Travel Note

27th September 2019

My adventure this weekend began with an evening flight to Frankfurt Airport, followed by a two-and-a-bit hour drive east to the Ibis Hotel in Bamberg. The staff member at check-in spoke flawless English with a southern drawl, leading me to ask him how an American had ended up in a small town in eastern Germany. It turned out that he was German, but that he'd spent much of his childhood in Arkansas. I asked whether he spoke his native language in an American accent, and was told that was entirely dependent on how much he'd had to drink.

The hotel was clean but basic, and as there was no air conditioning available I decided to leave my window open. This was a tactical error; at around 2:30am a group of people found themselves evicted from a nearby pub, and their raucous convevrsation continued in the street for the next twenty minutes. By the time they dispersed I was well and truly awake, and despite my best efforts it proved impossible to resume sleeping. After four hours of staring at the ceiling I gave up and went to get an early breakfast.

 

Freizeitpark Plohn

27th September 2019

One strange thing about Germany for foreign visitors is the fact that credit cards are not universally accepted. This almost caught me out on my last trip to Freizeitpark Plohn back in 2016, and rather than risk a repeat performance today I routed past an ATM on my morning drive. I'm glad to report that this was unnecessary, as the park now accepts plastic, though in a nod to the previous century it remains impossible to make a contactless payment.

New this season is Dynamite (#2824), a Mack Rides BigDipper that is reported to be the park's largest investment to date. The short layout is very different to its highly regarded predecessor, consisting of a dive drop, two tunnels, a zero gravity roll, and a standard vertical loop (an element that RCDB helpfully records as having been in production since 1848). The pacing was good, but the comfort level sadly wasn't; there was significant vibration noticeable in both front and back, and the third inversion had a nasty shuffle that drastically limited my desire to repeat it. I decided to stop after three laps despite the fact that there was no queue.

Dynamite

My other essential tick today was Drachenwirbel (#2825), a three loop compact spinning coaster from SBF Rides that opened just three weeks after the type made its German premiere. There were no other guests in that part of the park, and given that the operator asked me if I'd like to stay on board for a second cycle. Though tempting I decided instead to head for Miniwah, the combination powered coaster and dark ride added to the park for the 2015 season. Once again I had the ride to myself, and with free selection I decided to sit in the front seat for an enjoyable three lap cycle.

With that done I made my way across to El Toro, only to find the station door locked and no staff in sight. In an ideal world I'd have done at least a few laps, but after a few minutes of hanging around it became evident that that wasn't going to happen.

 

Erlebnisfelsen Pottenstein

27th September 2019

Adventure Rock Pottenstein is one of nine amusement parks around Germany operated by Josef Wiegand GmbH, a name best known to enthusiasts as the manufacturer of around two thirds of the world's alpine coasters. The park is a showroom (and testbed) for the manufacturer; it features a restaurant, a lookout over a steep valley, an alpine slide, an alpine coaster, and a family friendly inverted coaster. There was no sign of activity in the area when I arrived, but I rang the doorbell at the cash desk and sixty seconds later someone materialised to take my money.

The sky was beginning to darken, and given that it seemed best to knock off the two coasters before deciding on whether or not to buy a ticket for the alpine slide. I decided that my priority was Hexenbesen (#2826), an inverted coaster from the Mystical Hex product family with individual cars seating two people side by side. My previous encounters with the type had different vehicles, though in all honesty the experience was effectively the same; a low speed descent punctuated by gentle turns and three cable lift hills. The ride wasn't something I felt the need to do more than once.

That being said, the experience was still an order of magnitude better than Frankenbob, an utterly flaccid alpine coaster with automatic braking along virtually the entire course. My sled had a permanently fitted windscreen that erased what little excitement that might have been left, as there was no sensation of wind hitting my face. Rain started to fall within seconds of my arrival back at the station, which I took as my cue to head for the exit.

Pottenstein

 

AltmühlBOB

27th September 2019

The AltmühlBOB is a Wiegand alpine coaster that has operated in the hills of Riedenburg for over two decades. The ride is one of the oldest examples of its type still in operation, and that is reflected in the comfort level which falls quite a long way short of more modern installations. Each track join was marked by a jarring bump, and after the first few I found myself violating coaster enthusiast regulation and applying the brakes in order to avoid bruising. One €2.60 descent was enough.

Fortunately the site is also home to something far better. Speed Bob (#2827) uses the same basic track design as an alpine coaster but swaps the ground-hugging layout for a series of back to back airtime hills. Spending three and a half minutes on a lift for eighteen seconds of descent may seem like a poor ratio, as indeed it is, but once up to speed the ride experience is pure unadulterated fun. I completed three laps at €3 per go, and would happily have done more.

Unfortunately as I was heading back towards the cash register I was accosted by a local woman who started shouting at me in the local patois. My polite "I'm sorry but I don't speak German" switched the tirade to English; apparently I had been seen taking photographs of her children and she "did not want that". I'd done nothing of the kind; as per usual I'd been making a deliberate effort to get ride photographs without people in them. I started scrolling through the images on my camera to show exactly what I'd taken, but perhaps half a minute of that she informed me that she knew what she had seen and would be calling the police if I didn't leave right away. Though I'd done nothing wrong, and had proved as much, I decided that my life would be simplified if I departed as requested.

 

Munich Oktoberfest

27th September 2019

I was still somewhat miffed ninety minutes later when I checked into my hotel in the outskirts of Munich, but my mood brightened considerably as I boarded the U-Bahn in the direction of Theresienwiese. At least a third of the people on the train were dressed in traditional lederhosen and dirndls, and though most were sober there were a subset who'd clearly begun to party early. There was a short queue to get in to the site, which turned out to be a rudimentary method of crowd control as the event was absolutely jammed. I'd not thought to make a reservation at one of the beer halls, meaning that there was essentially no chance for me to experience one, but that wasn't a big deal as my primary interest was (as ever) the various rides.

Oktoberfest

My first stop was at Heidi the Coaster (#2828, €7), an upgraded version of the venerable Reverchon mouse with an exceptionally fast lift hill and a banked turn connecting the first and second drops. The cars were themed to a standard only ever seen in Germany; each had an onboard sound system, a lighting package, and an artificial grass surface because steel floors in coaster trains are clearly passé. The altered track layout was definitely an improvement over the original, leading me to do two laps, though I suspect that much of my enthusiasm for it came from the fact that it was something that I hadn't come across before. It'll be interesting to see if the changes are offered as a retrofit for older machines; it would seem like a good way to give them a fresh lease of life.

Tick number two became Wilde Maus (Münch / Lift Left) (#2829, €6.50), a classic machine finally encountered in the flesh eleven years (and 1615 coasters) after I ticked off its twin. The experience was thrilling and aggressive, yet smooth, and I'd happily have done a second lap if the price had been a little lower. Instead my next hit became Pirateninsel (Kinzler) (#2830, €3.50), a brand new Wacky Worm with a slight curve at the back of the station. There was a small slide hanging off one side that younger patrons could use as a rapid station exit.

With my three new credits logged I spent some time exploring the ground to see what else might be on offer. I'd already gotten close to my maximum planned budget, but there was no way that I was going to leave without trying at least one of the other big machines. My choice ended up being Dr Archibald: Master of Time, a multi level tracked dark ride reimagined as a virtual reality experience. The €10 ticket price was high, but arguably justified for an attraction that included a physical pre-show, a fun house, and a journey through multiple different worlds. The VR worked very well indeed, and while a higher resolution image would have been nice the definition was easily good enough to be convincing.

The final ride of the night was a €10 back seat on Olympia Looping. The ride looked fantastic, thanks to an upgraded lighting package installed for its thirtieth anniversary. The experience was as brilliant as ever and a fine way to finish my day.