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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Testing the Sky Dragster at Skyline Park

It has been a while since I visited Bad Wörishofen and their local amusement park the last time. Back then, I did a small internship at Gerstlauer Amusement Rides in nearby Münsterhausen and stayed at a friend’s house for quite some time. Since then, Skyline Park nearly doubled in size and some interesting rides came and go.

As Skyline Park is one of the few theme parks, where a ride on a Funtime Slingshot is included in the entrance fee, I started my day in this area of the park. However, due to strong winds, the Sky Shot would not open on the day of my visit.

Also, the nearby Caripro Gyroflyer Sky Rider had some issues during its test run and had to be towed back to the station. The unique suspended spinning coaster did not run at all for the remaining time of my visit.

As the queue for the Wiegang Bobkartbahn Bob Racing hardly moved at all, we continue our way to the spinning coaster Sky Spin. I rode this Maurer SC2000 twice on my only visit to the Oktoberfest in Munich so far. Back then the ride was still known as Cyber Space and was operated by the Kaiser family. Between 2003 and 2012, the ride was known as Whirlwind in the English Camelot Theme Park. After the park’s closure, the ride moved to Skyline Park in 2013 and continued to entertain its riders ever since. Unfortunately, the ride became quite jerky over time, which is a bit of a surprise when compared it to other installations of its kind.

Passing the Schwarzkopf Wild Cat Nostalgische Achterbahn, which I was not allowed to ride as a single rider (probably because of the Covid-19 rules), we now encounter another roller coaster made by Maurer. Skyline Park has a good connection to the Munich based manufacturer, which is why you can find two of their prototype coasters within the park. The first one was the SkyWheel and the second one is the Spike Coaster Sky Dragster.

The Sky Dragster is currently the only Spike Coaster in operation. Its design is a mixture between the classic Steeplechase coaster and a powered coaster, although the position of the rider is quite close to the rail. The cars are directly driven by a cogwheel which runs along a gear rack attached to the side of the track. Due to this configuration, a rollback is not possible, thereby the track can be bend in all different kind of crazy manoeuvres – it is even possible to accelerate the vehicle along a vertical stretch of track, which is otherwise quite complex to achieve on conventional track designs. Like a Bobkartbahn by Wiegand, the rider can control the speed of the vehicle and a control system adjusts the distance between the cars when needed.  Moreover, everything is surveyed by the system, which on the one hand gives you a remarkably high security, but on the other hand led to a lot of issues during the first seasons of the coaster.

On the day of my visit, the coaster was running without issues. The track at Skyline Park features a long straight just after the station before you enter a horseshoe turn. This is directly followed by a 360° righthand curve. Two hills in a double-up fashion join immediately after. On the other side of the layout, you then enter a strangely banked upwards leading spiral. After a descend back to the station level, you then run through a very tight s-bend, before reaching the station. A second lap follows.

I really like the acceleration of the Spike Coaster. Compared to conventional powered coasters, the system is far less inert. The only thing I did not liked too much is the slow pacing on most of the elements on the Sky Dragster. I know that this is to limit the forces on the rider, yet it is kind of hilarious to allow a system to have a high degree of flexibility on the track design when you must regulate it massively to do so. However, if your design for the most part consists of straight sections, then this system is fine. Therefore, it does not surprise me, that the Spike Coaster will be most likely to be found exclusively on Cruise Ships like the Carnaval Mardi Gras. For a theme park, the low capacity of the ride is not at all justifiable, unless you are Mirabilandia and want to gain some extra revenue due to your fast pass system.

In the same corner as the Sky Dragster, you can find the Zamperla Turbo Force Sky Circle, as well as the large transportable log flume Wildwasser 3 by Mack Rides. It is the second transportable log flume of the park owner who found its way to Skyline Park. The first one was the Pirateninsel, which now have found a new home at Eiffelpark in Rhineland-Palatinate. The Wildwasser 3 was the largest log flume to be found on the German fair circuit and therefore features three shot rides, whereby the first one is being done backwards.

Close to the Wildwasser 3, you can find the world’s largest Star Flyer. The chain swing Allgäuflieger offers a wide view onto open fields, the mountains and of course the Skyline Park just underneath. Due to strong winds, I had to give the ride a miss.

A ride which I gave voluntarily a miss is the large inverting pendulum ride High Fly by SBF Visa, as I was already punctured by their restraints the day before on the Papageienflug at Tatzmania Löffingen and I did not want to risk it again. The High Fly is currently the largest inverting pendulum ride in Germany, but that record could be broken easily if a park is interested in doing so.

The next ride on our path through the park is Sky Rafting, formally known as Wild ‘n Wet. The transportable water ride by ART Engineering starts off with a vertical lift. Once at the top, a long slide section is initiated. Due to the curvy layout, the boats start to rotate heavily. A short drop nearby the end of the slide section comes a bit by surprise, as nobody in the boat knows who will get wet.

Not as unpredictable, yet kind of spiny is the small spinning coaster Kids Spin. The small coaster by SBF Visa comes in the proven 3 loop layout, whereby upward leading curves to the right always lead into a downwards leading curve to the left. Due to the constant change in curvature, the cars can get a good spin. After several round, the train then comes to a stop in the station and the cars must be manually turned back into position before you can exit the ride.

Passing the large thrill coaster SkyWheel, we now have a look onto the ghost train Geisterschlange. The old ride by the showman Lehmann has found its retirement home at Skyline Park. The ride is simply a beauty of a ghost train and it is nice to see that it gets preserved for the future in an amusement park like Skyline Park.

As the weather during my visit got worse and worse and heavy rain started to fall around lunch, let us now have a look into the only indoor attraction at Skyline Park. The hall opposite of the cute Baustellenfahrt once offered a motion simulator. It is now home to the Rotor Zero Gravity by SBF Visa. The Italian company gave the famous ride concept a new life by introducing translucent walls to the ride, where traditional rides feature a wooden barrel. To further increase the friction, the walls are also angled and feature a rather rough surface. The ride could therefore run slightly slower, but it does not. For minutes you are now pressed onto the wall, which becomes more and more exhausting over time. The light show is a plus, nevertheless, I was quite happy when the ride finally came to a stop.

It was nice to get back to Skyline Park after so many years. Unfortunately, due to the weather and because of the Covid-19 guidelines, I could not give every attraction I wanted a try. Nevertheless, I was quite happy to have tested the new Sky Dragster roller coaster and spend some time with some classic rides before I moved on earlier than expected.

 

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Batavia is burning – and you want to go there?

Well, who would have thought that Batavia would actually burn down one day. Two years after the disaster at Europa Park, we were determined not to miss the new edition of the Piraten in Batavia dark ride, as well as some of the other novelties of the last three years.

The Voletarium in the entrance area of the amusement park marks the beginning of our little round-up. The ride is the first project under the guise of the Adventure Club of Europe, a fictitious adventurer’s club that links the innovations of the last few years a little bit and is therefore also supposed to function as a trademark of Europa Park. As with the new water park Rulantica, this is taken ad absurdum by various novels, making it difficult to follow the plot once again.

Leaving it at the essentials, however, the Voletarium is a so-called Flying Theatre by the company Brogent Technologies. The flight simulator offers a breathtaking, but very family-friendly, flight through Europe. However, not every transition between the individual scenes is successful, nor logically implemented, so that the film comes across as a little weak in comparison to the really well-done film of Fuji Airlines in Japan’s Fuji-Q Highland or that of Sky Voyager in Australia’s Dreamworld.

Nevertheless, the Voletarium’s location enhances the front section of the park. The ride is coherent overall and is ideal as a ride for in-between.

It’s the same with Jim Knopf – Reise durch Lummerland. In the best Europa Park style, they did not miss the opportunity to integrate another licence into the park – this time one that is mainly known in German-speaking countries. The children’s locomotive Old’99, which previously had a circus theme, was redesigned for this purpose. It’s old decoration found a new home in a small pavilion of the neighbouring marionette boat ride. Accordingly, you now travel with Emma the locomotive through Lummerland, well-known from the book by Michael Ende, which is a really great experience, especially for smaller children.

It’s a similar story with the immensely popular dark ride Snorri Touren, which moved into the basement of the Scandinavian themed area when it was rebuilt. On this tour, Snorri – the mascot of the Rulantica water park – leads us through the legendary water world outside the gates of Rust. Thanks to the vivid design and the largely successful media integration, the ride does a lot of things right – only the short slide sequence, in which the car drives onto a moving platform, is reminiscent of early Playstation 2 titles due to its spongy graphics, and thus dulls the actually coherent overall impression immensely.

Something you can somehow forgive the cute Snorri for, you can’t forgive Madame Freudenreich for the life of her – after all, the Universum der Energie used to be the most coherent dark ride in the entire theme park. Now the ride is no longer even a shadow of its former self, but an attraction you should at best stay away from. Smaller children might still enjoy the Alsatian gugelhupf dinosaur mash, but I can’t think of anyone else who could halfway tolerate this baloney.

It’s a good thing that the Green Fairy has moved in directly above it. Since its redesign, the indoor roller coaster Eurosat CanCan Coaster has taken us on a sensory intoxication. Driven by absinthe and the familiar sounds of In A Second Orbit, we climb up the drum lift in familiar fashion before the Galop Infernal kicks in and we basically encounter a brand new roller coaster.

Like in a CanCan, we swing through the curves. Past large black-light backdrops, we race faster and faster through the dome and are even lifted out of our seats a little in between. The fact that the experience is absolutely smooth makes the ride all the better.

Eurosat has always been a good indoor roller coaster. A bit rough on the ride, but quite entertaining. Eurosat CanCan Coaster on the other side is one of the roller coasters of Europe. Perfectly balanced, atmospheric and with a great show value. Everything is just perfect on this ride.

But that really only applies to the CanCan Coaster. There is also Eurosat Coastiality. While one side has been able to soar to new heights thanks to its collaboration with the Moulin Rouge Variety Theatre, the other side is betting on a VR experience based on Luc Besson’s Valerian – The City of a Thousand Planets.

In principle, I find VR roller coasters fun and Europa Park has already shown on the Alpenexpress Enzian what you can squeeze out of a roller coaster. Despite the outdated graphics, the first film was a revelation beyond compare. After that, many parks joined the VR trend and there seemed to be no stopping them. Fortunately, as quickly as the trend came, it disappeared again, so it’s a little surprising that Europa Park is the only park in the world that continues to promote the technology. Thanks to the resort’s stand-alone attraction Yullbe, however, this is actively no longer happening in the parks.

Eurosat Coastiality is, at least in theory, an extremely passable upcharge attraction that barely if at all affects the capacity of the Eurosat CanCan Coaster thanks to a separate station, which eliminates one of the main points of criticism of VR roller coasters. However, the ride is strenuous and not very impressive thanks to the outdated graphics. The show value of the roller coaster is completely lost, which is why there is no incentive for a repeat ride.

Meanwhile, the dark ride Piraten in Batavia, which has undergone a complete makeover thanks to the new construction, offers plenty of reasons to go on a ride. What was previously a long-winded rip-off version of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean is now much more independent thanks to a consistent storyline around the adventurer Bartholomeus van Robbemond and his otter Jopie. The Piraten in Batavia ride is thoroughly entertaining and offers an overall high show value, which is why it should by no means be missed.

As you can see, Europa Park has been in quite a redesign frenzy in recent years. Some of the projects were long overdue and some of the park’s attractions would actually still like to see such changes. Not every upgrade is a success and not every licence is a plus for the park, but in general the Mack family’s drive is positive. They are trying to show a world-class amusement park to an ever-growing number of visitors, but unfortunately they often forget that great attractions do not need additional media integration.

 

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