from there that come out beside the food court and a door leading to the ride area.

Roller Coaster Typhoon (#2331) is an Interpark Cyclon and (on paper at least) a clone of the magnificent ride we enjoyed earlier this year at Crazy Park. This model wasn't in the same league, however, as a series of trim brakes took their toll on the top speed. Though the tracking was fine, the overall experience was a little disappointing given what we know the hardware to be capable of. The one significant positive was the location, which gave us a clear view of the city, the nearby mountains, and dark clouds that caught up with us an hour later as we drove east towards our overnight hotel.

Typhoon