|By Sam Vlas|
Today on Disney Avenue, we talk about a well-known European theme park. It isn’t Efteling, it isn’t Disneyland Paris… Europa-Park is the subject of today’s article. Always wanted to take a trip around Europe? In Europa-Park it’s possible in a day! There are even some Disney connections to be found. Continue after the page break and let’s go on a journey…
Europa-Park opened in 1975 in Rust, a small village near the city of Freiburg in south-west Germany. Its main purpose, still to this day, is being a showroom of the attraction manufacturer Mack. The Mack family still runs the park and is the most successful family-owned amusement park in the world. The family still lives right next door and they can always be found in or around the park and its resorts.
Europa-Park’s theme is, of course, Europe. The park is divided into thirteen (!) themed areas, each representing a different European country, showcasing its history, culture and blatant stereotypes. I have been to Europa-Park, so this will be my view on the theme park as a whole. Starting with the overall quality…
The park is home to a very impressive collection of roller coasters, about 11 in total. They vary from kid’s coasters, to gigantic steel coasters, to water coasters and to one heck of a wooden giant. It’s also home to a variety of dark rides, which, to me, are the ultimate source of hilarity. It’s here where the Disney connections are found and it’s here where you will fall off your chair laughing. Let’s run through a few of them.
The first real dark ride of Europa-Park was the “Geisterschloss” (which means Ghost Castle in German), located in the Italian area of the park. As you can see in the video above, you may spot some very familiar scenes. Some scenes may come from a certain estate located in a certain park in America… This will be something you’re going to see a lot in Europa-Park’s dark rides (and other European park too): shameless Disney rip-offs! This is a product of the time in which these attractions were built. There wasn’t a Disney park in Europe yet, and almost no one made the Atlantic “jump” to visit an American Disney park, so European parks could just copy certain things without having to worry about accusations of plagiarism. This was common practice in the early days of the industry. And “Geisterschloss” (and “Piraten in Batavia”, which will be next) are prime examples of that.
(Note: Though not very clear, Geisterschloss has a backstory. It’s about the famous Medici family, who made a pact with the devil to live in prosperity, but was ultimately cursed. Throughout the ride you can spy some elements that refer to the demise of this family, if you can look past the corny Halloween displays…)
Piraten in Batavia:
Piraten in Batavia:
“Piraten in Batavia” is the next stop on our journey. I don’t think I have to explain where this idea came from… It’s basically the same as with Geisterschloss: basic idea of a Disney ride, drenched in corny displays. Corny is the word that sums these dark rides up perfectly. Though not very original, the dark ride's scope is enormous and everywhere you look there’s something to see. I may sound quite harsh on these rides, but get this right: they’re loaded with atmosphere.
I’m sure you will love this one. This is the BEST dark ride I’ve ever been on, just the sheer quality, the immense scope, the animatronics, the moving backstory, the tear jerking soundtrack, all of it is fantastic! Are you ready? Let’s go then…
“Schlittenfahrt Schneeflökchen”… If you haven’t already noticed, this is absolutely one of the most hilarious rides I’ve ever been on. It’s so bad, it’s good. It’s the only ride where I bought my on ride photo of (and yes, there is a photo taken of you during this blasphemy). This is the basic idea of this ride: take out a park bench, put it on a pallet, put that on a moving chain, stuff a room full with left-over children’s toys, grab a 1995-midi sound file of your old keyboard and let the magic happen… They couldn’t be serious with this. You absolutely have to see this in person; it’s a life changing experience.
Europa-Park is home to around six different dark rides, one cornier than the other, but let me get this straight: Europa-Park is a wonderful park, with a stellar coaster collection, there’s at least one of every type of ride to be found here, not to mention the beautiful hotels. All of this I will cover in a future article. I’ll just let these colorful images sink into your brain and please tune in next time as we explore more of Europa-Park.