Day three of my trip involved a brave and only partially successful attempt to dodge inclement weather. There was a glorious blue sky for my arrival at Freizeitpark Familienland, but by the time I left the sky had clouded over, and ten minutes after that it was raining. I’d had a vague plan to detour past Urzeitwald on my drive east, but decided that the conditions were too marginal for me to risk rolling the proverbial dice – it would have been another two hours in the car and the nuisance factor of yesterday’s miss was still fresh in my mind.
The park is a small one, and most enthusiasts should have no trouble doing everything that they want to do in an hour or less. It comprises a production model spinning rapids, two roller coasters, a pirate ship, a child-sized airplane ride, and a selection of playground equipment. My primary target today was Wicky (#3019), a SBF double coaster with bonus straight bits that looked at first glance like they could deliver some airtime. Unfortunately they didn’t work that way in practice because the tyre drive mechanism doubled as a brake. I found myself wondering why SBF hadn’t made an effort to correct what on the face of it seems like a relatively simple engineering problem; allowing motors to freewheel when the train is above a certain speed shouldn’t be that difficult to accomplish in practice.
The only other hit for me today was Big Bang, a custom-layout Zierer ESC that routes above and around a large portion of the park. The ride operates with a single ten seat train, which is all the park really needs; the wait time today was less than fifteen minutes. I very much enjoyed my lap.
Hohe Wand Wiese
25th June 2022
It was overcast for my arrival at Hohe Wand Wiese, a mountain adventure centre located just outside Vienna. I bought a ticket for the Sommerrodelbahn, and got as far as sitting in a car with my belt fastened when it began to rain. The ride shut down immediately, though an operator told me it probably wouldn’t be too long. Twenty minutes later a number of staff members went for a slow lap, holding the brakes on throughout in a hokey but evidently time-honoured method of drying the track. With that done I enjoyed a full speed descent. The experience was exactly what one has come to expect from Brandauer/Sunkid: a good ride punctuated by a few ridiculous turns that people with even vaguely functioning braincells should definitely brake for (and no, I didn't). The ride has an unusual feature: a small uphill segment two thirds of the way down the track, clearly visible in this video; I wonder if slow drivers ever stall there?
25th June 2022
As a permanent fairground, Wiener Prater is not a cheap day out. Every ride has its own ticket price, and while there are a few package deals available they are highly specific and as such are unlikely to represent good value for most enthusiasts. In the interests of not going completely insane I sent myself a budget of €200 for the evening – and I came very close to that with eight coaster rides, dinner (€15), the special platform on the wheel (€89), and parking (€17 for four hours). Unfortunately I then proceeded to blow an additional €250 that I hadn’t planned for by losing my prescription sunglasses; the reader is invited to interpolate my thoughts on this unplanned expense for themselves.
My afternoon began with a good value ten lap cycle on Race (#3020), a SBF F1 Vortex Coaster that had been closed for my visits to the park in 2016 and 2017. There’s a famous saying about good things coming to those who wait, and I can say with conviction (and moderate amusement) that the statement most definitely doesn't apply here. The ride was exactly what I expected it to be: a one and done demonstrating all the usual attributes of older SBF hardware.
At the other end of the quality scale was Gesengte Sau (#3021), an unexpectedly tall custom Gerstlauer Bobsled. Tickets are sold via a pair of vending machines that both speak English and take credit card. Once on board a four-seat car the layout routes through a brief dark section followed by an unusually quick lift, a set of mouse-style switchbacks, a swooping drop and climb, and lots more along similar lines. The track is both flawlessly smooth and respectably lengthy; just when you think you're getting to the end there's more to enjoy. The route also comes extremely close to other attractions on both sides. I loved this, and have no qualms as labelling it as one of the top coasters in the park. I completed three laps over the course of the day, and I'd happily have done more if I'd had the budget to do so. The ride is pretty hard to photograph from the midway, but there's a decent enough angle just inside the queue area.
The other credit on my shopping list today was Roller Ball (#3022), an abomination that can be succinctly described using a four letter word (or, for preference, its equivalent emoji). The only thing positive to be said about the ride experience is that the view from the apex is worthwhile. After that the car wobbles back and forth a bit, drops very slowly to another level, and does the same thing again with less and less interesting visuals each time. It’s telling that I didn’t see a single other passenger before buying my own ticket, and I had a car to myself. I don’t know what the owners have to pay to rent space at Wiener Prater, but I can’t imagine that ticket sales will be bringing in enough to cover the bills. Though it pains me to say this, even a S&S Free Spin would be an improvement.
With the various ticks out of the way my next must-do was Olympia Looping, the classic Schwarzkopf coaster appearing in Vienna for a third time following previous stints in 2016 and 2018. It was good to catch up with an old friend, even if it was only running a single five-car train. The limited capacity resulted in a fifteen minute wait, which is almost unheard of for a ride that regularly churns through over five thousand passengers per hour when running a full fleet of rolling stock at big events. I paid €9.50 for a ride in the back row which was great, if not quite as great as the back row when seven-car trains are in use.
I next made my way to the far side of the park for Hochschaubahn, the park’s classic Scenic Railway. Today virtually all seats were taken by what I suspect may have been a stag party; there was an exceptional lack of sobriety in the train, notwithstanding myself and (hopefully) the brakeman. The experience wasn’t the most intense, but it was very nicely themed. I also noticed a garden gnome mooning the train; I rather suspect there may be other surprises for regular riders to discover.
I was on my way back to my car when I remembered seeing photographs of a special glass floor platform on the Wiener Riesenrad, and I decided I'd go over to see what a ticket cost. There was no signage of any kind at the entrance, but a web search on my phone proved more successful. There were a few same day slots available for booking, and while the €89 price tag was higher than I’d have preferred (to put it mildly) I decided to throw caution to the wind and booked the next available. That gave me ninety minutes to burn, which I passed with an eminently satisfactory Wiener Schnitzel (when in Rome…) and a ride on Megablitz, a forceful yet silky-smooth Vekoma creation that can be thought of as a modern-ish equivalent to the Schwarzkopf Jet Star.
In due course I arrived back at the Wiener Riesenrad. After presenting my online booking for Platform 9 at the ticket desk I was escorted through a side entrance into the ride area, and guided through the process of putting on a safety harness. I was also asked to sign a legal waiver. The staff member on duty apologised for not having copies available in English, but there was enough time for me to read it through Google Translate on my phone. I was provided with a capacitive neck pouch for my phone allowing me to carry it on board, though I didn’t end up using it; instead, I took photos using my regular camera; I was told that personal cameras are permitted on board as long as they have a strap for safety purposes. The ride experience was a novelty and worth doing once, though those who suffer from vertigo should keep well clear as you feel very exposed, particularly as the platform crosses the apex. Photographers can get amazing shots, however, not least because you can lean over the edge a little if you feel so inclined (pun absolutely intended).
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