Phantasialand

28th September 2020

The final day of my trip was an opportunity to relax, with no new credits on the agenda and the only absolute being a five hour drive to a hotel near Hamburg Airport. Though not the optimal exit point (to put it mildly) it was effectively my only choice: as a consequence of the pandemic Dublin Airport has lost its direct services to Cologne-Bonn (CGN) and Dusseldorf (DUS), and the German airports still on the schedule are only being served a few times each week.

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I decided to spend the morning and early afternoon at Phantasialand, both to do a few more laps on F.L.Y. and to tick off the key rides that I'd not had time for on Sunday. Spending the night at the Hotel Charles Lindbergh gave me the opportunity to capture some amazing pictures, particularly of the sunrise, and I'd recommend it to all those who enjoy photography. The only slight caveat, if such it be, is that the park soundtrack continues to play until quite late at night, and it's clearly audible inside the individual cabins; those who like to go to sleep early should probably bring earplugs.

At the appointed hour I made my way directly to F.L.Y. only to learn that it would be opening about ninety minutes late due to a maintenance issue. Rather than hang around I power-walked over to Black Mamba, arriving well ahead of the multitudes. There were no other guests in sight, yet despite that the operators would not allow me to sit in the front, pointing instead towards row six. Two minutes later the train was dispatched with the first five rows empty. I suspect that the no-preferred-seating policy is a consequence of Coronavirus, but it really is asinine to enforce a regulation of that nature when more than half the train is unoccupied. My lap was perfectly adequate and a reasonable way to wake up, though it would definitely have been better if I'd been allowed sit where I wanted to.

Stop two was Geister-Rikscha, a top quality Chinese-themed dark ride that the park promotes as Europe's longest underground ghost train. The hardware, which dates from 1981, is the only omni-mover system ever built by Schwarzkopf; it features one hundred separate gondolas, a track length of 250 metres, and a total ride time of approximately eight minutes. The scenes and animatronics were produced separately by Heimo. Many were obviously influenced by Disney: singing faces and ghost-in-the-car features are virtually identical to those seen in the Haunted Mansion.

The park is home to an elaborate custom Vekoma Mine Train that is second only to the installation at Disneyland Paris for its overall track length. Colorado Adventure wasn't the park's first attempt at intertwining different rides (the late and much-lamented Gebirgsbahn and Grand Canyon Bahn prototyped the concept) but it was the first to do so in a really serious way, wrapping above and around Stonewash and Wildwash Creek, a twin-tracked flume built in house in 1974. (This attraction was retired at the end of 2011 after almost four decades of operation, though it has since been replaced by Chiapas which follows a portion of the old route.) The experience today was excellent, aided considerably by the fact that quite a bit of it was enclosed.

Crazy Bats

My next stop was at Crazy Bats, the current identity for a coaster previously known as Temple of the Night Hawk and Space Center. Since the latest rebrand the ride has been operated almost exclusively with virtual reality headsets, though this upgrade/downgrade (opinions vary!) has been suspended for the duration of the pandemic. The ride experience today was three and a half minutes of blackness, as the limited theming from the previous incarnation is no longer present. It was perfectly enjoyable for what it was, though from a presentation perspective it falls well short of the rest of the park. I'd love to see it getting a proper (rather than an artificial) re-theme at some point.

At present there is no free choice between the two tracks of Winjas due to the close proximity of the queues, but I decided to roll the proverbial dice. My numbers came up: fate assigned me the superior Fear track, with a full height drop, a see-saw element, and a falling track section. I'd have liked to have renewed my acquaintance with the other track, but decided against queueing a second time on the off-chance of getting what I wanted. Instead I made my way into Rookburgh, and after forty minutes in the regular queue I clocked up my first F.L.Y. lap of the day.

I enjoyed a leisurely lunch break with a friend before heading into Feng Ju Palace, the park's haunted swing. Maybe I've done a few too many of these rides over the years, but for whatever reason the illusion really didn't work for me today. The experience wasn't helped by the fact that the outer shell and bench were not properly locked together at the start, but even after that was sorted out I found myself wondering idly why the room was rotating around me. The experience on Mystery Castle was far better, to the point that I've now decided that it is my favourite tower ride of all time. There's something special about an upward launch with no warning while seeing your friends and enemies bouncing up and down on the opposite wall. It's a shame that no other equivalents exist.

I hadn't planned to do a bonus lap on Taron, but I walked into the queue by accident while taking photographs and decided to stay there. It had begun to sprinkle rain, turning the front seat into a bit of a liability, and as such I wasn't particularly upset at being assigned a row in the middle. The car I was sent to had some minor vibration that hadn't been present for my front seat lap on Sunday, but it wasn't severe enough to impact the overall enjoyment.

With that complete I wrapped up my day, my trip, and my year by heading to F.L.Y. where a benevolent deity sent me to the back of the train. The comfort level in that row was absolutely perfect, and a testament to Vekoma's new-found engineering prowess. There was a time not so long ago when that sentence would have been said with tongue firmly in cheek, but no longer; as of 2020 I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that some of the finest roller coasters in the world are made in a small town in the Netherlands.

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