What's new

To The Continent! Phantasialand January '24


Roller Poster
Ok, so a bit of context: in a recent thread, I documented a few UK-based exploits rediscovering a passion for coasters I had last pursued in childhood. During those childhood years, I'd been fortunate to visit a few places in the UK as well as take a family visit to the Florida parks, but I'd never seen any of the major European parks. Now in my 20s, keen to travel, and stuck in the closed season for all my local parks, I figured it was about time to make the first leap into international theme park tourism. The deal was sealed when some not-quite-enthusiast (I'm working on it :p) friends of mine showed an interest in going too.

Cut to 5am on a cold January morning and I'm starting the 2-hour journey from where I live (within the London fare zones) to "London" Stansted Airport, a journey which itself cost about the same as the flight I was travelling to. I was in something of a daze, both from the early start and from struggling to believe that, 10 years on from the days I would fantasise about taking such trips, I was finally getting out and doing one. Our team assembled at the airport, had some breakfast (see previous comment about costing the same as the flight) and boarded our yellow and blue chariot to Cologne.

Getting from Cologne airport to Phantasialand is possible by public transport, but splitting costs three-ways we estimated that an extra 5-10 euros apiece for a taxi would net us an extra hour in the park. Plus, as an added bonus, the cab ride acts as the first major thrill of the day for anyone new to German motorways.

All told, it was 2pm local time by the time we entered the park, beating my "best case" arrival estimate and offering us 6 hours in the park in addition to a full day 2. This turned out to be helpful as, while any park back in Blighty would be half empty if they dared open in such freezing temperatures, the place was pretty busy. We couldn't resist Rookburgh as a first stop, and so jumped straight into an hour wait for F.L.Y. (#76), which turned out to be something of a pleasure in itself given the unbelievable theming around the area and winding nature of the queue.

Maybe stick the lens through the fence? Nah, it adds to the aesthetic or something...

I'll be honest, I was slightly underwhelmed on this first ride. It was great, don't get me wrong, but I was so overhyped from the journey and buildup that a security process more stringent than we saw at Stansted and a visually stunning but not hugely intense ride fell very slightly short of expectations for my first "big" coaster on the continent. I think this was more my fault than the ride's though - more on this one later.

Determined to lose ourselves in what is undeniably a stunning park (especially at this time of year), we ended up on a stroll with no exact destination in mind. Wellenflug was a perfectly serviceable waveswinger, though I think being on it was the coldest I felt all weekend. More aimless walking and scenery appreciation later, we found ourselves at Mystery Castle, which I'd somehow convinced myself was a terrifying and suspenseful drop tower. In reality, it's a brilliantly themed experience with a thrill level comparable (in my vague memories) to Tower of Terror. I didn't fully appreciate the ride at first, but subsequent rides on day 2 left me with very fond memories indeed, not to mention an inexplicably hilarious inside joke about never truly learning the mystery of the castle.

Quickly time travelled into the future to use a photo of Mystery Castle at night.

The China rides were... okay? My second Vekoma madhouse (realised what this was during the pre-show, which I was proud of) was perfectly fine but nothing on our beloved Hex, while the ghost train had some decent quality props but (to my untrained eye) not much of a clear "story". Talocan, on the other hand, was probably the best flat ride I've done to date. At first I was just grateful to be getting back on a top spin for the first time since the UK canned the last of theirs, but this was undoubtedly far better themed and more intense than the British ones ever were. It rivalled even the big coasters for some of us.

The whole "getting lost and going on whatever looks like a short queue" strategy was going well, but had allowed a lot of time to disappear without many creds obtained. We therefore joined the long but fast-moving queue for Colorado Adventure (#77), which turned out to be a suprise hit. It had the same expectation misalignment as with F.L.Y. but in reverse: I'd expected a laid-back, family-friendly mine train, but what we got was positively wild and easily one of the best-paced and best-themed family coasters I've ever seen. Riding at the back and/or at night is fun in its purest form.

A pair of rides which should absolutely not be underestimated.

Next up was Black Mamba (#78), a B&M invert it's hard not to compare to Nemesis given its general scale and use of tunnels. It was dark by now, and despite some impressive lighting, the effect of the tunnels was somewhat lost on us as a result. The invert is by far my most common "extreme" coaster type, which is fortunate because I really like them. This installation was no exception, a forceful yet smooth experience whose theming makes up for its smaller nature compared to the ones I did in the sunshine state years ago.

Quickly time travelled into the future because I forgot to photograph the ride on day 1. Tunnels!

At some point in this sequence, I forget exactly when, we got some food (a focaccia pizza thing I think) from a stall between Mexico and Berlin, which I mention mainly because it was tastier and noticeably better value than the average fayre at parks back home. Time was limited at this point, but we noticed both the spinners had finally dropped in wait time and managed to grab them both before park close.

Winja's Fear (#79) and Winja's Force (#80) were confusing both to find and navigate the queues of, especially for first timers at night. Once we eventually found them, we got a single ride on each, which I'd say was probably enough. I know why these particular Maurer spinners are special, but besides being unique I don't think the tricks add much to the ride experience. Indeed, remove those elements and I'd easily take either of the Merlin spinners over these two. Nevertheless, we had good run riding them - Fear is probably my favourite for the first drop. We bemused the man running Tittle Tattle Tree by scoring a quick ride just before he closed up (figuring we didn't have enough time to run to anything else) and all too soon, day 1 was at an end.


Refreshed after a night at a local Airbnb, we rocked back up to the park for about 10:30am ahead of an advertised 11 opening. This worked out well, as they seemed to have just opened the turnstiles as we arrived and after a short wait by the carousel we were free to pre-queue in Klugheim for the coaster that was most glaringly missing from our day 1 schedule.

I honestly have no idea how we didn't do Taron (#81) on the first day, as it was by far my main reason for making the trip. By arriving early we at least saved the hour+ queue seen the previous day, though a last minute decision to wait for the front row once we saw it had started snowing meant we waited all but. In news that will shock no one, I have absolutely nothing negative to say about this coaster. Hours of my teen years were spent watching this be constructed and reviewed, so getting on it was special in a way I haven't experienced with a coaster for many years. The ride is long and graceful yet an absolute beast, with the second launch ensuring it only gets wilder as it goes on. I'm aware that I have much still to ride in this world and can understand how it's possible to craft a ride even better than this, but Taron is easily the closest to perfection I've done to date. Two single rider re-rides later in the day simply wasn't enough.

Raik (#82) sits adjacent to my new favourite coaster, and became my third family boomerang despite having never done one six months ago. It's the best of these I've done, and by far the most integrated into its surrounding area, but as Taron's trains fly overhead it's hard not to wish you were on that instead. It also seems a low capacity choice for a park of this scale, but I guess that's for its target market to worry about now - I'll be busy nextdoor.

A murky sky adds so much to this whole area.

We ticked off Crazy Bats (#83) to complete the full set of creds. Though the VR fad is pretty much over on coasters, this was actually my first experience of one (as my two Towers visit during Galactica's VR phase were on occasions where the ride and/or VR component were unavailable). Despite not managing to properly adjust the headset to my horrendous eyesight, I found this slightly more fun than expected, though probably no more fun than just riding a coaster normally. Worth a go, but I wouldn't be particularly upset if I never rode a VR coaster again.

Sadly, both water rides were closed for our visit (I believe the rapids was for scheduled maintenance and Chiapas was because it had literally frozen over in places), which left Maus Au Chocolat as the last major ride we had left. We waited the best part of an hour (every admittedly beautiful room felt like it must be the last), but the ride was good and worth the wait as a "once per trip" (you bet I'm already talking in terms of future visits) thing. It's longer and better than I remember Toy Story Mania being and as the only member of the group with any experience at this ride style I ended up winning, which makes it alright by me.

With several hours still available, we were very lucky to have time to re-ride pretty much all of our favourites. We most wanted another go on F.L.Y., but with it conveniently going down for a few hours we instead managed at least one more cycle on each of Taron, Colorado Adventure, Black Mamba (plus the fun ropes course thing that goes around it), Talocan, and Mystery Castle. At the eleventh hour, we remembered the existence of Das verrückte Hotel Tartüff, which I recalled from research as being a supposedly very good fun house. I don't think I'd ever really waited for a fun house prior to this, but we ended up queuing for half an hour (the full inside queueline) here. It's well themed and serves its purpose, but between several broken effects and "only" being a funhouse, it probably wasn't the best use of our time right at the end of the trip. Would gladly do with a shorter queue though.

I was impressed by F.L.Y. reopening after its downtime despite it being right near the end of the day, and we managed to jump on for what we thought was one last lap. Riding this front row in the dark when you haven't just come off a flight is (quite literally) night and day. The comfort, the freedom, the bizarre airtime after the second launch, it may not be the best coaster I've done but my views from the previous day had changed completely. There's just nothing quite like it; B&M may have revolutionised the flying coaster concept 20 years ago, but Vekoma have perfected it. To cap it all, as we made to leave the area at 8:05 we noticed the queue still open with a staff member still very happy to let us run back around for one more go. It's hard to imagine my home parks reopening a ride so close to the end of the day at all, let alone keeping it open a little past close - it may seem insignificant and not worth the bother, but it made such a difference to our overall enjoyment and lasting memory of our visit. "I love this park," I announced as we power-walked through the freezing, darkened queue to be among the last to fly that night.

I'll be the first to say I'm no photographer, but I'm borderline proud of these ones. Helps a lot when the ride is this photogenic.

I know it's one of the most generic opinions going these days, but I think Phantasialand is an exceptional theme park. I've never wanted to not leave a park as much as on that second night. Time and again, I found myself comparing the place favourably against the likes of Disney and Universal, with the added incentive of it featuring my new top coaster and a fantastic supporting lineup of other coasters and thrill rides.

I would highly recommend a visit here and would personally consider it worth the trip from at least anywhere in Europe. This visit has made me really hope to visit Phantasialand again someday as well as to get out and see more European parks and cities (we did also spend a day in central Cologne, we're not completely uncultured). So yeah, guess I'd better keep that Ryanair app handy...