Day two of our trip began with an extra two hours in bed, one thanks to the end of Daylight Savings Time and the other thanks to some unapologetic laziness. Inefficiencies brought on by lingering fatigue from the previous evening meant that we were well behind our planned schedule by the time we left our hotel, but we were able to reclaim virtually all of the time by driving energetically along the almost empty A9. It was thirty minutes after opening when we arrived at Märchenwald Saalburg, but despite that the car park was completely empty and there was no sign of recent human activity. Nevertheless a large placard confirmed the opening hours I'd found online, and with that in mind we deposited €1 in the meter and followed an unassuming sign for Fußweg Märchenwald pointing towards a forest trail.
The path followed a winding route that dropped a total of ten metres into a valley full of brightly coloured buildings that would no doubt feel like a magical world to the average five year old. There was a gate at its base that stood wide open next to an unattended ticket window, marking the second time this year that has happened to us. We stepped inside to have a look around, and quickly determined that the park had no power, indicated clearly by a collapsed bouncy castle and a variety of rigid animatronics. Our presence had been noticed, however; moments later a woman materialised from a building in the distance and began to walk in our direction. She made a brief stop at an electrical box, and with a flick of a switch the entire place abruptly came to life.
The park name translates to Fairy Tale Forest, and perhaps unsurprisingly the main attractions are a collection of elaborate dioramas representing scenes from children's stories. Quite a number were recognisable from those this writer grew up with, but many more were not, relying instead on recorded explanations in the local patois that from my perspective might as well have been dictated in ancient Greek. There were at least fifty in total, most of them laid out along an upward-sloping footpath that terminated at a goat enclosure complete with a coin-operated futterautomat, demonstrating once again that Germans have words for everything. My personal favourite is backpfeifengesicht, though I digress.
These days many obscure coasters are identified for the first time by enthusiasts browsing satellite imagery online, but Butterfly (#2303) was too well hidden to have been found that way. While composing this trip report I looked at Google Earth to double-check, and sure enough, the only thing visible at the exact ride location was trees. This made for a beautiful setting for our eleventh Heege tick of the year, and we enjoyed the experience so much that we promptly switched seats for a second go. The ride was running well enough that we might even have ridden a third time if we'd had another fifty cent piece available.
The park was beautiful, and to be honest the only negative for me was the presence of a coin box outside the toilets with signage indicating that a deposit was expected from users. This struck me as a bit excessive really; while chargeable public toilets are common practice in Germany it is not usual to find them inside locations that charge for admission. I felt that I'd already made enough of a contribution to the day's takings and ignored the sign with a clear conscience.
30th October 2016
WurzelRudi's ErlebnisWelt is the trading name used for a small set of year-round attractions located at SkiArena Eibenstock, including a hedge maze, a tube slide, and an alpine coaster that, to be blunt, isn't one of Wiegand's finer efforts. Allwetterbobbahn has a monotonous and boring layout that consists of repeated left and right turns across a grass field with just two drops for punctuation, the second of which coming no more than five seconds before the track end. There was a moderately entertaining whirring sound from the sleds during the initial acceleration, but it was just noise, as the overall top speed wasn't close to what we managed on the model yesterday.
30th October 2016
The municipality of Gelenau is located in the district of Erzgebirgskreis in eastern Germany, roughly twenty kilometres from the border with the Czech Republic. The local authorities operate a wide variety of sport and leisure services for their citizens and tourists alike, including indoor and outdoor swimming pools, miniature golf, an observation tower, a nature park, a ski slope, a running track, and an alpine coaster.
The Alpine-Coaster-Bahn was marginally better than the one earlier in the day at WurzelRudi's ErlebnisWelt, but still eminently forgettable. The lift hill and the first portion of the descent routed through thick forest which provided good visuals, and there was one particularly tight turn that delivered strong laterals as the sled came within a few feet of a tree. Aside from that however the layout did nothing of consequence, with the single worthwhile drop coming just metres before the end of the course.
30th October 2016
Sonnenlandpark is an enormous amusement park stretched across almost two hundred acres of land, making it more than four times the size of Blackpool Pleasure Beach and somewhat larger than Tayto Park. Despite the huge amount of space, however, the place has just two full sized mechanical rides, namely a Riesenrad (wheel) and a Wellenflieger (wave swinger) that stand on opposite corners of the site. Much of the remaining land is devoted to wide open green spaces, though there is also a flower garden, quad bikes, a boating lake, several playgrounds, mechanical diggers, and a small selection of Heege products.
One of the inherent challenges in writing regular trip reports is how to remain interesting when describing something covered many times before. The challenge is amplified when discussing something like a Butterfly (#2304) as there's really only so much that can be said about a V-shaped piece of steel track that is traversed by a yellow-coloured bucket. One cannot use the standard catch-all of good laterals on a ride that doesn't turn corners, and similarly any discussion of airtime would no doubt be met with little more than a polite snigger. In the early nineties I managed to compose a four page long punishment essay discussing the inside of a ping-pong ball (courtesy of the late Eamon Agnew, may he rest in peace) by discussing a secret and previously unknown world, but it'd be tough to get away with that approach when reviewing a coaster.
Instead, I thought I'd indulge in some gratuitous rambling about the provenance of the Heege Butterly, or to give it a completely fictional but authentic sounding Latin name, papilio heege. The first two examples of the species materialised at Potts Park in 1985, and both remain in operation over three decades later in their current homes of Bayern Park and Familienfreizeitpark Funny-World. A total of sixty-one original models were built over twenty-five years, culminating in the final installation at Mc-Play Kinderland in 2010. A mark two version premiered at Familypark in 2014, and seven more of those have opened since, including three this year. Megan, ever the nerd, decided to take a close-up of the manufacturer plate on this unit for her private collection.
As we had plenty of spare time we decided it was worth doing a complete lap of the park, and that was how we discovered a set of coin operated mechanical diggers set in a circle around what is probably best described as a quarry. It took a bit of time to figure out how the controls worked, but after a while both of us mastered the technique well enough to systematically lift quantities of gravel into the air and dump them out in other locations. A fifty cent coin was sufficient for five whole minutes of entertainment, which felt like excellent value for money.
There was a sign up on the path leading to the Riesenrad indicating that it would only operate today during visits by the park train, reflecting the relative dearth of visitors on a cold Sunday at the end of the season. We decided to stroll up to it anyway to have a look, and in so doing came across a herd of deer that were apparently well used to being ogled by park guests. We were able to take some beautiful close-up photographs that more than made up for the lack of aerial shots (which, in retrospect, would probably only feature treetops and fields anyway).
30th October 2016
The decision to call into the fair at Dresden was taken at the last minute as we would otherwise have arrived back at our hotel before nightfall, a positively unconscionable sin on a coaster trip. We targeted our GPS at the location of the Herbstmarkt, parked in the underground car park at Altmarkt, and walked up to the surface to find absolutely no sign of a fairground. After a brief unsuccessful exploration Megan suggested that we should look for it from the top of the nearby Kreuzkirche tower, and this proved an excellent suggestion as the brightly coloured BFOFW stood out clearly on the horizon. It subsequently became clear that Herbstmarkt and Herbstfest were not in fact interchangeable terms; readers retracing our steps might want to bear that in mind.
There was only one coaster set up, but it was an excellent one. I'd not ridden Mexico City (Fischer) in over five years and had somehow allowed myself to forget the impossibly good airtime from a ride that from ground level looked like an undistinguished family coaster. It was quite telling to find a fifteen minute queue, suggesting that the locals had realised that they had a gem in their midst.