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5 Years Later - European Road Trip: Phantasialand [final post]


Mega Poster
It’s surely common knowledge that if you have seen me comment on ride technicalities, I will often use it as an opportunity to apply anecdotal information I picked up during my season working at Europa Park in 2017. During this time I made quite a few close friends, some of which I remain in contact with to this day.

Despite only having seen eachother once in the interim, a good friend of mine from Europa and I have been planning 2 road trips since we both left the park. One in America, as he is from Canada, and then one in Europe. We would pilot the road trip which was in our native continent for one another. After much deliberation, head scratching and fantasising, we decided around the end of last year that the first road trip we do should be short but sweet one around Western Europe, consisting of:
  • Hansa Park
  • Heide Park
  • Walibi Holland
  • Toverland
  • Phantasialand
  • Walibi Belgium
  • Plopsaland
In that order. We’d try and get some culture in too, stopping at some of the various cultural hubs of each of the countries we’d be driving through, including:
  • Hamburg
  • Saltou
  • Enschede
  • Eindhoven
  • Bonn
  • Cologne
  • Brussels
  • Ghent
  • Dunkirk


Everything was booked by March in prep for our mid-june trip. Things were looking great. I haven’t done a trip like this in years, so I was getting super excited. It was surely to be the trip of a lifetime.

Then my car’s exhaust fell off a week before we were due to leave.

Not taking any chances, I took it to my mechanic who I’ve been with for years and asked for a full service, and basically said ‘this is my budget, please make it roadworthy for a 1,600 mile trip’.
He said ‘yeah sure, no problem’.

I got my car back, feeling the wind blow through the hole in my wallet, but no less, still raring to get going.

I scooped up my friend from the airport, and we set off at the break of dawn to Dover towards the eurotunnel. Through border control, a poor group of bachelors and their old banger were stuck on the side, engine smoking. My friend and I laughed, ‘imagine the luck!’ Little did we know how harshly we had just jinxed our next week.

My biggest worry wasn’t that my car would break down, or that I’d have an issue with my paperwork (the sheer panic of trying to find your v5c 4 hours before you’re supposed to be leaving…), but rather I’d get pulled over because one of my cars reflectors fell off between my mechanics garage and home. No less, we made good pace, and were due to arrive in Hamburg to meet another one of our old colleagues from Europa for beer by about 7pm. 600k into the drive, with around 200k still to go, we hit some bad traffic in a bottleneck of roadworks around Osnabruck. My car’s AC had cut out about an hour before and the sun was glaring down on us. As the traffic crawled forward at a measly 30km/h, my clutch gave in, and got stuck in gear. Because of the lack of hard shoulder due to the roadworks, sheer panic kicked in, along with a crescendo of swears in frustration at the fact I just spent as much money as I had fixing the damn vehicle to make sure something like this wouldn't happen. Thankfully the traffic didnt stop, and I was able to get into the outside lane, and then into the drive up to a closed off layby. We sat for a while seeing if my engine would cool down as it had started to smoke under the bonnet, and the water was bubbling away in its container. After about 40 minutes of sitting on the barrier watching the traffic creep passed, something started leaking heavily from under the engine. With some pretty heavy sighs, I called up my insurance and asked for a tow truck. 4 hours later a big friendly mechanic who spoke no English came along, towed us back to the nearest town, Osnabruck, and left us on the curb, stuck with our own devices.


This was not how I wanted to start the trip.

I was pretty annoyed, confused, deflated, and at this point, tired. I was embarrassed that my mate who I hadn’t seen in 4 years was having to go through all of this because of my car's reliability. I kept thinking what else could I have done, but I’m fairly sure the answer is nothing before buying an entirely new car. The insurance worker was predictably illusive and a bit rubbish, but eventually we got a hotel sorted near the garage for the night, and were instructed to come back to the garage as it opened in the morning. I was really, genuinely worried that not only would I be carless from this point on, but my mate and I would end our trip abroad without getting on any coasters.

I don’t like doing structured trip reports as I find a lot of the same stuff is often said over and over by different people, so I’ll split the reports into fairly short park commentary & overviews instead of a breakdown of our days, and then maybe some anecdotes about struggling around Europe on a road trip…without a car.
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Mega Poster
We arrived at the garage at 8, to be told they wouldn’t be able to inspect my vehicle until midday. After 2 more hours on the phone to my insurance explaining that I needed a hire car for at least the one day, I also discovered that I had some pretty gaping gaps in my insurance cover, despite my travel and car insurance being with the same supplier. Stress induced migraine incoming, broken german flying all over the place, and a car that wouldn't move lead to an impromptu taxi being taken into town to ‘just try and find a bloody working car to get to a theme park’. At this point it was approaching midday, and we found a Sixt that would give us a whip for the day that we could actually afford. Hansa park was sadly out of the picture, along with the visit to our old colleague. We bombed down the autobahn and managed to get to Heide Park for 4pm. I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to see a drop tower over the treeline in my life.

Heide Park is probably my favourite Merlin attraction. It’s clean, has great character, and has some pretty stellar rides.


Colossos refurb was pleasantly surprising. I’d heard a lot of mixed things about it before riding so I tried to go in as open minded as I could; the first third of it is pretty mental. It definitely takes the foot off the gas around the halfway point but it’s still a lot of fun, nothing to scream home about.


Oh and the theme might be the least inspired thing I have ever seen, but it's dominating presence at the back of the park is really cool.



Desert Race has the coolest op box in the world. And the ride is noticably a lot better than Rita.


Transylvania was probably my favourite area of the park. The theming is top notch. Flug Der Damonen is a grossly underrated ride. I wish every Merlin coaster could be as well finished as Flug; it truly ticks all the boxes in what I want to see in a coaster.


Of course, the view across the lake is also amazing.


Recently I've seen a few comments on how disappointing it is that Heide has so many empty plots where past attractions were - I can honestly say it did not affect my visit whatsoever. We did start noticing it towards the end of our second day here, but there are so many attractions to do anyway it’s no detraction from the existing lineup. Although the park was pretty busy both days we were here, we managed to get everything significant we wanted to do done, plus a couple of rerides on Colossos and Flug and a fair few of the supporting attractions. Even with the overshadowing thoughts of 'How the f**k are we going to do the rest of the trip' we managed to have a really good time.

At this point I was quoted over a grand to fix my car - and the fix time wouldn't be until I had planned to return from my trip. So we extended the rental on the car for a couple more days, and decided to head on to a couple more parks.
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Mega Poster
When I last visited Walibi Holland, Lost Gravity was totally brand new, and I remember being really underwhelmed by the park as I thought it was a spiritual cousin of Thorpe Park in a lot of ways. Suffice to say that opinion has changed.


If you find yourself on a road trip around Europe and are missing the gym, this is a must visit park. It hits the sweet spot somewhere between going a bit too hard on the weights and getting the s**t kicked out of you in the year 11 playground.


Untamed was known as Robin Hood when I last visited - a very unimpressive vekoma(?) woodie. The RMC conversion has done wonders. The ride is quick, exciting, and really intense. So intense, in fact, that from about midday they couldnt load the second and third car because it would run too fast, and according to a park employee, shear some of its wheel bearings. Appropriate name, huh? Untamed was definitely one of the highlight coasters of the trip, but it's quite the agility test. We rode it 3 times in a row, and were done with it for a fair few hours after. It properly beats you up and makes a good effort of ejecting you into the ride structure on the return leg.


Goliath was riding a lot better than I remember; nice, old school floaty intamin elements.


Lost Gravity was a lot better than I remember too - really flicky, quite forceful, and a seriously good first drop.


Obligatory ride on El Condor just because its the first one. Dont be catfished by the new restraints, or the 'chill...' sign on the station - the first drop is surprisingly pleasant, but thereafter the concussion you're used to has now been transferred through the vest restraints to your middle, and the coaster makes a valiant effort at displacing your hips.


Walibi Holland is a really solid park - their operations were really good especially considering how hot and busy the day was. The longest we queued was for food. If you like intense coasters it really is a must visit - having said that, a day to rest up afterwards might be in order, as with the lineup of rides they have is utterly relentless.

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Mega Poster
I think you need some higher iso film or something! If you don't want to manually adjust your exposure time, that is.


Strata Poster
When I last visited Walibi Holland, Lost Gravity was totally brand new
I hate how old I feel knowing that our mini European together was now over 6 YEARS AGO.

But glad you enjoyed Untamed, proper beast of a ride. I also seem to remember you were slightly underwhelmed by Lost Gravity at first, so good to hear it's improved with age!

Loving the report so far!


Mega Poster
I think you need some higher iso film or something! If you don't want to manually adjust your exposure time, that is.

MMm a lot of my shots came out quite dark, couldn't really work out why. I was shooting on Portra 400 and Fuji 100. Portra 400 has always been reliable, a lot of shots from Heide came out super nice but less so at Walibi. I'd have taken my medium format camera too had I not used up all my film the week before the trip!

I hate how old I feel knowing that our mini European together was now over 6 YEARS AGO.

But glad you enjoyed Untamed, proper beast of a ride. I also seem to remember you were slightly underwhelmed by Lost Gravity at first, so good to hear it's improved with age!

Loving the report so far!

I know its AGES isn't it?! I was looking forward to doing the other Walibi and Plopsa too, but...

The night between Walibi Holland and our trip to Toverland saw us face the ultimatum of the trip. The car wasn’t going to be fixed in Europe. It was also going to cost more than the car’s value to repair. We didn’t have the funds to take a rental car all the way back to Calais. Ultimately, with heavy hearts, we had to amputate more of our trip, leaving Plopsa, and Walibi Belgium along with visits to Brussels, Ghent and Dunkirk in the dust. I tried tirelessly to form some sort of plan, join the ferry as a foot passenger, public transport from Dunkirk etc etc.. but the dots werent aligning. Once the stress was put to rest, we had a wander around Eindhoven. Very cool city. I think my favourite place that I visited on the trip was probably Enschede. On a whole, The Netherlands is really pleasant.

Toverland was the sleeper of the trip. Neither of us were particularly fussed about visiting, and were somewhat disheartened when Plopsa, Walibi Belgium and Hansa had to take the chop. But the park was incredibly charming. If investment continues to pour in as it seems to have quite recently, within a decade or so I’m sure the park will be right up there with the likes of Efteling and Phantasialand as a seriously well themed park with a great lineup of rides.


The indoor areas are fab, and charming. Don’t be dissuaded from visiting them because you’re an adult, they’re a lot of fun and had us eating our own words when it came to saying ‘imagine going to a theme park just to do the play park stuff’.


D’wervelwind caught my attention as being the first ride I knew of to use an IMAScore soundtrack, and it was a cute piece of kit.


Troy and the Motorbike Coaster were also good. I was a little surprised by how much people rave about Troy in comparison to Wodan, but nonetheless it was pretty fun, definitely not my favourite GCI though.


The real steal of the show here however was Avalon. The area is so pretty, and if it werent for a great mass of blue steel above your head in much of the area, you would honestly think you were just passing through a peaceful shire.


Fenix is a very solid coaster, and merlins quest is a really nice boat ride. I wish there were one more scene on the boat ride, and that you didn’t return on fenix’s break run into a big green shed.

Toverland is seriously worth a visit, but we couldnt shake the feeling that things felt 95% complete in Avalon. It's reassuring that the park have revisited things like the theming on the log flume though, so I'm sure once time and finance allows things will be touched up when they can be. The ride lineup could also use a couple more additions, but I seriously look forward to seeing the park develop in the near future.



Mega Poster
Absolutely love that Untamed shot. Looks like it's straight out of a 90s coffee table book.

Which one? 🤣

The final park on our trip ended up being Phantasialand. As I have mentioned, to soothe the pain of missing out on some of the other parks, we booked an extra day here. Getting to the park was an utter nightmare. As mentioned, I had to drop off the car back at Osnabruck the evening that we left Toverland. Fortunately during one of my panics, I did pick up that the Osnabruck train line terminates at Cologne, which as rather handy. We had to move our hotels round so that we could walk to the hotels from the station as we would likely be arriving around midnight on a weekday, which was quite stressful, but after booking everything in, we had a pretty clear plan ahead.

Get back to Osnabruck - drop off car - get train - get to cologne - walk to hotel - sleep - go to phanny - go back to hotel - move stuff to other hotel - sleep - go to phanny - pick stuff up from second hotel - get plane.

Then our train was 2 hours delayed, and the reception at our first hotel closed at midnight. 🙃
After stressfully texting the hotel at 11:45, still hours away, they very kindly gave us door codes to get in and use the room that we booked. We had a locker for stuff to be kept in too which was pretty useful.
The next morning, we booked our flights and finally made our way down to Phantasialand, but at this point I think god was willing something against us. We missed every connection by seconds. And then, when we finally got to Bruhl, the phantasialand bus was waiting for us, but we forgot to get any cash out. Google had suggested we'd get to the park around 10:30, but realistically it ended up being half 12.

Another huge sigh of relief when we finally made it into the park.

Phantasialand, is, as i'm sure you're aware, a little bit of a meccha when it comes to european theme parks. The place has a really strong ride lineup, incredible floor to sky immersive theming, flawless operations, and amenities that leave very little else to be desired.


I have oozed about how much I love this park in many places across this forum, as have many others. I have seriously missed this place, and wish to visit again sooner rather than my previous 5 year hiatus in visits.

Fly (and rookburgh as a whole) is a seriously, seriously strong instalment in the park. It captures the feeling of flying far better than any other coaster ive ridden, and as usual, the theming is at an incredibly, almost inconceivably high standard. Phantasialand really is a chocolate box but you just want to gobble everything up all at once. Im eager to see how park flow is affected if they ever manage to open up a gate for rookburgh towards wuze town. I wonder if they're planning on squeezing any additional attractions in this area anywhere? The obvious answer is 'of course not, where on earth would they fit them?' but it wasn't so long ago that there were semi-believable rumours that taron may have an underground drop track. I think there are places around rookburgh where theming elements could be moved in place of a small flat ride.


Our trip came to a bittersweet end with our 2 days at phantasia. It was a good thing we booked 2 days as the park was surprisingly busy, and we had originally only intended to spend 1 day there.

Because of the 2 days, we managed to do everything. The weather was great. The park wasn't heaving, but everywhere had a great buzz to it.


I'll be totally honest, I struggle writing about this park without dribbling out incohesive sentences about how mega it is. (here we goooo....) I think this is largely down to the design ethos the parks lead designer, Eric Daman, had on the place over the last 2 decades. Unfortunately there is very little english material that quotes Daman's design philosophy, but from what I gathered, he was fed up of park goers being forced into specific narratives. He was fed up of things being constructed around specific attractions that maybe not everyone wanted to ride. He wanted to be able to take his children to a theme park, and be able to comfortably sit and watch them go on a ride and not feel bored or uninspired whilst doing so. By giving no perscribed narrative in the majority of the areas around Phantasialand, Daman allows peoples creativity and imagination to blossom, and be guided by the things they see without being totally dictated into a specific narrative, a la most IP themed attractions. I think this is why we all love phantasialand so much - its not about the rides, its not about the story, its about being able to truly BE IN somewhere that is genuinely just really nice to BE IN, and the rides, amenities and all else just supports that in a wonderful, colourful, exciting culmination.


I remember seeing a poorly translated interview about the making of taron, and him standing over his model of klugheim talking about how the ride came second; they needed the infrastructure of klugheim as a town to come first. how they thought the new intamin track was ugly, so they asked for the old track so it would be less dominating in the area. These kind of design decisions would be deemed pretty backwards by a lot of other parks, but not Daman or Phantasialand. The layers of design go from how many floors of foundations they needed to lay for Rookburgh, through to the dragon heads, expertly carved over the entry portal on klugheim. Everything, gargantuan or miniscule. The delicate ballet that Taron performs, weaving in and out of intertwining buildings across klugheim is a testament to this philosophy truly working, considering how much of a behemoth the ride is and how utterly well received not only the theming but the ride experience is.


I was sitting in Rutmor's tavern for the first time (despite all my visits) when this all truly sunk in. I would've happily sat there for hours, have a few beers, some hearty food, and just watched the park buzz by. Noticing all the tiny details in that area alone. The stone goblins. The ironwork joining the seats and tables together. The details on the fireplace. The simple act of just having a beer was an experience. Daman is, for me, as I'm sure for many others, one of the most inspiring architects in the industry due to his unique perspective and ethos. He will surely be missed by millions of people, at least indirectly. One can only hope that he had more designs in the pipeline, or that Phantasialand are able to find a true spiritual successor; someone who maintains Daman's design ability to allow everyone to have an accessibly brilliant time at a theme park, no matter if you're sitting on a bench eating an ice cream, or being thrown upside down.

So yeah, Phantasialand was as great as ever.

After 2 days having an absolute ball, with heavy hearts we had to leave, but we made it to Cologne airport bang on time. To discover our flight was delayed. By 2 hours. And when we made it back to the UK, our lift home was also delayed as the M11 was closed. But hey, at least we made it home.

At the time of writing, the trip ended up costing me 3x as much as I had anticipated, taking into account car repairs, cancellations and booking amendments (despite being 3 parks and 1 or 2 days shorter than expected). Whilst 1/3 of that I was expecting to pay, my insurance has (un)gracefully refunded 1/6 of it back, too. I currently own a Plopsa pass and undated tickets to Hansa, so who knows, I may try and get back out there by the end of the year. I believe my car is being repatriated this afternoon. My friend and I, despite the many, many, many, many hurdles we faced had an absolute blast, and we both agreed to see each other sooner than the last 4 year gap. 2 Rolls of my film came out blank (I must've loaded them incorrectly which is frustrating, but hey thats film photography for ya!) and I have no idea what to do with my car once my mechanic has checked it out, but it was still cool to tick 2 new parks off the list and finally have a holiday post pandemic. I mean, I think I was more stressed most of the trip then I have been since I've finished uni, but hey ho. PS I might be making a video for this trip that'll be posted here, but also, maybe not.

If you've stuck it to the end, thanks for reading! Since posting this trip report my post to like ratio has gone above 3, which officially makes me the coolest person on this forum, especially when you take into account my low post count considering how long I've stuck about these parts for.

Our final route:
blue - my car
yellow - breakdown truck (overlaps with blue line the entire way)
orange - rental car (overlaps with blue line up to Osnabruck)
red - train


My takeaways:
  • Europe is cool (especially Holland)
  • Heide is the best merlin attraction
  • Toverland is really good, give it a couple years and it'll be excellent
  • Walibi Belgium is a theme park workout
  • Phantasialand is still so good it will make you cry maybe.
  • Don't buy ford fiestas.
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