Towards the end of last year I proudly declared my season of coaster trips to be at an end, only to end up visiting a fair two weeks later. It goes without saying that I had contemplated trying to return to the Nottingham Goose Fair, but had decided against it as there wouldn't be any new coasters there to justify the trip. My resolve was tested still further in mid-October when I received an e-mail about the coasters at the Hamburger Winterdom, but after some contemplation I decided that a visit just wasn't feasible.
Then, out of the blue, right at the end of October, I received an e-mail from George suggesting a crazy day trip. That was how I found myself going out the door at the eminently civilised hour of 7:15am for a bus to the airport. I only had to wait twenty five minutes at the stop for a service that is advertised as running every fifteen minutes, the severe traffic always found in the early hours of a Sunday morning having clearly played havoc with the scheduling. The journey into the airport went smoothly enough however, and thirty minutes later I was in the queue for security.
The departure lounge in Dublin was surprisingly busy, and the reason became clear almost immediately; all the morning flights to London Heathrow were delayed due to weather conditions on the ground there. Hamburg was on time, and a wave of relief washed over me until I suddenly realised that George had driven from Birmingham to London as the flights from there to Hamburg were a great deal cheaper. A frantic exchange of text messages indicated that all flights were being delayed due to fog except for the Lufthansa one he was on. As he put it, "Obviously they found the pilot a seeing eye dog thats able to see through fog.". Indeed.
On landing in Hamburg, I received another text message; "In Hanover outside term 1 arrivals by the volvo.". Exiting the arrivals area, I located the demonstration BMW (in Hamburg) and sure enough George was nearby, having located the obligatory cup of coffee. We managed to find the only taxi driver in the airport without a word of English, but having anticipated this I had a printed map showing where we wanted to go. Twenty five minutes and twenty euro later, we had arrived. It was 1:25pm; we would need to leave for the airport no later than 4:30pm.
There was over ninety minutes to kill before any of the rides opened, but this allowed ample time to explore the fairground and take all the photographs we wanted. The presentation of the various rides, walkthroughs, and restaurants (all portable) was astounding. It was hard even for a German fair veteran like me to believe the scale and attention to detail on constructions that are moved several times per year.
Chief among these attractions, and our reason for going to Hamburg in the first place, was Olympia Looping (#674). One can only begin to imagine what people thought of this ride when it was first presented at the 1989 Oktoberfest. Even now, fifteen years later, Rudolf Barth's giant portable monstrosity with five loops is still the largest portable roller coaster in the world, and arguably the best looking ride in the world with no theming, the five loops being set up with the logo of the Olympic rings. Remarkably, the tracking remains very smooth despite constant assembly and disassembly, a testament to the quality of the engineering and maintenance.
With the star attraction done we set about ticking off the other credits. Wilde Maus (#675) felt no different to the rodents at parks and fairs around the world, and for that reason it felt almost out of place here given that just about all of the other attractions were heavily themed. Nowhere was the emphasis on presentation more evident than on Star World (#676), which featured a sixty foot tall animatronic robot at its entrance whose only purpose seemed to be to catch the eye. Sadly the rest of the coaster didn't live up to the impressive first impression. The reason was simple; the car we were in spun so quickly that both of us were feeling ill when the time came to disembark.
One could argue that a drop ride probably isn't the best way to clear nausea, but in my case the Huss Rides Freefall (Goetzke) did the job. The program was surprisingly long, with six full sequences; three upward, and three downward. It seems likely that the owners run a longer programme on quiet days; as it was, there was no wait whatsoever.