Travel Note

19th September 2020

During check-in at my Wiesbaden hotel yesterday evening the manager on duty asked for proof of a negative Coronavirus test. She was a bit taken aback when I politely explained that I didn't need one according to the information published on the website of the Robert Koch Institut. After some back and forth she agreed that I was correct but that it would be advisable for me to carry a test result with me "just in case". I thought about this recommendation for a while before deciding to ignore it; a positive result would have put me into quarantine, and there was no reason to spend money on something that the authorities said that I didn't actually need. (No other hotels on my trip asked for this paperwork, even though I checked into the last few after the RKI changed its advice for Ireland.)

 

Taunus Wunderland

19th September 2020

My first and only previous visit to Taunus Wunderland took place back in 2008 at a time when I wasn't particularly diligent about documenting my adventures. The two hundred words committed to electrons that day suggest that I liked the place, but otherwise convey only a handful of facts: steep terrain, an unbraked mouse, and a rather good flume. I looked through the photographs in my archive before setting out in the hope of stimulating a synapse or two, but I might as well not have bothered as the vague mental image I put together bore precious little resemblance to reality.

Taunus Wunderland

For more than four decades the park's main car park was located directly in front of what passed for a ticket office: a ramshackle prefab painted in a striking if unaesthetic mix of blue and yellow. The space was completely overhauled for the 2015 season, emerging as a pleasant tree-lined entrance plaza with a photo point (pictured above) and seating. A pedestrian walkway from this area runs underneath the adjacent L3037 to a new dedicated lot with space for somewhere in the region of six hundred vehicles. Meanwhile the previous overflow area to the north-east has been repurposed as a boneyard, and one suspects it will be used for expansion in due time.

At present the park is divided into four distinct lands. The first of these is Muckelsdorf (Muckel's Village), named after the park mascots. The full backstory is available on the official website, but the short version makes them sound a little bit like Ryanair cabin crew: "In the middle of the woods, surrounded by lush greenery and pure nature, lives a wondrous species: big as bears but gentle as lambs. The dearest beings you can imagine. Friendly, happy, funny. Always there when you need them and always ready for a new adventure." I didn't notice any of these creatures during my visit today; I can only assume that they were self-isolating somewhere.

The star attraction in the village at the moment is Circus Circus, a Huss Magic regarded by connoisseurs as the premier example of the type. It was set up at the park in early July, albeit on a temporary basis; it remains in the ownership of Gründler & Preuß and is expected to return to the fairground circuit when the COVID pandemic comes to an end. Today it was being operated by someone who knew what they were doing, making me rue the fact that I can no longer enjoy spin rides without consequences. I was forced to content myself with watching a cycle from ground level.

Enthusiasts retracing my footsteps should make time for two other hits in this area. Knall und Fall is a seventeen metre high Multi Motion Tower from ABC Rides that can tilt in four different directions, and while the experience is relatively tame it nevertheless wins points for novelty value. The other must-do is Spukhaus, a haunted swing that was built by little-known firm Schwingel GmbH back in 1973. The hardware lacks the refinement of more modern installations, but I'd argue that's exactly what makes it worth doing, as it constitutes a relic from a simpler time. There are no restraints inside, and I used the opportunity to sit sideways while the ride was running to get a different (and it must be said not entirely stomach friendly) effect.

Dinotal

The second of the park lands is the smallest, and in all honesty there is precious little of interest in it for anyone over the age of eight. Most of Opa Alfred's Dinotal (Grandpa Alfred's Dinosaur Valley) is devoted to a generic collection of large static models, and while these look reasonably impressive from a distance, the lack of detail in the sculpting becomes very obvious up close, especially when compared against similar exhibits elsewhere. The one item of peripheral interest is Professor Doktor Feuerbach, a standalone dark ride scene that can be seen in all its glory on YouTube.

On the far side of this area lies Tante Rosi's Zuckerwatteland (Aunt Rosi's Cotton Candy Land), which features a selection of flat rides and the park's signature coaster: a Mack Rides Wilde Maus. The machine in question was built in 1995 and toured for four years with the Barth family (of Olympia Looping fame) before being installed at the park under the name Taunusblitz. It was repainted into a deep red colour for the 2019 season and given a new (old?) name, though the rebrand was relatively discreet; the only places it can be seen as of this writing are on the park map and on the back of the themed four-seat cars.

The experience today was absolutely top notch for two reasons. The first was the usual way to upgrade a mouse; the trim brakes were not in use, ensuring that the cars built up quite a speed. The second was something I've not seen before; a performance stage had been set up inside the track boundaries, and a violinist was rehearsing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto with acoustic guitar for accompaniment. Amplification allowed the instruments to compete with anti-rollback noises, and though the stop-start performance was a long way from concert standard it still represented a significant upgrade over more typical park soundtracks. (Personally I'd love to see a coaster choreographed to Beethoven, perhaps the fourth movement of the seventh symphony. But I digress.)

The largest of the four lands is Onkel Benno's Bauernhof (Uncle Benno's Farm), and it is here that one finds the park's newest coaster, Kuhddel Muuuhddel (#2877), a SBF figure eight spinner with a cow-milking theme. My German pronunciation is nicht gut but even I can spot the obvious sound effect in the name, which is a deliberate misspelling of kuddelmuddel: a exceptionally cromulent word that can be very roughly translated as "chaos and confusion". There's a detailed English-language etymology available for those who are interested in learning more. As befits such rides the cycle seemed to go on for ever; I'm quite sure I was given at least ten laps.

Kuhddel Muuhddel

My final hit was Traubenrutsche, a three hundred metre long custom flume created by Mack Rides in 2001. The layout begins with around fifty seconds of gentle float, following a mostly rectangular route to the base of a sixteen metre high lift. At the apex a turntable directs the boat backwards for a very brief transfer to the top of the drop, where a second turntable points the boat forwards for a thrilling splashdown. The turntables add nothing of consequence to the experience; my guess is that they were installed purely as a space-saving feature, as there isn't enough room at the apex for a more normal turnaround. Regardless the ride is well worth doing, though readers should be aware that the splashdown has the tendency to soak.

 

Eifelpark

19th September 2020

I’d expected the drive from Taunus Wunderland to Eifelpark to take around two hours, but that plan went out the window with the abrupt closure of a large section of the E42 due to an accident. Garmin suggested that the fastest alternative route was a detour via Koblenz, and without local knowledge I had little choice but to follow it despite the extra distance putting me well behind schedule. On a happier note, I arrived just in time to claim one of the final spaces in an overflow area (49.965, 6.622) located about 400 metres away from the main entrance; glorious sunny weather had apparently brought out a lot of local residents.

The park is built on the side of a mountain, with most of the significant rides located on a plateau at the upper level. This is virtually adjacent to the main car park, but unfortunately there's no direct access route; instead, guests are required to walk downhill to the back of the park, where there are three routes to the top: a strenuous hike, a road train, or the lift hill of the Eifel Coaster. I thought about joining the queue for the latter but it had at least one hundred people in it and my time constraints made that unrealistic. The road train was nowhere in sight, so I bit the proverbial bullet and made my way to the top on foot, burning off a respectable number of calories in the process. Google Earth suggests that the elevation difference is of the order of seventy metres, or in simpler terms, about a twenty-two storey building; a lift would definitely have been easier!

Kapt'n Jack's Wilde Maus

During my climb I overtook a large group of guests conversing in American-accented English, which took me by surprise given pandemic-induced travel restrictions. It was only on leaving that I figured out why: the park is about ten kilometres away from Spangdahlem Air Base, a military installation with roughly five thousand active personnel and their families. Though off-limits to the general public online sources reveal that it is home to three schools, a bowling alley, a golf course, and a selection of "restaurants" for residents who miss home, including Charley's, Pizza Hut, Popeye's, and Taco Bell.

I arrived at the ride plateau just in time to see the kiddie coaster being pushed out of the station, and rather than stand around looking like an even bigger imbecile than usual I decided to begin my visit with Käpt'n Jack's Wilde Maus. The park's largest standard coaster (shown above) is a Maurer Rides Wilde Maus Classic that is now in its fourth home. It was first manufactured for Dreamland, where it ran from the late nineties through to the end of 2004. The next five seasons were spent at Loudoun Castle, followed by seven more at Holiday Park where it wore a special racing theme. It was installed in its present location in 2017, and fitted with replacement car bodies that bear more than a passing resemblance to log flume boats. Today the ride was also sporting a series of prominent signs warning about brakes, and these were definitely needed; each stop was on the far side of brutal, to the point that unprepared riders could easily suffer whiplash.

With that ticked off I walked back to Eifel Blitz (#2878), a standard layout Big Apple with a boat-themed train. The ride was fine, though the idea of having boats on a gravel base at the top of a hill felt a little off to me; it would have been much more visually appealing if installed above water. The ride cycle was a standard three laps with nothing particularly memorable about the experience. That said, in these difficult times it's important to keep healthy, and an apple a day keeps the doctor away!

The park is owned by the Löwenthal and Goetzke families, both prominent names from the German fair circuit, and as many fairs have been suspended this year Alexander Goetzke has placed two of his rides at the park for the season: a Huss Break Dance and the rather more exciting Jules Verne Tower, an eighty metre high Funtime Star Flyer providing superb views across the surrounding region. The programme in use today featured a slow ascent to the half-way point, a pause, then a number of repeats from the half-way point to the top and back again. I'm not sure what was gained by doing this over just staying for an extended period at the highest point, but I guess the designers had their reasons. I very much enjoyed my ride, even if it was pretty cold up there!

Jules Verne Tower

The star attraction in the park as of this writing is Graviator, an eighty metre high spinning drop tower manufactured by Funtime. There was a moderate queue, and a timed admission for my next stop (stupid COVID) forced me to give it a miss. As I headed back to my car my mind wandered onto the omnipresent saga of planning permission at certain theme parks, and in particular Alton Towers where nothing is allowed to be visible above the tree line. One can only imagine what the neighbours there would think about two eighty-metre towers punctuating the background greenery.

 

Trampolino

19th September 2020

When I first visited Trampolino eleven years ago it was a small Family Entertainment Centre that had put itself on the proverbial map with the first installation of an ABC Rides Tube Coaster. Flotte Biene was visually impressive, but suffered from very limited capacity, and apparently very limited longevity too; it was retired after just over a year of operation and sent to the great midway in the sky. Just forty-three members of Coaster-Count managed to ride it during its brief career, which I rather suspect to be a European record. The word on the Internet is that the ride was returned to its manufacturer over maintenance issues; photographs and more detail can be found on this forum thread.

The park has developed considerably since that time, adding rides to both its four thousand square metre indoor hall and a similarly-sized outdoor space. The selection includes four roller coasters, and while the Seifenkiste Kiddy Racer is off limits to adults, the other three credits are available for the ticking. The biggest of these (and arguably the only respectable ride among them) operates for a limited period each day; readers retracing my steps are advised to contact the park ahead of time for the latest information.

Seifenkiste

My first hit was Boomerang (#2879), my fourth Heege Butterfly in two days. The brake on this unit had been adjusted to only engage when the car was virtually at a standstill, resulting in a longer-than-usual cycle, though aside from length the experience felt no different to the norm. True nerds might be interested to know that this machine was the first Butterfly II SB, an upgrade to the original 1980s design with a redesigned car and other mechanical improvements; as of this writing I've experienced five of the eleven extant installations, as well as two of the larger II XL models.

Next I made my way to the back of the hall for Ring-Renner (#2880), a non-spinning SBF figure eight with particularly spacious taxi cab trains. The ride was being operated in rotation with a miniature drop tower and a Ferris wheel, but after a short wait I was able to board. The experience was everything I hoped it would be and more, neatly earning a place among the bottom five hundred coasters on my track record. I didn’t count the number of laps but there were a lot of them.

With that out of the way I took up station on a shaded bench in the general vicinity of Trampolino-Coaster (#2881) and started jotting down trip report notes on my phone. After about twenty minutes of waiting an operator materialised, and my tactical positioning allowed me to enter the queue before the multitudes. The four-seat cars were a bit of a shock; each passenger had their own V-shaped seatbelt covering both shoulders, as well as a lap bar with an additional seatbelt buckling it into the car base. SBF ride vehicles may not be engineered to the same standard as the Schwarzkopf rolling stock of yore, but even allowing for that it’s hard to fathom why a German park tolerates such a hokey arrangement when there are plenty of local manufacturers that know what they’re doing. Restraints notwithstanding, however, the ride was perfectly respectable, and I did two laps on the basis that I can’t see myself returning any time soon. (Readers should be aware that the ride has pretty sharp brakes, including one right before the final drop; brace for impact to avoid a gut punch.)