Ghosterforce 2017 happened last week, you may have noticed. Thing is, I went to Heide Park and Hansa Park only last year and as good as they are, I couldn't really justify going again so soon. Phantasialand and Movie Park however, hadn't been to either of those so it was definitely worth going to them. And seeing as Toverland is just up the road, I may as well go there too right? And seeing as Efteling is just up the road from Toverland, I may as well start there, yes? And if I'm going to Efteling, may as well fly into Amsterdam and buy a big bag of weed for the trip, correct? And if I'm flying into Amsterdam, makes sense to fly out of Amsterdam too, and tag Walibi Holland on to the end, yes? So that’s how my trip came about. @Sandman certainly thought it sounded like a good idea, so he came along too. Apart from a really intense moment trying to negotiate the narrow, bicycle-ridden, canal-lined, cobbled streets of Amsterdam, everything went swimmingly and we arrived at Efteling on the morning of day 2 to a very empty car park. God, I DO love an empty car park You can’t go to Efteling without taking a picture of the fabulous entrance, it’s just soooo cool. Let me tell you a story; I have actually been to Efteling before. Way back in 2003, on one of many stoner weekends to Amsterdam, me and some mad woman I used to knock about with tried to visit Walibi Holland, but did a full Griswald - trekked halfway across Holland on the train only to find it closed. Anyway, as sort of a consolation prize, we went to Efteling the following day instead. It was ok, I remember it being quite charming, and pretty, and thoughtful, but this was before Baron, and before Joris, and before the Flying Dutchman, so on the whole the ride line-up didn’t really get me very excited. It would be interesting to see how the park fared with a fresh perspective and new coasters to try. Naturally, we headed for the newest coaster first, Baron. Such a beautiful looking thing, even in gloomy light conditions. At one point I fancied myself as a bit of a @davidm and tried to recreate THAT photo - you know the one, that one with Baron reflected in the lake, with the morning mist. As you can see, I failed miserably. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get the composition right and ended up chopping off the top of the lift hill AND the bottom of the reflcted loop. Fail. I am quite pleased with this one though: The ride itself is great, I really liked it. I still think Oblivion is the Daddy of dive machines, but this one could easily be my 2nd favourite, I think I even like it more than the big American ones. Like Oblivion, Baron succesfully manages to marry the theming to the ride concept in a way that makes sense. Nice little pre-show, some cool effects, great soundtrack and a fab, action packed little layout. Loved the zero-G, the airtime hump and the nippy little helix. Plus those lovely little Efteling touches, like the ticket guy and the bell at the top of the drop. Great package all round. Next we minced over Joris and de Draak. Nice empty loading station. Lovely! We had a couple of laps on each side, great little racing woodie this. Loved the flags that drop down above the winning train, the cheers from the knights on one side, the boos from the knights on the other, the little fanfare as the trains leave the station. I really liked it. Josh really liked it too. The dragon is pretty awesome. I tried to get a good action shot with the dragon in front and the train roaring past, had it all lined up, waited patiently, and then at the last minute the bloody dragon lifted its head up. Twat! Also really liked the theme music for Joris. Very catchy and appropriate. Play this and tell me it doesn’t send you right back to that happy place! Great stuff. Python spited, so this one is easy. Didn’t bother me cos I already have the cred, but Josh was miffed. Here’s a picture anyway. I can never remember how to spell De Villg… Die Vileg… Die Vleig… The Flying Dutchman, so I’m just gonna call it The Flying Dutchman. It’s good. I really liked it. Ok so the coaster bit and splashdown is fairly ordinary, but the dark ride section is very impressive. That bit where the mist rolls in and the only source of light is that lantern on the front of the boat? Ooooh, spooky. Nice looking building too. I only managed to get this photo of Bob, but I really enjoyed the coaster. I know I rode it last time I was here, but really couldn’t remember it at all, but it’s pretty good fun. I like bobsled coasters in general, they make me giggle, and it was nice to ride one that’s a bit different to the Mack ones. Shame its days are numbered, recommend riding it while you can. We had a rip on Vogel Rok. Just like everyone else, I only took a picture of the big bird outside cos there’s nothing else to photograph. It’s good, I really liked it. It’s a fairly ordinary, indoor Vekoma made ten times better by having on-board audio and a great soundtrack. Check out the last 30-odd seconds of this track, inspirational stuff. We had a couple of goes on the big pirate ship. When I rode this before, I remembered it being really big, the biggest pirate ship I’d ever seen in fact, but I’d sort of convinced myself since that my overactive imagination had exaggerated the size of the thing and it was, in fact, the same size as any other pirate ship. Nope, it’s fooking massive! Lovely condition too, they really know how to look after stuff here. Still looks brand new. Guess what? I really liked it. Next up we rattled out some of Efteling’s many dark rides. Symbolica, the newest one, was first. It looks beautiful; Bit of a strange one, Symbolica. Technologically it’s astounding, truly cutting edge stuff (how the ride vehicles don’t just go bumping into each other is a minor miracle). The theming is lavish, the budget is all up there for everyone to see and the attention to detail is mind=boggling. However, it doesn’t matter how you dress it up, you can’t ignore the fact that,as a ride, it doesn’t actually DO much. Essentially, it’s the same as Efteling’s other dark rides - all you do is move around very slowly looking at pretty things. It’s good, I still kinda liked it, I’m just not quite sure that I ‘get’ what they were trying to accomplish with it. I really like Droomvlucht though. Another slow moving, scenic dark ride featuring fairies, pixies, cute little animals and quaint, magical forests… and it’s brilliant! I’m a 43 year old man for God’s sake - I’m not supposed to enjoy things like this. I’m a coaster guy, a thrill guy, not a fairytale forest guy, but Efteling has that effect on you, it creeps up on you, draws you in, envelops you. Where Phantasialand (for example) is a bit shouty, a bit in your face, it kinda hammers you into submission with its no-expense-spared quality, Efteling on the other hand has a lot more ‘charm’, a subtle, seductive approach that gently cups your ripe plums for the entire day, giving them a little squeeze every now and then while whispering in your ear ‘You like this don’t you? Eh? You like my trees and my magic forests, you like my themed cashpoint and my talking litterbins that say thank you, you like this, right? Oh yes, you like my ride music too, don’t you? Yeah, let me cradle those plums for you some more…’ This is the themed cashpoint: I’d heard so much about it, I just had to try it out. Didn’t even need any cash, but I drew some out anyway just to see what the cashpoint does. ‘So what does the cashpoint do, Howie?’ Sorry, can’t tell you that. You have to go there for yourself to find out. We had a blast on the rapids. They were good, I liked them. Bit short maybe, but nicely themed, nicely landscaped, nicely paced, just… nice. After a bit of a mission trying to find it, we had a rip on Fata Morgana, or Fat Morgan, as I like to call it. I missed this last time round and it’s easy to see why. Proper hidden away this ride, innit? It’s what CF veterans refer to as a CBR - a Crappy Boat Ride - except it’s not in the least bit crappy, it’s good. We really liked it. Lengthy, atmospheric, quality animatronics, good music, casual racism, prostitution - everything a good CBR should have. Despite being built in the 80’s, it’s still in surprisingly good nick too. Sadly no pictures, but I think Josh has some. Probably millions. We had a rip on Villa Volta, the Vekoma madhouse. You won’t believe this, but I really liked it. Now obviously it’s not Hex, Hex is bestest, but it is quite a good one. Nice looking building: The pre-show, consisting of an animatronic dude babbling away in Dutch for 10 minutes or so is a bit long winded, but the spinny room is pretty cool and the music is fab. Structurally, you can really hear the similarities to the Hex theme, but this has a cheesy, Eurovision kinda vibe that’s kinda hard to resist. The big finish gives me goosebumps! Apologies for sharing another ride music clip, but this stuff matters. Everyone seems to go nuts for IMAscore these days, but I actually think they’re a bit overrated. Not a fan, it all sounds a bit too ‘synthesised’ for me, a bit Hans Zimmer rather than John Williams, you get me? Give me a full orchestral piece like this any day. With all the rides pretty much done, we had a go on the flying island thing to get some nice aerial photographs: Love how they even themed the rooftop of the Symbolica building: Got a feeling you may see a few more pictures from this viewpoint: With that done, all that was left to do was wander round, take some more pictures, get some rerides and generally chill out, soaking up the Efteling atmos’. Here is some more random pretty stuff: Some of the greenery and parkland reminds me of Alton Towers: Oops, bit blurry this one. Boobies We rounded off the day by watching Aquanura, the fountain/lighting/pyrotechnic show on the lake. Biggest fountain in Europe, apparently, third largest in the world (behind the one in Dubai and the one at the Bellagio). It was good, we really liked it. I didn’t take any pictures of it, but I’m sure Josh did. I just love the fact that Efteling spent (a rumoured) 12 million euros on a fountain, just so they can put on a free show for their guests at the end of every day. You’d never in a million years find Merlin doing that. As you’ve probably gathered by now, Efteling is really good, I really liked it.. Last time I visited, it was just a back up plan, somewhere else to go when Walibi spited and I found it ‘ok’. This time, the park has really won me over, it’s just a really, really nice place to be. Great rides, beautiful landscaping, thoughtful detailing and a warm, welcoming atmosphere. In fact, I’ve decided that this was my favourite park of the trip which means - gasp - that I actually prefer it to Phantasialand. There, I said it. What can I say? I like my theme parks to have trees, sue me. Phantasia is amazing, not gonna argue there, but it’s not got any (real) trees and it’s just so very… what’s the word? German! ‘VE ARE ZE BEST, JA?’ Well, no actually Fritz. Efteling is better. I just prefer Efteling’s inherent, gentile, chilled out Dutch-ness. My mum’s half Dutch, y’know. Maybe that’s why I feel so at home there. Or maybe it’s because I’m a huge pot head. I dunno, you decide. Anyways, here’s a blurry picture of me n Josh at the entrance again: Ta for reading, Toverland coming soon.