Krasnodar (Краснодар) is the sixteeenth largest city in Russia by population, with just over a million inhabitants as of the most recent census. Though it has no particularly notable industries it is nevertheless considered to be one of the most important historical and cultural centres in the southern part of the country. Major attractions include the Felitsyn Museum, the Kovalenko Art Museum, Saint Catherine's Cathedral, the Splash Fountain, and the Shukhov Tower.
Readers of these pages will be rather more interested in the five urban parks managed by the local authorities, all of which have amusement rides. Due to time constraints we only visited the three with roller coasters visible on Google Earth; those retracing our steps at a more relaxed pace are encouraged to call in to the others and report back. All locations share the same rechargeable smart card ticketing system; a new card is available for ₽50 (~€0.67).
Gorky Park Krasnodar
20th August 2019
We began our morning at Gorky Park (Парк Горького), where we were spotted almost immediately by a member of management. He spoke no English whatsoever, but we were able to have a low bandwidth conversation with the aid of translation software. After the usual pleasantries we asked whether it might be possible to get special dispensation to ride the Caterpillar, a powered coaster that has a 1.3m (~4ft3) height limit despite the lack of any obstacles above the track necessitating one. Sadly the regulation proved inviolable, though our contact had the good grace to look apologetic when giving us the bad news, which cushioned the blow somewhat.
Tsar Hill (#2759) is the only known example of the Pax Tsarskaia, a coaster far more thrilling than its diminuitive ten metre stature would suggest. The layout starts with a fast half height lift and airtime-laden curved drop that leads directly onto the main lift. Passengers are given a few short seconds to consider what on earth just happened before they are thrown unceremoniously into a full height drop, prefixed by a slight airtime bump that gives airtime all the way down in the back seat. A left turn and airtime hill lead into a tight right that is particularly dramatic in the front seat, followed by another airtime hill and a turn back to the station.
The experience is brilliant at both ends of the train, and worthy of an entire thesaurus full of superlatives. It has everything an enthusiast could want: airtime, laterals, positive forces, and a real sense that the train is completely out of control. The ₽275 (~€3.85) ticket price is high by local standards, but it still feels like good value especially since each dispatch includes two laps of the track. While I wouldn't rank the ride above the late (and much lamented) Jungle Storm it is unquestionably one of the better coasters in Russia; enthusiasts planning their own adventures in this part of the world should not miss it.
Sunny Island Krasnodar
20th August 2019
There are dozens of parks and resorts in Russia named Sunny Island (Солнечный Остров), very few of which exist on islands in the traditional meaning of the word. One of the few exceptions is a so-called Park of Culture and Leisure in Krasnodar, which can be found within a tributary of the Kuban River in the south-eastern corner of the city. Private vehicles are not allowed across the access bridge, but there is a convenient parking garage adjacent to the entrance that costs ₽100 (~€1.35) per hour.
The primary reason for our visit was Wild Train, a clone of the highly regarded coaster of the same name that premiered at the turn of the millennium at Parc Saint Paul. From a distance the ride looked to be serviceable, but on closer inspection it was clear that the train hadn't moved in some time. Grass could be seen growing through the rails, and a tyre drive motor was covered with white plastic sheeting that was being monitored closely by park security (pictured below). A member of management told us that the ride was an independent concession that had been closed for two months, and that he had no idea when (or if) it would be returned to service. (I've since learned that another group of enthusiasts found it in a similar state during a 2017 visit, suggesting that its operational schedule is sporadic at best.)
There was more bad news to come; the oval Nessi that we'd been hoping to find had been dismantled in April. We spent a quarter of an hour wandering around the grounds to see whether there might be anything else of interest, but all we found were children's rides. The visit thus became a total miss; we took a few photographs for posterity then headed for the exit.
20th August 2019
Chistyakovskaya Roshcha is a public park that dates from the start of the twentieth century. The original facilities were allowed to fall into disrepair during Soviet times, leading to an extended closure. In 2008, the local authorities razed and redeveloped the site, allocating a portion of the space to what has since become the largest "children's town" in the area. An ideal park, according to the director of the park, is a synthesis of the historical past, traditions and modern achievements in the field of entertainment, which should not interfere with other forms of recreation.
We knew ahead of time that our chances of riding the park's single helix powered coaster were close to non-existent, but we figured that we should at least attempt to identify and photograph the ride for the benefit of the enthusiast community. Sure enough signage at the Caterpillar indicated a fifty kilogram weight limit, and there were no operators in sight to negotiate with. We determined the hardware to be a product of the Zhengzhou Limeiqi Amusement Equipment Company; one presumes that the other attractions nearby were also of Chinese origin.
Park Attraktsionov Golubitskaya
20th August 2019
Golubitskaya (Голубицкая) is a slightly depressing beach resort on the Sea of Azov, roughly fifty kilometres east of the Kerch Strait and the Crimea. It is a typical seaside town, filled to the brim with hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops selling beachwear and discount alcohol. There are no significant tourist attractions in the general area; it is simply a place for people who want to relax and drink far too much in the sunshine. (The idea of spending an extended vacation in such a place fills me with existential dread, but I digress.)
Park Attraktisonov occupies roughly nine thousand square metres of land adjacent to a dolphinarium on the eastern side of the town. Signage at the cash desk enumerates twenty-three different attractions, though almost all of these are limited to younger visitors only. Today there were four operational rides suitable for adults: a 9D Theatre showing a dinosaur movie, a Chair Swing (Цепочная Kарусель) with a rudimentary Angry Birds theme, a walkthrough House of Fear (Дом Cтраха), and an unexpectedly brilliant roller coaster.
Shrek (#2760) is a double helix design with Horská Dráha embossed on its control box, suggesting that it began life in the Czech Republic. Today it was decorated with edited photographs of well-known coasters around the world, including Blue Fire, Formula Rossa, Griffon, Magnum XL-200, Millennium Force, Shock, and an unidentified Arrow looping coaster with yellow track. The first lap of the ₽250 (~€3.38) ride was flaccid, but then the tyre drives began to accelerate, transforming the experience into an extreme thrill reminiscent of Amerikanskaya Gorka. It didn't occur to me to measure the final top speed until much later, but anecdotally I can say that it was quite a way past what I'd have expected from standing on the midway.
20th August 2019
The Black Sea Coast is the primary domestic tourist destination in Russia. During the summer months there are over five hundred weekly flights to the three main airports in the area (Anapa AAQ, Gelendzhik GDZ, and Sochi AER) as well as regular train services from all over the country. It is also feasible to drive from Moscow over two days; a motorway covers the entire route, and there are plenty of hotels along the way. In peak season the area can be extremely crowded, and so it was today; we hit a major traffic jam on the outskirts of Vityazevo (Витязево) and spent a good half hour driving in circles before we managed to find a parking space.
Skazka Vityazevo is a delightfully haphazard summer funfair centered around a ten metre high replica of the Eiffel Tower. Satellite imagery shows that many of the rides change each season, though at least a few appear to remain on site all year round. Chief among them is Typhoon (#2761), a portable family coaster with a layout that owes much to the original Schwarzkopf Jet Star. An engineer was doing something to the lift hill motor as we approached, but the work was evidently wrapping up as the staff were more than happy to sell us ₽300 (~€4.06) tickets.
A group of locals were dispatched as we climbed the station platform, and we were just about to climb into the next car when we heard a loud snapping noise. An electrical cable flew through the air as we watched agog, and moments later the active car came to an unceremonious halt on the anti-rollback dogs at the top of the second hill. A series of excited gesticulations (and a real life invocation of "ёб твою мать" – apparently Russians really do say that) emphasised the obvious; the operator had forgotten to make sure the track was clear before pressing the dispatch button. In many parts of the world the ride would have been shut down for an immediate investigation, but fortunately not in Russia; within minutes a number of staff members had climbed the structure (without harnesses of any kind) and given the car enough of a push to allow it to continue its journey. Two test cars were dispatched, and as they returned successfully the ride was deemed safe to operate.
The layout started out very well, with a drop and powerful ground-level turn negotiated without even a hint of jarring. Unfortunately the climb out that followed burned a little too much potential energy, leaving almost nothing for the remainder of the course. A descending helix and small drop were negotiated in a manner akin to a Sunday afternoon drive by an octogenarian in a Trabant, and the final brake had almost nothing to do as we arrived at it at scarcely more than walking pace. We decided against investing in a second lap.
RCDB had an entry for a second coaster called Speedy Gonzales, but it was nowhere in sight today. Instead we found Nessi (#2762), an eastern European oval with signage for Парки Города (City Parks) and an inspection certificate that had expired some sixteen months earlier. The ₽200 (~€2.70) ticket covered ten laps, which was nine more than we really needed. (When writing up this report I realised that my photos matched exactly with the machine that we'd missed at Sunny Island Krasnodar; perhaps the overdue inspection was more of a liability there.)
20th August 2019
It took us just under ten minutes to walk the seven hundred metres from Skazka Vityazevo to Vizantiapark. Our target was the improbably named Alpine Coaster (#2763), a stacked oval Yamasakutalab machine priced at ₽225 (~€3.04) per person. The ride experience was exactly as expected: an eminently pleasing blend of speed and lateral forces that went on for a very long time.
Park Razvlecheniy Vityazevo
20th August 2019
There was a temporary funfair set up on a lot adjacent to Vizantiapark, and we decided it was worth burning a few minutes to investigate it. Our efforts were rewarded with the discovery of Explosion Speed, a stacked oval coaster that I'd ridden nine years before in Prague. The station and train had been spruced up over the intervening years, but the experience was unchanged; a pleasant if not particularly memorable family coaster that cost us ₽200 (~€2.70) per person.
Luna Park Vityazevo
20th August 2019
Luna Park Vityazevo is a little under two kilometres south-east of Park Razvlecheniy Vityazevo. It would have been nice to walk, but driving made more sense given that it was more or less on the way to our overnight hotel. Giving up our parking space was a gamble that had the potential to go badly wrong for us, but on this occasion it didn't; we were able to claim a new spot roughly two hundred metres from the park entrance. Soon after we'd ticked off Roller Coaster (#2764), another trailer-mounted eastern European oval that cost us ₽200 (~€2.70) apiece.
Sunny Island Anapa
20th August 2019
We'd planned to finish our day in Vityazevo, but we were several hours ahead of schedule, and given that we decided to shoehorn in a few extra locations. The first of these was a second Sunny Island (Солнечный Остров), in this case a children's park with twenty separate rides and attractions packed into just five thousand square metres of space. Our arrival coincided with a brief rainstorm, but it had cleared by the time we'd purchased ₽100 (~€1.35) tickets for the coaster.
Caterpillar (#2765) is a generic Big Apple with a fixed position lap bar in each car. The seats are among the smallest of those I've encountered on the genre, requiring crossed legs and contortion to get into. I ended up occupying about four fifths of the available space, yet despite the obvious squeeze the operator insisted that someone else would need to ride with me. My incredulous gesticulations were ignored; moments later a local child had been wedged into the spot. The resulting three laps were not enjoyable, though on the plus side at least both of us got to tick off the credit!
Detskiy Park Anapa
20th August 2019
Those who have been around this hobby for a long time will be familiar with Euro-Star, an enormous inverted coaster that toured around Germany from 1995-2008. The spectacular ride required an incredible eighty-five trailers to move, making it by some margin the largest transportable ride ever created. Despite its bulk however the construction team were able to set it up on a new site in just fourteen days, as indeed they did over sixty times during its touring career.
Towards the end of 2008 it was sold to new owners in Russia, who placed it on a riverside boardwalk at Gorky Park Moscow. It ran there until mid-2011, when Mosgorpark took the unfortunate decision to refocus the city park on green spaces. Though pieces of track were pictured in storage the general consensus was that it would never be seen in action again.
Nobody could ever have predicted that the ride would rematerialise after an eight year hiatus, or that its new home would be at a small family park in Anapa. Nevertheless it premiered at Detskiy Park (Детский Парк) just twelve days before our trip with a premium ₽500 (~€6.77) price tag. Unfortunately the thrills were short lived; a technical snag with the lift hill mechanism shut it down within days, and repairs were still underway during our visit. The disappointment at missing out was tempered by more than a little relief, given my memories of riding it in Germany, though it's worth noting that friends who visited a week after we did reported that it was nowhere near as violent as it might have been.
The park has two other roller coasters, both of which were relocated from the defunct Attrapark VDNKH in Moscow. First up was the unique two-seater Wilde Maus, a thrilling and intense ₽300 (~€4.06) attraction that was worth every kopek; we'd probably have ridden it more than once had the queue been a little shorter. With that done we headed for the Mini Coaster; the operator laughed at the fact that we wanted to ride, but accepted our ₽150 (~€2.03) tickets without complaint.
20th August 2019
Our itinerary had a note beside Anniversary Park stating that parking in the area would be extremely difficult and that walking would be preferable. We decided on the spur of the moment to ignore this, a decision that proved to be a serious tactical error. Joining a queue of other motorists hunting for a space led to us having to reverse the length of a one-way street, a challenging task at the best of times made no easier by the fact that other vehicles had followed the throng into the proverbial rabbit hole. In the end it took almost an hour to find a spot, during which tempers began to fray; twenty minutes on foot would have been infinitely easier.
The three coasters at the park were all cookie cutter machines, and only worth the effort for unapologetic credit whores. Our first hit was Shrek (#2766), a double helix creation from Fun Rides Tech that cost us ₽200 (~€2.70) per person. We followed this up with Roller Coaster (#2767), an undistinguished ₽300 (~€4.06) knock-off Galaxi. The third coaster proved remarkably difficult to find, but after some back and forth we located the Caterpillar (#2788), a Wacky Worm that cost us ₽200 (~€2.70) per person. The Apple structure had illumination on the inside, but was otherwise no different to the hundreds of other installations worldwide.