Traumland auf der Bärenhöhle (Dreamland on the Bear Cave) is a small family park in the heart of the Black Forest that has been on my to-do list for upwards of a decade. It is a little less than an hour by road from Stuttgart, and I've driven within a hundred kilometres of it at least a dozen times over the years, but I've never managed to fit it into an itinerary. The closest I got was having it as an optional stop at the end of my German trip last September, but the scheduling for that day was optimistic beyond the point of foolishness, and I wasn't particularly surprised when I ran out of time.
The park is located on the side of a hill. Roughly a third of the land bank is devoted to a traditional Märchenwald featuring static scenes from assorted fairytales. Only a handful were familiar to me as a foreigner, but I recognised Die 7 Schwaben and Rumpelstilzchen. Many of the sets had recorded audio to go with them, covering three languages: German, English, and Schwäbisch. (I'd never heard of the latter, and while researching it for my own edification I came across the word Muggeseggele. This has enriched my life; you can click the link, I'll wait.)
The rest of the space is devoted to a selection of rides geared primarily at those under the age of twelve. I'd expected to feel a little out of place, but apparently my presence was not a surprise; virtually every member of staff I walked past called out a variation of "guten morgen!" from their respective station. This level of friendliness upgraded the atmosphere considerably from what it might otherwise have been, and was a huge improvement over the attitude seen at family parks in the United Kingdom.
The coaster wasn't immediately visible, so I decided to begin my day with the Riesenrad, a forty metre high example built by Nauta Bussink in 1992. The cars were extremely open by modern standards, making the standard advice not to stand up feel more relevant than ever. The views from the top were spectacular: I could see the Black Forest, the Alps, and seemingly every ride in the park apart from the one that I was looking for. It was only after returning to ground level that I did what I should have done in the first place: I located a park map and followed it to my destination.
Marienkäferbahn (#2887) is a custom Zierer Tivoli that is the smallest known example of the type. The exact height differential has not been published, but it definitely looks stunted; there are just two pairs of tyre drives on the lift, compared with three on the productionsmall model. The ride was first installed at Planet FunFun, an indoor family entertainment center in Finland that operated intermittently between 1991-1995. In its new home the main portion of track stands on extended supports, some of which are actually taller than the lift, and these serve to add interest to what is otherwise a generic ride. I was given six laps, which was five more than I really needed.
Perhaps unsurprisingly there wasn't a lot else of interest for me. I'd have liked to have tried the Verrücktes Waldhaus (Mad House), but it was under maintenance for my visit. In the end the only other attraction I tried was the Fahrt durch 1000 und 1 Nacht, a set of antique cars with a brief indoor dark ride segment. The ride operator wished me a "Guten Fahrt!", and indeed I had just that.
22nd September 2020
Schwaben Park is one of a number of German parks to have moved to an advance reservation model for the duration of the COVID pandemic. Their approach is unusual, however; while a booking is required, payment in advance is not; visitors need only present their online barcode at the gate, at which point they will be able to pay with cash as they might have done in normal times. One can only assume that the park rarely hits capacity; a certain percentage of no-shows are an inevitability even in a civilised country like Germany.
The skyline of the park has changed dramatically over the eleven years since my first visit. In 2010 a portion of the car park was repurposed for Force One, a respectably large family coaster that doubled as a visual billboard to attract passing motorists. The addition of Wilde Hilde eight years later made a further statement, if a somewhat more questionable one given that the Roller Ball track only looks its best in direct sunlight. One might have hoped that management would have learned their lesson from this decision, but apparently not; as of 2020 much of the upper section of the park has disappeared behind inverted powered coaster track covered by an ugly semi-transparent yellow awning.
The ride in question was being worked on by a engineer when I arrived at the entrance, and rather than wait around I decided to begin my visit with another Wiegand product: a five hundred metre long Bobkart that has been thrilling guests since the turn of the millennium. There was no queue to speak of today, allowing me to complete two enjoyable laps over a ten minute period. (In researching this report I've discovered that the Bobkart is no longer being produced, which is a shame; its replacement is the CoasterKart, which lacks the side-to-side action of the classic version.)
With that done I made my way to the entrance of the park's newest attraction. Hummel Brummel is the fourth installation of the Wiegand Wie-Flyer, a powered coaster design that made a largely unnoticed premiere at Inselsberg Funpark in 2012. The ride is to all intents and purposes an inverted version of the Bobkart, with two-seat cars and a speed control lever that is either on or off; when on, it chugs away at a moderate speed; when off, it crawls around the track at a little less than walking pace. It’s a fun way to pass a bit of time, but I have a really hard time thinking of this as a roller coaster as the sensations are just too controlled for my liking.
The ride is perfectly respectable for what it is, and I did five laps alternating between the left and right hand seats. However, it's hard to find anything positive to say about its appearance. Green support pillars, red braces, and semi-transparent yellow combine to produce a visual effect not altogether dissimilar to the kerb outside an all-night kebab shop: colourful but definitely not pleasing. All that was really missing to complete the effect was pigeon droppings, though one presumes that those will be added over the next few seasons. (The original version isn't particularly elegant either, but I'd argue that subdued shades are better than the alternative.)
I took a token ride on Wilde Hilde, sitting on the forward-facing inside seat. The unbalanced car rocked dramatically, but the speed was kept in check by constant braking, delivering a fairly sedate ride experience that once again didn't feel all that much like a roller coaster. With that done I joined the empty queue for Force One, and was the only person on board when it dispatched. This wasn't a good thing unfortunately; the train was shuddering badly throughout the course, and while I've definitely ridden worse the experience wasn't one that I felt compelled to do more than once.
22nd September 2020
There was a five-and-a-bit hour drive from Schwaben Park to my overnight hotel, and I needed somewhere to break it along the route. Greuther Keller wasn't on the most direct route, but it wasn't a huge diversion and it had the great virtue of actually being open at 5:00pm on a Tuesday. (I'd justified it to myself as a dinner stop, but that wasn't to be; the restaurant was only serving drinks. This turned out to be a recurring problem today for whatever reason; I had to stop at three consecutive motorway service stations before I found one where hot food was available, and at that one I had a choice of bratwurst, bratwurst, or bratwurst.)
Sommerrodelbahn has a track length of just 360 metres, putting it eight places from the top (or should that be bottom?) of the list of the world's shortest alpine coasters. This fortunately is reflected in the price tag of €1.50 for an adult rider. The total descent time is around 45 seconds, but despite the brevity it has all the important features of the genre; a descending helix, airtime bumps, and most importantly of all, no automatic braking. (The car park is at the highest point of the layout, and the ticket office is at the lowest; the walk between them takes less than two minutes.)
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