Europa-Park

Klik hier voor de Nederlandstalige versie van dit tripverslag.

Can I show you my favourite German village? It’s called Rust and it can be found somewhere in the southwestern corner of the country, close to France and Switzerland. It has the typical German charm: it’s full of friendly people, colourful houses and you can find a good place to sleep at a local Gästehaus. There’s just one thing that distinguishes this cute town from most of the others. That thing can be noticed in the background of the photo below…

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Rust is the hometown of Europa-Park, Germany’s largest theme park and the European number 2 when it comes to attendance (after Disneyland Paris).

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Nowadays, Europa-Park attracts over 5 million visitors each year. However, it all started as a small, local amusement park which showcased the attractions Mack Rides manufactures. The park has always counted as a German alternative for Disneyland and some parts are clearly based on it. You enter Europa-Park through a German-style Main Street and the park’s mascot is – you guessed it – a mouse.

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Deutsche Allee, which translates to The German Avenue, welcomes us to our sunny Halloween getaway.

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The main avenue isn’t just a place for shopping and dining, but it’s also home to one of the park’s signature attractions. Voletarium opened in 2017 and it’s Europa-Park’s take on the Disney classic Soarin’. Although it isn’t as good as Soarin’ Over The World, Europa-Park did a great job when it comes to theming and IMAscore delivered a wonderful soundtrack.

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Even the backside of the big showbuilding is nicely themed (this photo was taken from outside the park).

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Voletarium was the most expensive attraction Europa-Park has ever built and the result is beautiful. This small square was part of the expansion and it includes restrooms and a fastfood outlet selling German sausages.

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Although the ride’s facade looks completely different than Soarin’, Europa-Park once again got inspired by Disney. There’s a scene with the park’s mascots playing golf (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?), the final scene shows fireworks over the park (seriously?!) and there’s even a FastPass option to enjoy the attraction without queueing. I’ve loved Europa-Park since my first visit and I’ve been an annual pass holder for the last 13 years, but I regret the fact that they still try to copy Disney stuff. This is one of the world’s most successful theme parks, so they should be capable of doing thing differently.

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That being said, the queue for Voletarium looks amazing. This is probably one of the nicest looking queue areas in Europe.

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When Europa-Park opened in 1975, there weren’t any themed areas. This was just a regular amusement park with a few family attractions and shows. Things changed dramatically in 1982, when the park introduced the Italian quarter. This was the first land themed a European country and many others would follow during the next decades. Nowadays, Italy isn’t the most thrilling place in Europa-Park, but it looks very cosy. The area’s main ride is Geisterschloß, a ghost train with a few similarities to Disney’s Haunted Mansion. The pre-show takes place in an elevator (haha) and you encounter singing busts during the ride… I’m serious.

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Next up is the French section. This is one of the biggest themed lands at Europa-Park, with lots of rides. It’s also home to one of the nicest places to have a cocktail (or coffee) while enjoying some peace and quiet.

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The French quarter is the epicenter of all the action at Europa-Park this year. A considerable part of the area got revamped during the 2018 season and the result looks stunning under these blue skies.

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The biggest novelty is Eurosat CanCan Coaster, a complete remake of the classic Eurosat indoor coaster. They installed new tracks, trains got replaced, this entire facade is new and an amazing looking queue line replaced the old-fashioned switchback queue.

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One of Eurosat’s old vehicles was painted in the colours of the new trains and it’s showcased near Euro-Tower. Pretty cool for coaster enthusiasts.

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The new queue looks fabulous. There’s a certain Space Mountain (European version) vibe to it, but the Disney touch is a lot less noticeable than in the rest of the park.

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I’m not that fond of outdoor queues for an indoor attraction (not ideal on rainy days, if you ask me), but this small courtyard is very cute.

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This fun little detail can be found in the indoor part of the queue: the robot in the background used to be at the entrance of the old Eurosat.

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So… the exterior looks amazing and the queue is cool. But how is the actual ride? Honestly, it was an underwhelming experience to me. Europa-Park chose for cardboard-like theming elements just like the ones you can see while riding Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Nothing wrong with that; space is limited inside the sphere, so I didn’t expect much more. However, the onboard-audio (which is very important for a coaster which should be a tribute to the Moulin Rouge and CanCan) didn’t work properly during our rides and the midcourse brakes reduce the speed a little too radically. Eurosat used to be a thrilling experience with some heavy g-forces and snappy transitions. It was somewhat rough, but that never bothered me. Unfortunately, the Eurosat we experience today is tame and even boring towards the end.

Europa-Park has admitted that the current version of CanCan Coaster didn’t exactly meet their own expectations, so I hope that they’ll use the coming winter season to make some necessary adjustments.

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There are two different ways to ride the new Eurosat. There’s the classic CanCan version, but you can also try a VR ride which is themed to the film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. That movie was a box office disaster, so I don’t know why Europa-Park opted for it. But hey, let’s try this new experience…

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I actually don’t like virtual reality on rollercoasters, but Eurosat Coastiality is somewhat different. You put on your VR goggles before the actual ride, so the last few metres of the queue are experienced in VR. It’s a strange feeling to board the coaster train without seeing it in real-life, but it was also pretty cool. Honestly, the rest of the VR coaster ride isn’t that spectacular and I wouldn’t spend another 6 euros to experience it all again.

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The dark ride which is hidden underneath Eurosat got completely revamped as well. Believe it or not… its former name was Universe of Energy and it was filled with dinosaur audio-animatronics. It wasn’t bad, but of course this was a cheap Disney-ripoff of the highest degree. Luckily, its replacement has nothing to do with Disney at all.

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That replacement is called Madame Freudenreich’s Curiosités and it tells the story of a shopkeeper who adopted some dinosaurs as her pets. The queue starts inside her shop, which is filled with an odd collection of curiosities.

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The ride makes use of the same doombuggies as its predecessor and some dinos may look familiar to those who knew Europa-Park’s Universe of Energy. However, most of the scenes are completely redone and can’t be recognized.

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One of Europa-Park’s biggest weaknesses is its dark ride department. Although they’ve got quite a few of them, not a single one manages to stand out. It’s all cute and enjoyable for the whole family, but it’s definitely not on par with the amazing darkrides you will find at Efteling, Disneyland or Universal Studios. Madame Freudenreich’s Curiosités doesn’t change my opinion, unfortunately.

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Dark rides aren’t exactly Europa-Park’s strength, but rollercoasters are. According to the Rollercoaster Database, the park currently offers a total of 13 coasters. One of the park’s biggest draws is Silver Star.

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Silver Star is a B&M mega coaster that opened in 2002. It was the continent’s tallest and fastest rollercoaster at that time, but lots of coaster fans seem to hate it. They say the ride is boring or they even claim that it’s the biggest kiddie coaster in Europe. Those aren’t the comments you’d expect while talking about a huge €13.000.000 B&M, right?

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But please, believe me… Silver Star isn’t nearly as bad as those silly coaster enthusiasts state. Sure, it’s not the most jaw-dropping thrill you’ll ever experience and that first curve is a little shaky. But the first drop is fantastic and those camel backs provide great moments of airtime. So, dear Silver Star, don’t feel sad because of the bad things people tell about you. You’re better than they think.

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From Silver Star’s steep slopes to Switzerland’s snowy slopes… The Valais village is one of the most picturesque places in the whole park.

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The Swiss area is home to a one-of-a-kind flatride with colourful little planes. It’s got the base of a classic octopus ride, but it’s unique because the vehicles face forward at any given time.

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Switzerland is a small country, both in real life and at Europa-Park. But despite its limited size, it’s home to 2 beloved family rollercoasters. The first one is called Matterhorn Blitz. This is a wild mouse with a funky vertical lift and it’s themed to a Swiss farm. Ever dreamt of meeting a chicken while riding a Mack wild mouse? Then you should consider riding Matterhorn Blitz, but be warned: wait times get rather long. Ride it right after park opening or near closing time to avoid the crowds.

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The land’s second coaster is named Schweizer Bobbahn and this was Mack’s first bobsled coaster ever. Although its setting within the Swiss village is stunning, this is actually my least favourite rollercoaster at Europa-Park. It’s short, uninteresting and the final brake run feels longer than the ride itself. To make things even worse, those brakes are placed right next to a raclette stall. Most terrible smell ever to end a coaster ride.

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Travelling between Switzerland and Greece may take a while in real life, but at Europa-Park both countries can be found right next to each other.

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The Greek section is home to one of the most unforgettable views at the park. You haven’t visited Europa-Park if you haven’t made this photo.

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Greece is home to a very famous water rollercoaster called Poseidon. It opened in 2000, when Europa-Park celebrated its 25th birthday. And it was a wonderful birthday present, that’s for sure. The ride’s queue is beautiful…

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… and the loading platform is simply stunning. By the way: those lighting installations at the ceiling are temporary. Europa-Park hosts a Horror Nights event during Halloween time and Poseidon’s station is transformed into a night club (!) during select evenings.

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No night club beats for us today, but we do enjoy Poseidon’s drops and splashes.

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Be warned that this isn’t the smoothest ride at Europa-Park. Especially the first coaster part can be quite shaky, but that doesn’t impact the fun, if you ask me.

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I rode Poseidon for the first time in August of the year 2000, only one month after it officially opened. And although the ride has been there for a while now, I still love it as much as I did back then.

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Breathtaking views are guaranteed at Europa-Park’s Greek area.

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In general, European water rides are a lot less soaking than their American brothers. That’s a good thing, because I wouldn’t want to miss Poseidon during these cooler Autumn days.

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Poseidon lies within the coaster epicentre of Europa-Park, with lots of rollercoasters within short walking distance. One of those coasters is actually built between the supports of Poseidon and it’s called Pegasus. This was Mack Rides’ take on classic family rollercoasters and they did a fine job: it’s smooth, comfortable and the ride is actually more intense than you might expect. I only regret the fact that it’s been somewhat tucked away in a remote corner of the park.

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Every year during Autumn, Europa-Park is transformed into one big Halloween world. The park doesn’t cut corners when it comes to these kinds of special events. They add Halloween theming to their attractions, shows and hotels, food options are adjusted to the season and you might encounter some creepy looking scare actors. Each year, 180.000 pumpkins are used just for decoration purposes.

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As I said, dark rides aren’t Europa-Park’s strength. Especially now (their largest dark ride was recently destroyed by a huge fire) it has become hard to find a satisfying dark ride . The only exception is Arthur – The Ride, which combines the fun of a rollercoaster with a few cool dark ride scenes. The theming still isn’t on Disney-level, but the ride system truly blows my mind every time I ride. It’s extremely smooth, restraints are comfortable and theming possibilities seem almost unlimited. This is definitely one of my favourite European family attractions.

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If I should describe Arthur’s ride system, I’d probably go for Inverted Spinning Powered Rollercoaster. Simple.

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Arthur isn’t the only spinning coaster at Europa-Park. The other one can be found in the Russian section of the park, which lies right behind this adorable gate.

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Just in case you were wondering… it’s also Halloween in Russia.

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The Russian village is just as cute as most other areas of the park. It’s home to a small-scale dark ride called Schlittenfahrt, which translates to Sleigh Ride. This may be one of the cheapest looking dark rides in the whole of Europe. It literally feels like it’s been put together with Christmas decorations from the local DIY store.

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Please open Spotify or YouTube, search for the Euro-Mir soundtrack and put your volume level to the maximum. This music can be heard throughout the queue line of this legendary rollercoaster and it’s awesome.

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Euro-Mir is without a doubt the most unusual rollercoaster at Europa-Park. That applies to the exterior, the soundtrack and the ride experience. This unique spinning coaster is a little rough and it may be nauseating if you’re facing backwards during the last part of the ride. I love it a lot, though. The queue feels like a 90’s house party, the endless spiral lifthill is pointless and the ride offers some stunning views over Europa-Park.

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FYI: Euro-Mir is at its best during night rides. So if you’re lucky enough to visit the park in the dark, be sure to catch a ride after sunset.

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There are innumerable food and beverage possibilities at Europa-Park. Each themed land has its own culinary specialties and the park’s official resort hotels have some lovely restaurants as well. One of the most popular dining options is FoodLoop at the Luxembourg Square. This was the world’s first looping restaurant.

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Long story short: you order food on a computer screen and a few minutes later, it’s delivered to your table with help of these coaster tracks. Alton Towers has recently opened its own Rollercoaster Restaurant, so it may look familiar. FoodLoop at Europa-Park is well worth a visit: food quality is good and it’s not overly expensive. However, wait times to enter get ridiculously long during lunch time and you can’t reserve a table in advance. So prepare to eat early or wait in line…

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Strangest moment of the day… seeing the location of the former Scandinavian village and the Piraten in Batavia dark ride with my own eyes. Unfortunately, both the dark ride and the cute fishing village were burnt down by a huge fire on 26th of May 2018. This was undoubtedly the darkest day in Europa-Park’s history, but the park immediately began to fight back. They cleared the land in no-time and today, only 4 months after the disaster, reconstruction has already begun.

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The new Scandinavian village is scheduled to open in 2019 and a modern version of Piraten in Batavia should be opening approximately one year later.

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As long as construction is underway, these painted tarps hide the site. It looks odd, but I’m sure Europa-Park will do everything to bring back the Scandinavian facades in its original glory. Until then, a ride on Fjord Rafting will look like this.

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The oldest rollercoaster at Europa-Park is Alpenexpress Enzian. It’s been here since 1984, but it doesn’t feel dated at all. They even added a virtual reality option to this coaster in 2015, but I would recommend riding Alpenexpress in its original form. That’s the best way to experience the ride’s beautiful indoor part, which is themed to a diamond mine.

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The Spanish section of the park doesn’t feature any big attractions, but it’s the ideal place to enjoy a glass of sangria in the sun.

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Another area which looks at its best under sunny skies is Portugal. This themed land is home to only one major ride, but it’s a beauty: Atlantica SuperSplash. It opened in the year 2005 and of course, it’s especially popular during the hottest days of Summer.

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Atlantica may be a rather simple splash ride, but the theming is top-notch. Europa-Park built a Portuguese fortress and even a huge ship (including a cocktail bar! I like!) to give this ride the scenery it deserves. The clear blue water makes it look even more amazing.

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People always say: save the best for last. And the best place in Europa-Park, that’s the Icelandic section if you ask me.

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Iceland is home to a stunningly beautiful splash battle and an elaborately themed wooden coaster called Wodan Timbur Coaster.

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Wodan opened in 2012 and it was built by Great Coasters International. Just like most GCI coasters, it’s characterized by sudden transitions, high speed curves and a few good pops of airtime. This is definitely my favourite GCI in the world, especially if I’m seated in the back row. The first drop is pure coaster heaven and the ride offers a great sense of speed. Besides, waiting in line shouldn’t feel like a punishment here: the indoor part of the queue was decorated fabulously.

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Iceland isn’t home to one, but two world-class rollercoasters. In 2009, Europa-Park opened Blue Fire, Mack Rides’ first installment of the so called Megacoaster. This new coaster type was the manufacturer’s first attempt to design thrilling inversion coasters and it was a great success. And although bigger – and better – Megacoasters have been built since then, Blue Fire remains an outstanding ride.

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Blue Fire may not have the most intense launch mechanism in the world, but this coaster creates pure joy. Thanks to its top speed of approximately 100 km/h, four inversions and the incredibly comfortable seating, it’s my favourite ride in the park. And just like most other rides at Europa-Park, the capacity is so enormous that the line hardly ever stops moving.

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Sure… I know Liseberg’s Helix is better and Blue Fire isn’t as powerful as Taron. But to me, this coaster is nothing less than perfect.

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I admit… I didn’t show much of the actual place called Rust, but I did show you all of my most beloved places within this German village. Europa-Park has been my favourite European theme park for the past twenty years and I’m quite sure that this won’t change any time soon. The park isn’t perfect; there are weaknesses. Dark rides are so-so, some staff members may seem a bit rude and copying Disney isn’t the thing you’d expect from a park with 5 million visitors annually. But the strong points make up for them by a big margin. There’s a large number of great attractions, ride capacity is at its maximum, the overall level of theming is good and most food offerings are delicious.

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Europa-Park, it was a pleasure to be back. Thanks for another great weekend and see you soon!

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