If you'd asked me beforehand whether I was returning to Scandinavia to visit new places or to revisit places I'd already been, I'd have to say that it was at least as much the latter as the former. I'm not entirely comfortable admitting this, as in theory I like to have new experiences, but I have a strong nostalgic streak too. On this particular trip, the four parks that were new to us didn't sound like they were going to be all that special anyway. Therefore I was pleasantly surprised when they exceeded expectations, starting with Powerpark, the first new-to-us park of the trip. Incidentally, it was also the furthest north I'd ever been, just three degrees south of the Arctic Circle.
We had a fairly early departure time of 8, made more inconvenient because the hotel's breakfast area only opened at 7:30 and had to serve our entire group. Fortunately the trip organizers saw the problem and backed our departure time up to 8:15.
The bus ride was several hours long. In keeping with European coach driver rules, we had to stop for about 15 minutes along the way. Unexpectedly, we just did so by pulling over to the side of the road rather than at an established rest stop. Since we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere, perhaps there simply was none on that stretch of highway. Our driver, Steffan, even joked that the "men's room was the tree on the left, the women's the tree on the right". Since there was no store, the drivers set up a little folding table where they offered coffee and candy. There was also water, but it was carbonated, which didn't appeal to a lot of the riders (I didn't mind myself).
We arrived at the park at about 12:15, slightly behind schedule, but we'd be able to stay until relatively late so it didn't matter too much. During the ride over Powerpark had been described to us as a "boy's park", developed by a Finnish shipping magnate as a kind of whim. Though I didn't fully agree with that characterization in the end, I did see the point somewhat when the first sight we saw was an Aeroflot plane sitting out by the parking lot. It just seemed a random trinket a rich businessman might want to purchase on a whim. I always intended to walk out of the park to get a closer look sometime that day, but never wound up with the time.
Perhaps Powerpark's main feature is its two extensive Go Kart tracks, one indoors, one outdoors. When we arrived the very first thing we did was to go into the building housing the indoor one, just to "freshen up". The Go Kart did look impressive with a convoluted layout and very fast electric cars. However, at a 15 Euro upcharge (and 15 more to ride the other one) it was pretty expensive. In the end we opted out of paying the extra fee, but quite a few others on the tour did ride and say the tracks were as good as they looked. Another feature of this building was a seated figure of Barack Obama, with whom we could get pictures of ourselves. It was the kind of unexpected cute touch we'd find at many places throughout the park.
Once we ventured into the park, we saw many more of these touches. My expectations, particularly after having heard the "boy's park" comment, was that the atmosphere would be very carnival-like. In fact, it was quite the opposite--well landscaped, with more attractive water features than many parks twice its size. The rides were not just placed haphazardly on the midway but generally given attractive and sometimes elaborate theming. Even a ride such as the kiddie flume was quite well done, much better than at many other parks. The walkways themselves had decorative touches, such as a brick octopus in front of a similarly-themed ride.
One of the more intriguing rides was called Typhoon. It was a pendulum-style ride that combines back and forth motion with mild spinning. It's an increasingly popular variety of ride at many parks, but this one had the unique touch that it was "enclosed". There was a roof over the boarding area. Since the axle of the ride had to pass through the roof it was split in half, a clever solution to the problem. The ride itself was rather mild but enjoyable enough. Passing under the roof, then emerging into the open with each swing was a novel sensation.
After this we rode our first coaster of the day, a small steel installation called Joyride. Though not very thrilling, it was fun to ride, particularly as it wasn't one of the many stock models I was familiar with but had a new-to-me layout. I also happened to like the barbecue smell coming from a food stand nearby!
Nearby was a coaster named Cobra. It was a stock model called a Boomerang, featuring three loops taken forward, then repeated backward. It's a very common variety of coaster and not one of my favorites. However I'd heard that the trains for this one were modified to make them more comfortable, so I was actually rather eager to try it. In fact the restraints seemed to work; it was perhaps the most enjoyable Boomerang ride I've had in a long time. The ending was also smoother than usual because it used magnetic brakes rather than the older style mechanical brakes.
Easily the highlight coaster of the park was Thunderbird, a wood coaster of fairly recent vintage. Obviously an out-of-the-way place like Powerpark is not going to ever be a visited by large numbers of casual tourists, but they gain a certain amount of cachet from building a wood coaster, putting them "on the map" in a sense.
Nor did they do their installation cheaply. They used a company called GCI, known for their high-quality rides, to design and build it. The entrance to the queue had another water feature built in, and the queue even had benches to sit in during long waits. Fortunately we could just walk right up to the station, so we didn't have to use the benches! The ride was themed as a train to the Grand Canyon. This didn't require a lot of expensive decoration, but what they had was well done.
GCI isn't really my favorite coaster manufacturer. Their rides all have interesting layouts, full of many twists and turns featuring a lot of speed throughout, but I don't find them entirely exciting because they don't generate the kind of forces I like. Thunderbird was rather typical from that standpoint. If anything it had a more straightforward layout than usual, running twice back and forth along its length. It adds the interesting feature that the station is right in the middle of the layout, making for some close passes by the train. However, I didn't find it to generate too many forces except for one very nice moment that I couldn't quite place on subsequent rides. In spite of this, I really did enjoy it a lot. It's not a coaster I'd put in my top 10 by any means, but it was fun and quite easily reridden. It is certainly popular with the locals; one of my favorite rides of the day was in front of a Finn who yelled "Oy, oy, oy!" through the entire ride.
Before hitting our next coaster, we made a stop at a ride called Pegasus, one of the many crazy flat rides in Europe that I'd never seen in the US. It's difficult to describe its motion in any coherent sense. The seats are arranged into a kind of ring, which is tilted up and around while the ring itself spins. On top of this, the individual cars can flip freely. It seemed to me a bit like a combination of the rides called Top Scan and Enterprise. The ride took a long time to load and unload because the restraints on the five-seat cars had to be unlocked by the operator one at a time. The ride itself was about as intense as I expected. We knew when we were halfway done because the ride changed directions at that point. I was relieved when it was fully over.
There was another coaster in the area for us to hit, "Neo's Twister". It was a small steel coaster with spinning cars, a bit smaller than standard installations of such rides. Its most unique feature was a 90 degree turn between two portions of the lift. This may have been an Achilles heel of the ride, as we saw a car get stuck there and the maintenance men come over and push it. For a "cute" ride it was pretty powerful; one turn in particular was really potent, and the cars spun well for most of the ride.
One major drawback was that they did not let Janna ride with the bag that contained her passport. She had to leave it on the station floor, a nervous moment. We made slightly more secure arrangements when going on rides where it might be a problem in the future.
It was about time for lunch. We'd been given a coupon for the pizza buffet, near where we'd entered the park, so we began walking back toward it. On the way we considered riding a ride called Booster that would whirl and flip riders high up in the air on a rotating boom. Unfortunately it had the drawback of only taking a couple of riders at a time and had a long line, so we decided to skip it and never got back to it that day. Other people on our tour did ride; in fact one called to us from the ride while we were on the Ferris wheel!
The buffet, like the rest of the park, had a few surprising decorative touches. The oddest was a sign at the top of the steps featuring the Blues Brothers for no apparent reason. The line was long, perhaps the longest wait we had that day. In fact, we had to wait through two lines, the first to present our tickets to get in, and the second to get to the buffet counter itself. We were further delayed when one woman filled plates for five people, two kids but also several adults.
The pizza was OK but I was glad that the buffet offered more variety than that. Meatballs seemed to be a staple in Finland, so naturally they were there (I had them on mashed potatoes). There were also several types of salad, including one interesting one with potatoes and tuna. I'd have gotten seconds if not for the long line. It was by no means spectacular, but I'd consider it above average for an amusement park lunch.
Though we didn't have ice cream right then, we did have it later in the afternoon, so this is as good a time at any to have the ice cream report for Powerpark. Once again I had soft serve, but this time with lime sprinkles on it. I probably could have done without, and generally kept to plain ice cream from that point on.
Powerpark also sold little dishes of ice cream shaped to look like faces. Everybody wanted somebody else to order one to see what they were like, but nobody wanted one, so we had to content ourselves with looking at the pictures on the menu.
Following lunch we went to the park's last coaster. Though called Mine Train, it wasn't the usual mine train style coaster, but a kiddie ride instead. It was set up in a wooded area of the park, which gave it a bit more character than a typical children's ride stuck in the middle of a concrete midway. We were all a bit embarrassed waiting for it, but fortunately we were able to get it over with quickly.
The Mine Train was in an Western-themed section of the park (why is it that the American West is so popular as a theme for amusement parks, even in Europe?), with rough-looking wooden facades on its buildings. This included an amusing little animated figure in an outhouse, complete with farting noises. I like random touches like this (and the "pussy, pussy" booth in Linnanmäki); they can really add charm and character to a park.
More substantial than the Mine Train was a dark ride called Devil's Mine. Like many modern dark rides, it gave riders the opportunity to shoot at targets. It had an additional feature that it kept track of how many shots each rider took, and set a limit on the maximum number of shots. I didn't score the highest of our group, but did have more shots remaining, so perhaps I just need a faster trigger finger. Other than the shooting aspect I didn't find much memorable about this ride. In fact I probably would have preferred it to be a non-shooting ride, as I could then have focused on the things that happened around me rather than the targets.
Besides the Ferris Wheel (about which there's not much to say) there was one last ride we tried, the Mega Drop free fall ride. I'd already noticed it when we were entering the park (it's hard to miss) and had tried to get it on film. This was difficult because the riders were kept at the top for a very long time, well over a minute. They didn't always do this--sometimes it would drop after just a few seconds--but that was not an isolated instance. On our own ride, we got the long delay before dropping. However there was a distinctive hissing noise that signaled when we were going to be let go, so I did have a chance to prepare for the drop. A completely surprising drop after such a long delay would have been quite thrilling.
Sadly, by this point we were running out of time. I would have liked to ride the Star Flyer, a very tall swing-like ride, but we knew that we'd have another chance to ride an identical ride later in the trip. So instead we finished out our day with a few rides on Thunderbird, which was well worth our time.
It was one of the few times on that trip where we were able to stay at the park almost the whole day; usually we had to leave well before the parks closed due to travel constraints. In fact, we wound up on the last Thunderbird train of the evening. This meant that we had to rush out of the park a bit, since the coaster was as far from the coaches as we could get. Earlier in the day I'd seen a popcorn stand (the brand of popcorn they sold was amusing called "Mr. Bobcorn") and had hoped to get some as a snack, but it was not to be. We did grab a snack and some water from a shop in the same building as the indoor Go Kart.
Though we thought PowerPark would be small and that we'd have a relatively large amount of time there, there was a lot we didn't manage to do. The cost of the Go Karts was offputting, but given more time I might have broken down and given them a try. Lots of other people did try them, so perhaps they managed their time better than we did, but I don't regret the relatively relaxed pace we took in the park. Though I did fewer rides, perhaps not rushing around may have helped me appreciate the park in a larger sense.
The trip back to Tampere was uneventful; we made no stops along the way and arrived back at 10:45. It was too late to think about walking around town again and we were pretty worn out anyway. We couldn't afford to tire ourselves out too much when there was still so much of the trip left to go!
This post is one in a series. For the other installments, see: