NEDERLANDS // ENGLISH
Northern Europe has a rich tradition when it comes to city amusement parks. Copenhagen is home to the famous Tivoli Gardens, in Göteborg you’ll find the widely acclaimed Liseberg and Stockholm is the place to be for ultra-compact amusement park perfection. The phenomenon also exists in Finland: Tampere is home to Särkänniemi and in Helsinki a visit to Linnanmäki shouldn’t be missed. By the way… Helsinki is barely three and a half hours by train from Saint Petersburg, so it seemed ideal to conclude our trip to Russia in the Finnish capital. The fact that Linnanmäki opened an impressive new roller coaster just a few weeks ago, made things even more interesting.
You can enter the park for free (that’s not exceptional in Scandinavia) and a few small-scaled family rides are free of charge, but you’ll have to pay for everything else. That’s why I walk straight to a ticket booth, where cheerful Finnish ladies are waiting for me this morning. The cost for a Ranneke – a wristband that allows unlimited access to the rides for one day – is 42 euros. That’s normal by European standards and besides, it’s definitely the cheapest option if you want to ride multiple attractions. Single ride tickets are also available, but these are quite pricey. Let’s just go for the full option, shall we?
That full option package preferably starts with the most thrilling ride Linnanmäki has to offer. That’s Taiga, an Intamin Blitz Coaster which premiered on 18th June 2019. It replaced Vonkaputous, a water roller coaster which has been in the park until 2017. I’ve never ridden Vonkaputous (it was too cold for water rides during my previous visit) but it looked rather old and the ride’s location was remote. Taiga’s entrance, however, is located right in the centre of the park. As a result, many visitors seem to find their way to this novelty early in the morning. I join them in the queue and approximately 25 minutes later, I close the restraint. I’m ready to ride.
With a track length of 1,100 metres, a top speed of 110 km/h and a total of 4 inversions, Taiga looks nothing less than impressive. In other words: my expectations are high and I’m not disappointed. Taiga is quite powerful from the start. The first inversion provides great hangtime and the following curves are more forceful than I expected them to be. The train is then launched a second time, after which the coaster becomes even more intense. My favorite elements in the second part are a perfectly executed stall (a moment where I experience total weightlessness), a powerful airtime hill (which is a lot better than Untamed‘s micro bunny) and the final inversion: a very surprising in-line twist.
I realize that this is very nerdy coaster language, but that’s no coincidence: Taiga wakes up the roller coaster nerd in me. This really is coaster perfection from the highest level. Taiga even feels like it’s the looping version of Phantasialand’s famous Taron, which is a huge compliment. There’s a noticeable vibration towards the back of the train, but my ride in the 3rd row is close to perfection. According to a United Nations research, Finns are the happiest people in the world. And thanks to Taiga, I’m starting to understand why.
I ride Taiga 4 times and that’s a pretty time-consuming activity. Because no matter how good the coaster is, operations are rather poor at this time. During my visit, there’s only one dispatch approximately every four minutes and that results in waiting times of 50 to 60 minutes during most of the day. This slow pace seems to be largely due to express passes. It’s possible to pay extra for priority boarding and that system lowers capacity dramatically. These guests are allowed to enter the station from the other side and they get a free seating choice. Only when they’re all seated, the gates are opened for other passengers. This system doesn’t change the fact that Taiga is awesome, but it does deteriorate the overall experience. Linnanmäki should be able to perform better, if you ask me.
Taiga is without a doubt the best roller coaster at Linnanmäki. Yet, this Finnish amusement park offers a lot more: there are many family attractions, a large number of flat rides and a total of eight roller coasters. Unfortunately, not all of them are equally fascinating. Taiga’s neighbour, for example, is one of Europe’s most uninteresting coasters. I’m talking about Kirnu, an Intamin ZacSpin. The thing looks like a funfair ride and honestly… it also feels like one. I rode it in 2015 and I found the experience so meaningless that I’m definitely not riding it today. Thank you, next.
I shouldn’t look too far to find that next roller coaster. Just like many Scandinavian amusement parks, Linnanmäki is very compact. A few steps from Kirnu, I find Linnunrata eXtra, an indoor coaster. It’s located in a circular brick building that stands in the middle of the park. That structure is quite big, but please don’t expect a big coaster on the inside. With a track length of 300 metres and a height of 7 metres, it’s nothing more than a simple family ride. Still, I love the queue’s retro space theme and it’s possible to make the ride experience more intense with VR glasses. I’m not a fan of virtual reality in amusement parks, but in this case it’s okay. I only find it strange that those VR headsets aren’t cleaned between two rides… That seems hard to imagine in most other parks, right?
It’s a beautiful summer day in Southern Finland. The sky is blue and the temperature of 22°C is just perfect for an amusement park visit. That’s a huge difference compared to my previous visit, which was dominated by cool and rainy weather. Besides, it was so windy that the 46-metre tall Ukko had to be closed during the afternoon. As a result, this SkyLoop was still missing on my coaster counter, but that’s about to change today. The wait time is less than ten minutes around 12 PM and I’m happy about that. After all, I wouldn’t want to spend a longer wait on this ride. Although Ukko is a little less shaky than the version I did at Dreamworld, it remains a very moderate experience. This is actually just a giant swing that happens to contain an unpleasant vertical lift hill and two inversions. Not worth a 60-minute queue, that’s for sure.
Apart from Taiga, most rides didn’t amaze me until now. But fortunately, Vuoristorata is about to change that. The name sounds exotic, but actually it’s just the Finnish translation of the word roller coaster. It has been there since 1951, making it the oldest coaster at Linnanmäki by a large margin. And believe it or not: despite that respectable age, Vuoristorata clearly has the highest capacity of all roller coasters here. Three trains with 24 seats are quickly dispatched and the waiting time is limited to 5 minutes this afternoon.
Not only the capacity is noteworthy; the so-called brakeman is a striking feature as well. Vuoristorata is one of the few remaining coasters on this planet where the brakes are not installed on the rails, but underneath the train. That is why there’s a staff member seated in every train to operate the brakes manually. As a result, no ride is completely the same. I remember a quite boring ride in 2015, but today I experience great airtime in the back row. This weightlessness is even more exciting if you think about the fact that vehicles could actually just fly off the tracks. However, I trust that those brakemen know their jobs well enough to avoid these accidents. Vuoristorata may not be the world’s most spectacular roller coaster, but I enjoyed this ride with my whole heart. Historical coaster rides are fantastic.
The skyline of Linnanmäki isn’t only filled with roller coasters, but also with flat rides and towers. The most striking examples are a panorama tower (this one can be visited completely free of charge, by the way), a 75-metre tall free fall tower, a classic Enterprise and the Rinkeli Ferris wheel, which offers impressive views of Taiga.
It’s wonderful to see how Linnanmäki made smart use of the available space. Tivoli Gröna Lund and Phantasialand are known as the most compact amusement parks in Europe, but Linnanmäki also makes perfect use of its limited surface. Many attractions were built above one another. A good example is the rapid river, which is almost completely hidden underneath a roller coaster. That rapid river looks soaking wet, so I decide not to ride it today. However, I don’t want to skip the coaster above it: Salama. This is a spinning coaster and I remember that I loved it back in 2015. That’s why I defy the waiting time of 20 minutes (the longest of the whole day, except for Taiga) and take a seat in a bright pink vehicle. I then realize that my memory hasn’t fooled me: what a nice roller coaster! Salama is not super tall or fast, but it runs incredibly smoothly and it’s surprisingly disorienting. This actually feels like it’s the smaller version of Tarántula, which is often considered as Europe’s best spinning coaster.
Vuoristorata and Salama are undoubtedly the best family roller coasters at Linnanmäki. The two remaining coasters are a whole lot less fascinating. Pikajuna is a slow, simple powered coaster and the nearby Tulireki performs even worse. This ride has a similar colour scheme as Taiga, which is right next to it. This makes it somewhat difficult to see which blue tracks belong to which coaster. During the ride, however, it is very simple to feel the difference. Are you riding a fast and smooth roller coaster? Then you’re riding Taiga. But do you find yourself in a shaky, terribly unpleasant experience? Then you’re probably riding Tulireki. I have no idea what went wrong when Mack invented this roller coaster type, but the designer should be fired immediately.
I ride Taiga two more times and decide to leave Linnanmäki a little later. Admittedly: that hurts a bit, because this park has surprised me in a very pleasant way. During my previous visit, I found Linnanmäki an average park. The bad weather undoubtedly influenced that mediocre experience. However, under today’s bright summer sun, Linnanmäki performed remarkably better. There is a wide array of attractions for every age group, the food and beverage department is doing a great job and I enjoy the overall atmosphere within the park. Besides, I’d like to give an extra compliment to the staff members, who are exceptionally sweet and helpful. This all plays an important role in my positive feeling, but Taiga remains the star of the day. If you asked me what attraction was still missing in 2015, I would have answered ‘a thrilling roller coaster’. The fact that this thrilling machine is actually there today, is absolutely amazing.
I’ve never considered Linnanmäki as a fascinating place, but times have changed. Nowadays, it’s right on par with those other urban amusement parks in Northern Europe. So tell me… when can I go back?