Karls Erlebnis-Dorf Elstal

24th September 2020

Karls Erlebnis-Dorf (Karls Adventure Village) is what you get if you take a Cracker Barrel restaurant, upgrade the food, expand the retail area by a factor of five, add amusement rides, and move it to Germany. There are five branches in operation at present, located in Elstal, Koserow, Rövershagen, Warnsdorf, and Zirkow – and a sixth is under construction in Döbeln, a town located roughly half way between Leipzig and Dresden. The four with operating coasters (as of 2020) are too far apart to visit in a single day, but they can be easily managed in two with time to spare.

Karls Elstal

The Elstal location (just outside of Berlin) was the third to open its doors, premiering in late 2014. The entrance is through an enormous retail area that is lined on all sides with teapots of all shapes and sizes, producing an effect that is both eye-catching and undeniably cool. The vast majority of the products on offer utilise strawberries in some shape or form, and indeed the whole place smells of jam, though there are some options for fragariaphobes including teddy bears, glassware, and cosmetics.

The amusement rides can be found at the rear of the building. The first major installation was the Traktorbahn, a tracked antique car ride with themed vehicles supplied by Intamin subsidiary abc rides. When management decided to add a roller coaster in 2018 they went back to the same Swiss manufacturer for the hardware, but they also enlisted help of a number of third parties, including Filmpark Babelsberg, IMAscore, and StudioAM. The collaboration produced one of the most elaborately themed family coasters that I've seen in my travels, and an undeniable gem.

K2 (#2891) is named not for the famous mountain, but rather for Karl and Karl-Heinz Dahl, who founded the Karls business in 1921. The hardware is from the Tube Coaster family, and it is the first (and as of this writing only) example of the type in which passengers get to experience the lift hill; the first three examples used a lower power motor that lacked the torque required to elevate loaded vehicles.

The ride is accessed through what looks like an ordinary family home: a replica of the Dahl residence in times past. The queue begins to the left of the building door in a room decorated with potato-themed wallpaper. A collection of different shovels hang from the ceiling above video screens showing chefs at work. Guests pass through a kitchen and up a flight of stairs decorated with black and white photographs of farming and harvesting activity. An attic filled with antique suitcases, a guitar, and a bowl of potatoes (as one does...) prefixes the final pre-show room, which contains a writing desk, an antique typewriter, and 1930s radio. Stairs from there lead down one level to the loading station, whose utilitarian brick construction suggests the inside of an old-fashioned oven.

The ride uses two-car trains with bodies largely made out of wood; each can sit two adults or three children. It starts with a slight right turn out of the station and a stop in front of a dark ride scene, which features a projected cat and mouse running around cooking equipment. After a few seconds the lights go out and the train rolls forward into a sharp drop, levelling out four metres underground in the middle of a dimly lit potato factory. The train spends almost a minute moving slowly through this area before a ghost train style fabric wall abruptly lifts, revealing the base of the 24 metre high lift.


The ascent to the top is slower than might be expected, but that just serves to build anticipation of the big drop, a curved right turn that goes most of the way to ground level before rising over a footpath into an airtime hill. This portion of the track is negotiated flawlessly, and is the highlight of the experience. A right turn, another respectable airtime hill, and an extended left turn culminate in what I'm going to describe as a poor man's block brake: a series of tyre drives that slow the train while shaking it rather dramatically. This is the one weak moment of the experience; a few permanent magnets would have been a much better choice. A brief enclosed section with further theming prefixes another curved drop, a descending helix, and a few low-to-the-ground turns. The ride ends with a second tyre brake followed by a short chain lift back to the station.

The experience is worth at least a nine out of ten, and definitely something to do more than once; I'd planned ahead by buying the €12 all day pass (rather than individual €4.50 tickets) which allowed me to complete five laps over the course of an hour. The only caveat I'd make is that the maximum throughput is very limited; readers visiting on busy days might want to guesstimate the queue length before handing over their money. (Having said that, a second coaster is being added next year, which will likely cement the wristband as the best value option.)



24th September 2020

The Kienberg is a hill of just over one hundred metres located on the eastern side of Berlin. It is possible to walk to the top, but enthusiasts on a tight schedule would do better to take the ropeway located adjacent to the free car park at 52.5326, 13.5918. The site also has its own U-Bahn station. As of this writing a ticket combining a round trip to the peak with a lap on the alpine coaster costs €9.

Natur-Bobbahn is the first Rollbob to be produced by Stahl-Hacksteiner-Metall, and it's fair to say that the experience reflects its prototype status. The layout is respectable enough, with a particular highlight being the sharp initial descent out of the station, but the experience is marred by decidedly inconsistent tracking. A chain lift at the bottom of the first section leads into a descending and entirely unbanked helix, which delivers strong laterals if you choose to go down it with full throttle. This is followed by a left turn and a much larger lift leading back to the start point. Readers should be aware that the chain engagements are extremely violent; bracing for them is strongly recommended.



Karls Erlebnis-Dorf Koserow

24th September 2020

It took three hours to cover the distance from Berlin to Koserow, a small resort municipality on Usedom off the north-eastern coast of Germany, roughly twenty kilometres from the Polish border. Readers retracing my steps should be aware that the most direct route onto the island is over the Peenebrücke Wolgast, which is opened several times each day to allow boats to pass through; allow an extra twenty minutes in each direction over your GPS estimate, and be grateful if you don't need it!

The Koserow branch of Karls Erlebnis-Dorf is less than half the size of the Elstal outlet, but the premise is the same: a farmer's market attached to an amusement area. The signature ride is another Traktorbahn, though it is not a clone of the version further south; it has its own layout to fit in the available space. To the right of the entrance stands Erdbeer Raupenbahn (#2892), a SBF Rides Big Apple with extremely elaborate theming. A special entrance building with an animatronic caterpillar on its roof leads into a garden full of fiberglass models and the ride itself, which routes through a giant strawberry. All day passes are available, though those over the age of eight will likely be content with a single three lap cycle which costs €3 as of this writing.