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.
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.)