My final theme park visit for the year was planned around a mid-afternoon flight from Eindhoven Airport. This gave me roughly three and a half hours to play with at Efteling, and while the fantasy-themed park deserves more than that I nevertheless figured that my time budget would be enough to enjoy at least one ride on the attractions added (and upgraded) since my last visit back in 2015.
The day began with Symbolica, a trackless dark ride that premiered in July 2017. The experience begins with an animatronic pre-show with the audience facing a large staircase, which splits open in a cloud of dry ice revealing the path inside. Once through the door guests have a choice of three paths: Music (Green), Heroes (Blue), and Treasures (Red). Each of the three routes follows a different path with its own exclusive rooms, giving some variety to those riding more than once. I have to say that I like this approach; the average visitor isn’t going to do this multiple times in a day (and indeed I only got to do the Music route), meaning that in principle at least they can enjoy something different each visit – assuming of course that they can remember what they selected before.
Our next stop was at Python, a four decade old Vekoma Double Loop and Corkscrew. The original ride has seen numerous upgrades over the years, the most visible being two completely new sets of trains, the first in 2005 and the second in 2011. The latter improved the comfort level immeasurably, though it still wasn’t particularly good. That has now changed; in early 2018 the original track was replaced with new rails manufactured by Belgium-based CSM, and the result is surreal – an elderly Vekoma without a single bump anywhere on the entire course. Today there was no need to hold on to the hand grips, as the tracking was perfectly smooth; I would happily have sat on board all day. The lift mechanism has also been changed to be almost completely silent, barring the final few clicks over the top – an upgrade that will definitely be appreciated by those staying at the Villa Pardoes across the road. (If anyone from CSM is reading this, your skills could be put to good use at Parc Asterix; how about it?)
The park retired Europe’s only Intamin Swiss Bob at the end of 2019, repurposing the space for a pair of duelling powered coasters named Max + Moritz. The new rides board from a shared station, though the trains face in opposite directions and have a few close encounters while out on course. Both are very much in the family category, in that they’re made up almost entirely of helices with nothing particularly forceful, and I doubt that I’d rate them all that highly were it not for the fun soundtrack and the duelling aspect, which between them upgrade what would otherwise be one-and-done attractions to something enjoyable and crowd-pleasing. Each dispatch seats 76 guests, too, keeping the queue moving. (We did Moritz followed by Max; if you don’t care which track you ride you’ll find that Max has a slightly shorter queue route.)
With everything new out of the way, we made our way to the far side of the park to renew acquaintance with some old favourites, starting with Vogel Rok, a coaster memorable more than anything else for its subtle and understated entrance archway. The ride is one of just four Custom MK-900 designs from Vekoma, and it has held up remarkably well over the years. The main portion of the layout is negotiated in almost complete darkness, and while the onboard music is rousing I nevertheless think the experience would be better with some theming. That said, a lights-on POV suggests that space is at a premium, so maybe this isn’t actually possible.
The last ride of the day and indeed the year became Droomvlucht, a classic suspended dark ride and a perennial favourite. The wait was posted at sixty minutes, though I can report that this was optimistic; we waited about ninety in the end, mostly because the staff were only loading the front half of each vehicle in order to allow for social distancing. This might have made more sense if guests were not packed in like sardines in the queueing area. Having said that, consistency and logic are rarely found in Covid regulations anywhere else in the world, so why should Efteling be any different?