Qəbələnd Əyləncə Mərkəzi

4th June 2018

Some weeks ago a discussion took place in the European Coaster Club group on Facebook where it was suggested that "credit whoring is always bad". The reader will likely not be surprised to learn that I profoundly disagree with this assertion; my obsession with riding every last roller coaster has resulted in travelling to a wide variety of interesting places that I'd never have made it to otherwise, and it even led to me meeting Megan on a trip to China. We've joked since that one doesn't go on a coaster holiday expecting to come back with a heterosexual relationship; truth is stranger than fiction sometimes.

Qəbələnd Əyləncə Mərkəzi is the sort of park a non-counting enthusiast could easily dismiss. The place is three and a half hours drive from Baku, and around half of that journey is on poor quality roads where one constantly has to be on the lookout for wayward farm animals. It takes a certain level of insanity to commit to that length of journey for a Big Apple and a Butterfly, but the effort is justified by a beautiful park in a setting that is well up there with the very best that mother nature has to offer. We didn't do all that many rides, but despite that we spent over four hours on site, far longer than I'd have predicted prior to our visit.

Qebeland

The park is open from 10:00am until midnight six days a week, and operates on a pay-per-ride basis with a token admission fee of one manat (~€0.50). As with Koala Park it was necessary to use the park smart card for shop purchases, though credit card top up machines were available enabling conventional payment via a two step process. We decided to begin our day with Amerikan Təpəcikləri (#2429), a forgettable Sartori Rides family coaster that had evidently been repainted very recently; its yellow track looked magnificent in the late morning sun. This was followed up with two rides on Yellənçək Kəpənək (#2430), the second courtesy of the operator, who indicated that we should remain seated while he pressed the start button a second time.

We spent some time exploring the park before happening upon a series of cabanas over running water that we initially thought to be a small scale water park. We'd actually found Caspian Baliq Evi, the park restaurant, which served top notch food at prices that were a small fraction of what I'd have expected to pay at home. The menus had passable English translations, making things easy. The local soft drink was definitely not to all our tastes, but I can report that the lamb kebabs were superb, being well up there with the best restaurant meals I've had, and streets ahead of typical amusement park slop.

In addition to rides Qəbələnd features a number of sports facilities that I would not normally associate with an amusement park, including a professional level Paintball Arena with lookout towers, a volleyball court, an enclosed ice skating rink, and a soccer pitch with stadium seating for four hundred spectators. It might have been fun to watch a few minutes of a game, but we'd have been waiting a while with almost nobody else in the park, so with that in mind we decided to conclude our visit with the Panorama giant wheel. The twenty cars were fully enclosed, and sunlight coupled with fixed position windows made it virtually impossible to get good photographs, though we still got a few to add to our collection.

 

Baku Boulevard

4th June 2018

Baku Boulevard is a two hundred metre wide promenade that stretches almost four kilometres along the waterfront in downtown Baku. Much of the space is a public garden, though it also features a number of local landmarks, not least the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum which is every bit as exciting as it sounds. There are a small number of amusement rides that have been permanently installed, concentrated in two areas on either side of the Park Bulvar shopping mall: a manually operated Top Spin that flipped at least two dozen times, a Pirate Ship, a Frisbee, a Carousel, two sets of Bumper Cars, and an absolutely superb dark ride.

Qebeland

Qorxulu Ev, broadly translated as House of Horrors, was written about some years ago by a well known theme park blogger who complained about getting his nose and teeth caught on a sticky curtain. His comments were subsequently picked up by CNN and quoted verbatim in an article describing some of the scariest amusement rides in the world, a fairly shocking example of lazy journalism that treated the word of one person with an agenda as verified fact. I can't comment on whether the incident described happened or not, but what I can say is that the experience today was comparable to what one would expect to find at the best international theme parks, making the five manat (~€2.50) price tag an absolute steal.

The ride uses a smooth variable speed drive system spanning two floors that is considerably quieter and more refined than what one usually finds on fairgrounds. The seals on the doors are effective; once through the entrance the only light comes from LED rings on security cameras and special effects. There is also a distinct chill from air conditioning that adds just the right level of atmosphere. The effects inside include both short illuminations (including severed heads hanging from the ceiling, someone with an alien popping out his torso, a green slime monster, and a shaking coffin) and longer stretches where the walls are decorated in elaborate patterns featuring dimly lit skulls at their centre.