Raging through the Helices

It’s the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic and things are getting a bit back to normal as the numbers are currently dropping in Germany and more and more people are getting their vaccinations. Previously excisting restrictions are dropped and a visit to a theme park feels great once more – even though we are all wearing masks once we cannot avoid getting too close to people and of course on the rides.

Since my last year’s visit was not the best, as Serengeti Park was crowded and the capacity of the rides was restricted to a minimum, I took a day off and visited the park on a very quiet Friday. This of course had the advantage of experiencing the awesome Serengeti Safari – one of the few drive-through safaris you can experience in an animal park – at my own pace and without being too restricted by the other cars. I was also right in time for the feeding of the lions, which led to some awesome pictures.

After driving through the Serengeti Safari it was time to experience the theme park. Here, I mainly focused on the other “safari” experiences, which are mainly rather unique attractions and for the most part don’t feature any animals. I especially enjoyed the Splash Safari and Black Mamba Jetboat experiences, as both of them were extraordinary good in keeping you cool on a very hot summers day. While the Splash Safari offers a nice RIB speedboat ride on the park’s central lake, the Black Mamba jetboat safari just got you drenched the second the ride started – not to any surprise: It was the most popular ride on the day of visit.

The most recent addition to Serengeti Park is the roller coaster Batukai Racer by Technical Park which replaced the aging Chura Racer – a large Tivoli coaster made by Zierer. The layout of the 13m high family coaster basically only consists of a steep drop followed by three helices one after the other. The first of them is of special interest, as its curvature gets smaller when approaching the ground, which results in some very high G-forces and a rather awkward inclination. The second one acts like a small break in between as you get some more altitude before the final helix hits the ground. The ride itself is a bit jerky, yet not uncomfortable and a rather thrilling experience.

So thrilling, that shortly after my first round, I wanted to do a second. I was a bit distracted taking photos with my camera so that I did not realised that I let my phone on one of the benches nearby before queuing up for the second ride. After the ride, my phone was gone and I started to panic a bit. I asked the ride operator if he saw anything, but that did not help. He gave me the information that it might end up at the service centre nearby the park’s main ticket booths at the end of the day. I waited some time and decided to give it a try and walked all the way to service centre, but they did not yet got anything. They asked me to come back shortly before their closure or write an email after my visit. So I went back around 5pm and to my own surprise they actually found it!

Even though I had to worry a bit about the phone, I had an extraordinary day at the park and enjoyed it quite a lot. The drive through the empty Serengeti Safari, the rides on the park’s roller coaster Safari Blitz and Batukai Racer, as well as the refreshing and drenching boat experiences on the Splash Safari and Black Mamba made my day.

 

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Having a blast on Dynamite

The last time, I have visited Freizeitpark Plohn, I was not at all impressed by its missing professionalism in some points. I had never issues paying with my Girocard (a German Debit Card) before and since there was not an ATM nearby, I had to drive to the nearby town of Lengenfeld just to get some cash and stand one more time in the queue before finally being able to pay my entrance ticket. This time, I tried to pay online and due to the system in use, it was not at all easy to do so on the phone. It took me several attempts – yet at the end, it worked.

With a good mood, I started my day at the new entrance area to the park, which is now situated right next to the water ride Fluch des Teutates. The Rafting by abc rides gets a good crowd during the first hours of operation, while the area close to the original entrance stays deserted for the most part of the day.

Here we find the small SBF Visa spinning coaster Drachenwirbel. Like most of the installations in Germany, this also comes in the three-loop design, whereby upwards leading righthand curves always change into a downwards leading lefthand curve. Due to the change of direction, the cars quickly get into a rotation. After several laps the ride on the Drachenwirbel comes to an stop and we can exit the ride.

The second and largest addition to the park Freizeitpark Plohn in recent years is the Mack Rides Big Dipper Coaster Dynamite. The ride is situated for most part on the land of the former Silver Mine roller coaster and reuses parts of the queue. The coaster itself is a lot bigger and offers an interesting layout.

After climbing the ride’s lift, the coaster starts with a Dive Drop, whereby the car is slowly rotated around its own axis before it plunges to the ground. At full speed we now pass through a building which gives a great near miss and race over a bunny hop shortly thereafter. A steep curve now leads us upwards. After a more conventional drop, we then enter a righthand curve close to the ground. On a small hill we rapidly change direction before entering Dynamite’s loop. We then pass the ride’s entrance in a Zero-G Roll. Finally, we now circle around the HUSS Break Dance Westernrodeo before hitting the brakes.

Dynamite is a nice addition to the park. The Big Dipper offers a great, albeit short layout which offers a well-defined play of forces. There is only one issue: It does not have a good capacity. With a total of just two cars for up to eight people, the queue can get quite long. Especially, when only one of them is in operation and can only be loaded by a maximum of 4 people due to the Covid-19 regulations. Therefore, I only rode this Mack product once.

As the Saxonians did not really care about Covid and only a few respected the rules, I left the park early. Overall, I had a good visit to Freizeitpark Plohn. Yet, I was not overly impressed on how El Toro developed in recent years. This coaster is by far one of the roughest wooden coasters, I have been on and to my luck, I had to ride it twice in a row as the ride operation gave an encore. Apart of that, the park’s operations were good, and I am willing to come back once everything is back to normal.

 

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Flying through Rookburgh

Phantasialand has once again built something new and of all things it was completed during the Covid 19 pandemic. Whereas elsewhere the opening of the new attraction, the new themed area and the new hotel would have been postponed until next year, the park in Brühl has once again taken the initiative to completely turn the theme park world upside down.

After the closure of the huge IMAX Simulator Race for Atlantis at the end of the winter season 2015/16, rumours about the future use of the area started. At the same time, the new themed area Klugheim was in its final preparations. Shortly thereafter, Taron became Europe’s most signature ride and Klugheim one of the most immersive areas in a European theme park.

A teaser of the new themed area appeared to the start of the 2017 season and in June of the same year, the roller coaster F.L.Y. was announced to the public. The first track was installed soon after. Yet, due to the location at the edge of the park and between the areas Berlin and Fantasy, there was not much to look at. Indeed, no visitor would know what Rookburgh and its flying machine would look like until the opening of the area.

With time, the anticipation grew immensely and all the sudden – and in a time when nobody would have thought about it – Rookburgh opened its gates for a preopening. Due to Covid-19, the number of visitors to the area was restricted and only the front entrance to the area was opened, which led to a long queue right from the start expanding over a large part of the Kaiserplatz and into the Fantasy area.

I joined the queue around noon and enjoyed the time in the open-air queue on the Kaiserplatz for quite a while. Once Rookburgh was in sight – all the sudden – a queue jumper thought it was a good idea to be a group member of mine. Apparently, he was an employee of the park on a day off and was just interested in the area. As I do not accept queue jumping, I informed the staff about his behaviour and he was denied entrance to the area for the day of visit. He called me – rather thankful, I guess – an asshole.

From the moment, he forced himself into my life, I was angry. But all the anger was forgotten once I stepped into the immersive world of Rookburgh. This steam punk paradise is just incredible. The way the roller coaster F.L.Y. is passing through the area and the nearby Hotel Charles Lindbergh is awesome. There is so much going on, yet everything is reduced to the new sensation of flying and clear in its visuals.

Apart of the main attraction, Rookburgh offers some delicious treats. In Emilie‘s Chocoladen & Candy‑Werkstatt you can buy high quality chocolate and candies, whereas Zum Kohleschipper offers a range of delicious sandwiches and the restaurant Uhrwerk fully concentrates itself on exclusive hamburgers, craft beer and Gin. This all comes for a price and covers a segment, which was not yet been covered by the park. Phantasialand therefore offers a large range of fantastic food options for a very reasonable price.

The signature attraction of Rookburgh is the Vekoma flying coaster F.L.Y. Albeit Vekoma was the pioneer of this kind of coaster, their Flying Dutchman model can only be found in a handful of parks. The complicated loading mechanism and the lowered capacity in regard to the competitor’s product never led to another installation since 2001. In 2009 a first iteration of the train’s mechanic got presented with the short-lived Stingray coaster at the Giant Wheel Park of Suzhou. For F.L.Y. the Flying Dutchman design received a completely new development. Now the trains are featuring the vest design to be found at other modern coasters of the company and the shin clamps are fixed to the train and not to the restraints and can be entered while sliding into them. But the most important novelty is that you are entering the train whilst the track is in a 90° rotated position – a swivel turned the car to a horizontal position.  The station is therefore highly unusual, as it needs to be rather long.

Once the train is boarded, the ride can begin. In a dark ride section, we climb a ramp while still sitting in an upright position. In a curve, we then change into the flying position in probably the most elegant way so far. Shortly thereafter, we are accelerated in the first launch section of the ride and into a wide and upwards leading curve. Along and above facades of Rookburgh, we now twist ourselves around in a corkscrew. After a left-hand bend, we cross the first launch section in an airtime hill. Accompanied with a lot of pressure, we fly through the back section of Rookburgh before gaining a bit of height in a curve to the left. We then make our way through the centre of the area before we descent in a very wide left-hand curve. A tight bend to the right then leads us towards the area front right corner of the area, where we descend to the ground level in a tight helix. Here we hit the second launch track and accelerate once more towards the Hotel Charles Lindbergh.

As the launch track is leading upwards, we soon have a view onto the upper levels of the hotel. A steep curve then takes us down. With a lot of momentum, we now fly over the restaurant Uhrwerk, before we make our way through the centre of the area once more. In a left-hand bend we then surprise the visitors of the Chocoladen & Candy-Werkstatt, while continuing our journey towards the front right section of the area. Here, we descent in a left-hand helix, before we plunge down towards the ground. In an intensive left-hand bend, we now head towards the second inversion of the ride, whereupon we continue in a wide curve close to the ground. A short swivel to the right later, we then hit the brakes. Like the start of the ride, we are then turned back to the horizontal seating position while passing through a short turn. We are now waiting for debarkation in a very comfy position. Shortly after, we reach the exit station.

Rookburgh is without a doubt one of the most immersive areas in any theme park and F.L.Y. is its masterpiece of a roller coaster. It became my favourite flying coaster somewhere in the middle of the ride, as I could not stop laughing. As most of the flying coasters out there, F.L.Y. is a very intense experience, yet a very enjoyable one. The trains are a lot comfier than the standard ones to be found on a B&M coaster of the same type and guarantee a very safe journey through the air. The high capacity, the long ride time, the technology of the ride and its location certainly enhance the overall experience on F.L.Y.: a ride which got with ease the next big signature ride of Europe.

 

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