The Sunkid Heege Butterfly is a small V-shaped family coaster that can be found all over Europe, with over seventy known examples as of this writing. Quite a few are located in parks that one would be hard pressed to visit without a child in tow, but many more are located in public gardens or nature parks that have plenty to interest all ages. Some enthusiasts take the view that these rides are not countable, but I'd argue that they fall into the same category as Half Pipes, Impulse Coasters, and even Shuttle Loops, and in any case rule one applies: it's my list, and I'll count what I like.
Day seven of our trip was geared mainly around a fair taking place in Nürnberg, but we had a few spare hours in the morning that we decided to use for butterfly hunting.
Affen- und Vogelpark
26th August 2016
Our first stop was at Monkey and Bird Park, located on the side of a mountain roughly seventy kilometers to the east of Köln. The entrance was at the top of the facility, and the tour route worked its way down a fifty metre difference in elevation to a set of Zierer Jet Skis at the base. This attraction was the only one to require an operator, but the place was littered with self-operated rides, including an inclined railway car to bring the terminally lazy (and us) back to the main entrance.
We started our exploration with an indoor hall that featured a variety of playground equipment as well as a half scale Nautic Jet and a motorised two person swing. One whole side was devoted to a giant inflatable trampoline pillow in alternating red and yellow stripes, and all remaining space was filled with trees and plants. It was quickly apparent that the coaster must be elsewhere, and thus we went back outside and followed the path past meerkats, cows, and a huge variety of colourful birds. In due course we arrived at the Butterfly (#2287) where we deposited a fifty cent coin for a fun (if somewhat silly) ride.
Megan had yet to experience some of the other Heege products, and she took the chance to try out two of them here. The first was Skydive, a seated zip line with a lift mechanism that allows one rider at a time to move back and forth along the same cable. The basic design has been a huge success over the years, with the manufacturer celebrating its 250th installation at Parc de la Vallee in 2013. She also tried Luna Loop, a single car equivalent to the Chance Rides Rok-N-Roll with manual controls allowing the two victims passengers to control their own rotation speed.
The real highlight of the visit, however, was the squirrel monkeys. A member of staff provided us with a small quantity of monkey food, which The War Department attempted to deliver in a methodical fashion. The little critters had other ideas, however: one slowly crawled up her arm before settling on her shoulder for a relaxed lunch. As designated photographer I didn't get too close, but I'm reliably informed that their hands and feet were soft as velvet, making them adorable.
26th August 2016
We anticipated that our second stop would be a fifteen minute hit and run at the outside, as indeed it was. Familienpark Herne makes up a small section of the larger Gysenberg Park, a public garden spanning a thirty-one hectare area. The ride area comprised a typical selection of Heege products as well as another set of Zierer Jet Skis, go-karts, and a giant slide whose €0.50 charge was being collected using an honesty box at its base. The €1 Butterfly (#2288) needed new brake pads, but all that really served to do was extend our cycle to almost two minutes of rocking back and forth before the stopping mechanism finally engaged.
Tier und Freizeitpark Gut Eversum
26th August 2016
We had an inauspicious start to our third park of the day when we found an almost empty car park and a deserted reception area. There was nobody around to give money to, and when someone turned up a few minutes later they didn't want to take it either; instead, they tried to explain something in extremely slow and methodical German, which proved just as incomprehensible as the rapid fire kind. We eventually determined that we were supposed to pay on the way out, a very positive reflection on local trustworthiness that became even more remarkable when the desk was still empty when we left an hour later. We had exact change available and duly pushed it underneath the door in the hope that it would eventually find its way to the right place.
The first thirty minutes of our visit was devoted to the various animal exhibits, including a set of squirrel monkeys that, unlike their cousins from earlier in the day, were more interested in the shade than in their human visitors. We walked past a urinating ostrich into an enclosure with a range of kangaroos and emus, as well as an aviary. As we explored it became evident that the facilities were both less spacious and less clean than those at Affen- und Vogelpark indicating a lower budget operation, though it was still far better than some of the parks I've visited.
We climbed a set of stairs up to the start point for three short alpine slides built out of concrete troughs, the longest of which stretched roughly seventy metres in length. All looked to have been out of use for some time, though; we didn't see anywhere to procure the required sleds and the tracks were covered in fallen leaves. There was also a decent sized miniature golf course and (surprisingly) another set of Zierer Jet Skis, though there was no operator in sight and even if there had been we'd probably have chosen to abstain based on the colour of the water.
A one hundred metre long building near the entrance was devoted to a model railway proudly advertised as the largest O-scale railway in Europe. Though technically accurate, the sheer number of scales makes this a fairly meaningless metric, especially when one considers the existence of the HO-scale Miniatur Wunderland a few hours away by road. Be that as it may, we were able to watch a variety of trains travelling around a pleasant landscape filled with buildings in the local style. Those attempting to retrace our steps should note that this exhibit only operates a few times each day; check the park web site for more details.
Butterfly (#2289) was new this year, and obviously so, with its fresh paint gleaming in the afternoon sun. The two seat car was of a new design that I'd not seen previously, replacing the normal wagon with a dual tone red and yellow car that looked considerably more robust. The ride cost the standard €1, and we very much enjoyed it.
26th August 2016
Satnav predicted a later arrival than we'd anticipated at Tierpark Nadermann, causing some brief concern that we'd miss the last admission time, but a quick check online indicated that we had enough slack to pick up our fourth Butterfly (#2290) of the day. This model felt every one of its twenty-three years, with a chain engagement that would not have been out of place on a first generation Vekoma Boomerang, but the rest of the experience was pure vanilla. I found myself contemplating whether two decades of €1 coins (and their old Deutschmark equivalents) would have been enough to allow the ride to turn a profit. The physical hardware would have been covered by just seven customers each day of the year, though that figure does not allow for ongoing maintenance and insurance costs.
Megan decided that she wanted to try the Nautic Jet, much to the amusement of the nearby adults, and agreed to go back for a second go after I missed the photograph the first time round. She told me that the boat hit the water with a thud, but that the ride experience otherwise was a lot of fun. I'd have done it myself but I was over the seventy-five kilo weight limit and I've seen first hand just how wet these rides can be when the posted limits are ignored!
As with the previous stops we spent a good chunk of time walking around a variety of animal exhibits that included donkeys, cows, camels, llamas, and pigs. There was a very angry looking jungle cat of indeterminate genus who bared its teeth and hissed at us as we passed. We also encountered a female in heat in the chimpanzee enclosure whose backside had swelled to the size of a sofa cushion. Her compatriots seemed utterly unimpressed at her decision to sit on it in a shaded spot, apparently oblivious to their charms.
26th August 2016
It was almost four hours later when we arrived at the Herbstvolksfest in Nürnberg. The hotel I'd booked us into was within walking distance of the fairground, but this fallback plan proved unnecessary as the local authorities had repurposed a large field nearby for temporary low cost parking. We were marshalled into a spot just feet away from the main road, putting us in the perfect location for a quick getaway at the end of the night. Though both of us were hungry as we entered the ground we nevertheless chose to obey enthusiast rule one, heading to the credits first.
Though the Black Hole wasn't new to me it might as well have been, as I'd forgotten just about everything about it in the seven years since I'd last ridden it in London. The ride is the only known example of the Zierer Hell Diver, which can be thought of as a scaled up version of the successful Flitzer design. The ride begins with a slight tyre drive incline followed by a turn and a chain lift that hauls a four person car to a ten metre apex. This is followed by an outdoor drop, a low to ground turn, and a climbing turn leading into a tent filled with dry ice fog and laser effects. The track from that point onwards cannot be seen, but consists of a blend of fast helices and turns that are negotiated smoothly all the way to the final brake. The result is a great ride that holds its own against the bigger coasters on the German fair circuit.
Our main reason for travelling to the fair was Twister (#2291), a spinning coaster designed by Italian manufacturer EOS Rides for British showman Harry Miller. The ride was sold to its current owner in 2009 and it has toured extensively since, aided considerably by its small footprint. This year, for example, it was booked into sixteen different locations over the course of the season, more than double the number of stops made by the larger travelling coasters. Tonight the ride was pretty awful; the cars hardly spun at all, and there was a horrendous slam to the side on the final turn made considerably worse by the presence of an unpadded metal bar between the legs that managed to hit the same basic spot repeatedly. Three laps of the short course constituted two more than I wanted, and it was a relief when the ride came to an end.
We went for a brief wander through the magnificent Lach & Freu Haus before winding up at Wilde Maus XXL, which tonight was being operated with virtually no braking. The result was a ridiculously intense ride with superb laterals and airtime and the most out of control feeling I've ever had from a mouse. If all the rides of this style ran so well I daresay enthusiasts would become far less jaded about the genre.
As night fell there were two loud bangs in the distance. This was followed in short order by almost all of the lights across the ground going out. My immediate thought was that an electrical substation had exploded, but moments later I realised that rides were still moving. It turned out that it was time for a spectacular fireworks display that made for a fabulous conclusion to the evening.