Our final weekend break of 2018 began with an early morning flight to Dusseldorf Airport. Our friends Bruno and Anita had hoped to pick us up, saving the cost and hassle of a rental car, but were forced to withdraw earlier in the week due to personal circumstances. I made a last minute booking with Avis in the full expectation that it would be too late to confirm preferred service, necessitating queuing at the airport counter. As such it was a pleasant surprise when I received a text message after landing telling me to head directly to the office on level four of the multi-storey car park.
DUS is not a small airport, and as such it took almost fifteen minutes to walk to the designated location from exit of the baggage hall. The office was empty, with a sign in the window telling us that "on Saturdays and bank holidays our Preferred Desk is located in the arrival terminal". The staff on duty there were very apologetic, telling me that i was supposed to receive an email telling me to ignore the text message. Perhaps I'm overthinking things, but would it not have made more sense to just not send the text message in the first place?
Wildlands Adventure Zoo Emmen
29th September 2018
Emmen is a town of around one hundred thousand people located in the north-eastern corner of the Netherlands, just ten kilometres from the German border. Its prime attraction from 1935-2015 was Dierenpark Emmen, which was widely considered to be one of the finest zoos in Europe. At the end of 2015 the local municipality decided to overhaul it completely into a "new type of theme park" where you can "discover new worlds, stand eye to eye with wild animals, and experience exciting adventures". This description, though creative, is codswallop; for the average visitor Wildlands remains a zoo, albeit a particularly elaborate one with quality dining options and a handful of amusement rides.
There are a number of digital signs on the approach roads to the town indicating the preferred parking route, which one presumes are adjusted on the fly based on local traffic and demand. We were directed to the primary car park, where we selected a spot next to the twin spikes of Tweestryd (#2537). This seemed like a good idea at the time, but was almost immediately revealed to be a tactical error, as it was about as far from the entrance as it was possible to be. Our walk to the turnstiles ended up being just shy of a kilometre, followed by almost the same again to get back to our target ride; those hoping to do a hit-and-run for the credit(s) should bear this in mind.
The new attraction is made up of two custom Vekoma Family Boomerangs that intertwine with each other. The layout doesn't have near miss elements, but it does have two spots where the trains pass close to each other at speed, allowing for some neat visuals. The tracks have the same length, and given that the computer ensures a different "winner" each time by releasing one train a split second before the other. The experience is definitely in family coaster territory, but despite that it is fun for young and old alike. The only niggle, and it's a minor one, is that the trains stop rather suddenly on the reverse spike; I managed to clobber my ankle on the restraint on my first lap on the right hand track. We crossed the station for the left hand track, where I'm pleased to say I managed to avoid a repeat.
The coasters can be found in the Serenga area of the zoo, which is also home to Serenga Safari, a seven minute long off-road journey negotiated by large articulated trucks seating around fifty guests at a time. The vehicles were stopped in front of different sets of animals for short periods, and the driver kept up a running commentary in the local patois. Our friend Midas translated the sole interesting fact in the mix; a baby Zebra that we were looking at had been born just a few weeks before. The routing featured two water splashes, though the wheels were more than high enough off the ground to prevent wet feet.
We were quite a bit behind our planned schedule at this stage courtesy of the earlier shenanigans at Dusseldorf Airport and heavy traffic on the Autobahn. Nevertheless, we decided after a quick meal break that we really couldn't leave without trying Rimbula River, a boat cruise from Mack Rides that has been installed at the far end of the Jungola section of the park. The experience features a mixture of sets and real animals, not least monkeys and elephants, and the nine minute journey is backed by an on-board sound track (though ours gave up part way around the course). The experience was decent enough, though nothing to write home about; those on a tight time schedule can safely give it a miss.
Ferienzentrum Schloss Dankern
29th September 2018
Ferienzentrum Schloss Dankern is one small part of the larger Schloss Dankern complex, a holiday village with houses and caravans rented out on a week-to-week basis in the summer months. The amusement park is open to non-residents, though it is tricky enough to access; our satnav took us along a series of back roads, and we were around four hundred metres away when we arrived at an illuminated bollard blocking the road. There was a tiny car park nearby with capacity for around thirty vehicles at the very outside, nowhere near what one would expect to find at an amusement park, but we decided to stop there anyway and continue exploring on foot. Soon afterwards we found an unassuming gate with a single cashier, where we handed over €14 apiece for our tickets.
Achterbahn (#2538) is the third worldwide installation of the ABC Rides' Tube Coaster, coming just shy of a decade after the second version opened at BillyBird Park Hemelrijk. The new ride is a mirror image of its predecessor, and it operates the same two-car train with a maximum combined load of three adults or four children. Riders board from a tower constructed at the apex of the lift hill and disembark at the base, which allows for a significant reduction in both the initial and ongoing costs of the motor equipment.
The park has done a nice job in blending the ride into its surroundings, and the result is interesting to look at. Unfortunately it isn't all that exciting to experience; the first fifteen seconds of coasting, one third of the total duration, is on almost completely flat track. Things improve somewhat with a descending drop to the right and airtime hill that delivers the vaguest hint of lift in the back car, but it was soon apparent that that was the only interesting bit of the layout. An empty portion of straight and level track (used for a block brake on its Dutch cousin) was traversed at walking pace, and the following left turn and right hand helix was unenthusiastic, almost as if the designers overspent their potential energy budget. The wheel mechanisms in use today were loud enough to limit conversation on board; I found myself wondering whether an improved design and/or a change of compound might speed things up a little.
With two laps complete we made our way over to Telerallye, a children's attraction listed on Coaster-Count under the "undefined" category. The experience – the word ride really isn't appropriate here – is a seated equivalent of the Telepherique at Parc Saint Paul, and not something that I would ever describe as a roller coaster. The lift wasn't quite tall enough for us to make it all the way around the track, a timely reminder (as if one were needed) that we were perhaps a little heavier than the usual audience.
29th September 2018
We decided to finish our day with a few hours at the Oldenburg Kramermarkt, where we planned to enjoy a few coasters and dinner. I'd assumed the event would be on par with the smaller fairs found in places like Erbach, Memmingen, and Niederfischbach, but the reality was quite different; the dedicated eleven acre site to the east of the city was packed to the gills with rides and attractions, and traffic in the area was a nightmare. Most visitors were using park and ride facilities in the suburbs, but we decided that we'd prefer to park within walking distance in the interests of making a quick exit at a time of our choice. This was a mistake; though we found a reasonably secure multi-storey car park within walking distance it was in a decidedly insalubrious part of town that those retracing our steps would do well to avoid.
Our first target was Karibik Coaster (#2539), one of two versions of the spinning figure eight to appear on the German fair circuit this year. The ride name translates to Caribbean Coaster, and perhaps unsurprisingly it was decorated with model pirates, treasure and assorted naval paraphernalia. The presentation was completed by an elaborate lighting package that added colour to the supports, the track spine, and even the edges of the cars. I have no idea how many laps we were given, but it seemed to go on forever; my sense is that the operator wanted to keep the train moving until there were enough guests ready for the next load.
Also present was Wilde Maus XXL, which had been built up in a depression at the edge of the ground. This worked surprisingly well, as guests approaching were able to see the entire fun house queue prior to buying their tickets. The ride entrance was set at around an eighty degree angle from the main structure, something I've not seen at previous events; one presumes this was necessary due to constraints of the Oldenburg site. Our first ride was with VR, which was working beautifully; the footage was identical to that I saw Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, complete with an English language message at the end. We went back for a second lap without the headsets, which was enjoyable if somewhat more sedate than it had been in Nürnberg, as the various trim brakes were in use.