Our day at Liseberg looked like it would be particularly good. We knew it was a great park with some great coasters, and not only would we be at the park from open to close, but would have extended time both before and after the normal hours for our group to ride coasters. This meant though we had no coach journey to get to the park, we still had to get up somewhat early to take advantage of the extra time. And it would certainly be a long day. Nevertheless, Liseberg was a big park with lots of attractions, and several that we were sure to want to ride many times. As hectic a day as it promised to be, we were looking forward to it.
Unfortunately it started out very poorly. I found Janna waking me up at 9:15, less than half an hour before we were supposed to meet the rest of the group. The alarm hadn't gone off! Every other day I'd set a spare alarm on my cell phone, but I'd neglected to do so for that morning. I still would never have guessed that I'd sleep that late on my own. To that point I'd usually been waking up before the alarm anyway. The entire situation was all too reminiscent of a similar incident in Spain. With so little time to get ready we did our best to make ourselves presentable and barely made it down in time. It was important that we be there with our group or we'd lose out on our special ride time! We were in such a hurry that we didn't really notice some of the charms of that area of Göteberg at that point, such as the old-fashioned streetcars and the pedestrian walk lights shaped like rabbits--Liseberg's mascot.
As we entered the park, it seemed to me that the layout was much more familiar than the other parks we'd visited on that trip so far. Perhaps it was because Liseberg is laid out in a fairly easy grid format on one side, and a hillside that makes an easy landmark on the other. The entrance was particularly familiar, passing next to a sculpture garden on the right, with various stars representing celebrities on the ground (I spotted Jimi Hendrix without even trying, and later saw Bjorn Borg among many others).
Our early morning ride was Liseberg's premier steel roller coaster, Lisebergbanan. It's a large ride, sprawling down the park's hillside, but contains no upside-down tricks or gimmicks, just a good solid coaster. I'd loved it in 2004 and was looking forward to some quality riding time on it. Even without our special ride time we probably could have gotten many rides on it, as operation is very efficient. Five trains can run at one time, and trains can be added or removed in very short order, as we'd see for ourselves as they set it up for us to ride. However I was glad for the extra ride time, as it freed us to explore the rest of the park during the rest of the day.
Lisebergbanan is themed as a railway. The loading platform looks very much like a railway station, and even the exit staircase has tile walls. They toot a horn before each dispatch, and if you look carefully, you can even see a working semaphore on the lift hill.
The ride itself was excellent. It's rather tall, but its hillside location means that it's never too far above the ground. Instead it spills down the slope in a series of helixes, winding around and amidst other rides. Ordinarily I'm not too fond of helixes as a coaster element, but Lisebergbanan negotiates them with such speed and grace that I was easily won over. Comparing it to a famous wood coaster in Ohio, Chris called it "A Beast of steel". The comparison is apt, but I've always found Beast overrated, whereas somehow Lisebergbanan hits the spot. It did take one ride to seemingly warm up, as the second ride felt faster than the first. Two more rides followed in quick succession without our having to leave our seats. In fact we could have stayed longer but not having eaten anything wanted to take a break for a snack--fortunately with all the hectic activity of the morning we'd not forgotten to bring some snacks into the park with us. After that we got plenty more rides before it opened to the general public, both near the front and the back. If not for our desire to start exploring the rest of the park we might have continued riding even more; it was that good.
Our next coaster to ride was new to me. Called Kanonen, it was a looping steel coaster that started with a launch rather than a standard lift hill. It was very diminutive for its style; every element looked short and it was much more compact than the similar SpeedMonster. We were able to walk right through most of the long-looking queue--getting there early clearly paid off well. There wasn't much theming to the ride, just a heartbeat sound and a very deep voice.
All in all Kanonen was kind of fun. The oddly small elements led to some very quick twists, though the final inversion was surprisingly slow. Everybody but Janna liked it, but not well enough to worry about waiting for another ride.
Instead we went to Liseberg's other feature coaster, Balder, which all were very eager to ride. Balder is a wood coaster, but of an unusual modern type where the wood is prefabricated rather than shaped on site. This leads to an extraordinarily smooth ride for a wood coaster, almost steel-like in many respects. The manufacturer has also taken advantage of the new format to develop rides with extreme forces, and Balder had a fierce reputation. Having ridden it once before, I knew its potential.
We got into the queue and waited all the way to the point where we were next to board in the back seat, only to have the ride shut down. In fact the mostly female crew of ride ops had to go out and push one of the trains back into the station. The operator on the microphone announced confidently, "We have a technical problem and we are going to fix it". Unfortunately the confidence was misplaced (undoubtedly American operators' reluctance to commit to saying how long it will take to fix a breakdown is due to this possibility), as our delay mounted to the point where we lost patience. We'd have ride time in the evening anyway, so we went to do other things.
The final coaster at the park was a junior ride called Rabalder. I have to assume that there is some relationship to Balder given the similarity of the names, but I couldn't quite tell what (I do know Balder is a mythological character; I've never heard of a character named Rabalder). The sign's lettering was made to look like various construction tools, and the stations seemed more or less like a work shed, but these were not enough clues to explain it to me. Otherwise it wasn't a very memorable coaster, not that I really expected it to be.
At this point Janna and I wanted to go back to the hotel to freshen up, something we wouldn't have done if not for our late wakeup. However, there was one side benefit; we'd have a chance to try lunch at the hotel restaurant, which had been recommended by our coach driver. Chris joined us but Mike opted to stay in the park. So discombobulated were we from our tough morning that I had even forgotten what our room number was, but we managed to remember approximately where it was, fortunately.
We had enough time for me to try to figure out what the problem with the alarm had been. I came to suspect that the battery in our travel clock had run out. When we were leaving at the beginning of the trip, Janna had asked if we should bring a spare battery. Since we were going out the door and I was anxious about making our flight--not a problem in the end--I decided not to take the couple of minutes to find and pack one, obviously a mistake. For the time being I tried the battery from our room's remote control, but it was not much better.
We met back up with Chris and went to the hotel's restaurant for our lunch. It had been recommended to us for a very specific plate, the "Kingsize" shrimp sandwich. The full service restaurant didn't seem to be open, but we were able to order them from the bar. At first they looked big enough that we thought we could split two between the three of us, but when it turned out to be very good, Chris ordered one of his own.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect with the Kingsize, but wound up really liking it. It was an open face sandwich piled with shrimp, with generous portions of lettuce and egg as well. It also had plenty of fatty spreads such as butter and mayo. It felt a bit sinful to eat but was delicious, distinctive, and certainly better than what I was likely to get in the park for the same price.
After eating we returned to the park to meet up with Mike. It was already 2:30, and though we had a long day it felt like it was passing very quickly. We spent the next part of our time in the hillside portion of the park, taking the convenient escalator up to about the top of the hill and worked our way down. Right at the top of the escalator was the first attraction, Atmosfear, a drop ride converted from an old observation tower. It loaded underground from a rather industrial-looking queue. There were a few touches of technical theming, such as the words "Higgs Boson" stenciled on one wall for no apparent reason. There was also a console with flashing buttons, but amusingly enough also a screen showing a Windows error. As for the ride itself, once we emerged from the underground loading area, we got a great view from high up of the park and the entire city. The drop wasn't bad either.
There were two other vertical rides on the hill. We wound up riding one, called Höjdskräcken, and skipped the second, called Uppskjutet. The former was like the drop ride except that it was forced down by compressed air further than gravity. The latter shot up from the bottom (again powered by compressed air) and bounced at the top. I like both varieties but they're fairly common and we didn't need to wait for both. Perhaps the biggest attraction of Höjdskräcken was that it sat in the midst of one of Lisebergbanan's helixes.
We also skipped a ride called the Waltzer. If it had been in England, we'd surely have ridden it. There, Waltzers are ferocious spinning rides, aided by operators that walk on the ride platform and add spinning motion to the cars as the rides run. It's quite an experience, but as far as we could tell Liseberg's version of the ride didn't have the walk-on operators, so we gave it a miss.
After a quick Ferris Wheel ride, we got our daily ice cream. If you think we'd tired of ice cream by this time, you'd be wrong. In fact, Liseberg's ice cream may have been the best we'd had to date--smooth, creamy, and tasty!
After the ice cream break we went back to riding, starting with a ride called "Upswinget". Its name is representative, as its main motion is a swinging one, with two arms that swing to opposite sides, ultimately going a bit beyond 90 degrees. We've ridden quite a few of this style of ride, and always enjoy it. Riders get a lot of airtime at the far end of the swing, in addition to being able to look down on the midway. The hillside location--once again within one of Lisebergbanan's helixes--enhances the visual aspect of the ride.
A ride I'd really been sorry we'd missed in 2004 was Liseberg's log flume. Its hillside location and the way it intertwined with the roller coaster promised interesting views if nothing else. I wanted to make sure not to miss it on this trip However, after convincing the others to reluctantly join me, we all wound up regretting it. First, the line was too long. Every time we seemed to reach the end we'd discover another segment we had to wait through. Ultimately we probably waited half an hour; not necessarily bad for a crowded day at a park, but more than anybody but me was willing to spend on it.
Worst of all they forced the four of us to ride the same boat. This made it ride very low in the water and kick up large splashes, meaning we got very wet. Had we been able to ride two at a time (as we'd wanted to) I'm sure it would have been more enjoyable. Since there were two drops on the ride, we had to spend the part of the ride after the first drop already uncomfortable and dreading the final drop. Nobody was very happy with me after the ride, and I didn't dare suggest riding another water ride for the rest of the trip!
Because of this, we made an unplanned trip back to the hotel to change. Staying in a hotel right next to the park was very convenient, but even so the trip did take more of our time than we'd wanted to. The hotel's towel warmers came in handy to drape my wet pants over!
Once we returned to the park we took some time to explore the Liseberg Lustgarten, a very extensive garden area that hadn't been there the last time we visited. Not only did it have gardens, it had less cultivated-looking areas, water features, and sculpture in a large area on the hillside. We probably spent a good 15 minutes or more in it and had we not been concerned about getting our rides in, I'd have gladly spent more.
We returned to the lower level of the park where we found another interesting display. Liseberg seems to be somewhat star-struck--in addition to the stars on the walk, they had a little parklet with handprints of various celebrities. Among the most interesting to me were Paul McCartney, Thor Heyerdahl, Muhammed Ali, Pele, and Victor Borge.
Returning to riding things, we next went to a spinning pendulum-style ride called Spinrock. It was a good ride, but unfortunately the wait was posted at over half an hour. They used TV screens to post the wait times on the more popular rides, and as far as we could tell they were accurate.
Our dinner that day was modest. In spite of the park having a number of nice restaurants, we wound up at a Burger King for lack of initiative to choose anything else or wait for service. In our defense, the natives seem to really like Burger Kings, since there are several outlets throughout the park. We at least knew enough, from past experience to avoid any burgers served by any non-American chain.
After dinner we had a few more attractions to catch. One was called Sagoslottet, of Fairy Tale Castle. The cars were shaped like little ships suspended from above. Unfortunately I don't remember it very well but there wasn't much to describe.
Next we went to a walk-through haunted house called Gasten Hotel. The area of the park it was in was an attraction unto itself, with a live polka band and a dance floor. We'd seen the dance floor earlier when it was empty, and even walked on it. It had some interesting, not necessarily politically correct signs. When the band was there we didn't participate but I enjoyed watching it very much!
Unfortunately the dance floor was hidden from the line; it would have entertained us during the fairly long wait. Instead we watched people riding the nearby rapids ride get hit by the geysers, though if we stood in the wrong place we were in range of one of them ourselves. One incident in line illustrated the cultural differences of Scandinavia. Some girls walked past us, apparently cutting, but came back down a few minutes later; they had just been going to pick up a giant candy bar that they'd left in the bin!
As for the walk-through itself, it was one of the most unusual I've ever encountered due to the way they operated it. Unfortunately this wasn't a good thing. We were told to line up with our hands on each others' shoulders, and had to walk through the whole house that way. Keeping together was difficult; a reluctant girl behind us kept dragging us back, though we were told at the beginning to "keep up the tempo". It wasn't conducive to really enjoying the scares that much, and I remember little else about it.
It was beginning to get late. The park closed at 11, but some rides were already closing by 10. I missed a chance at the "Rabbit Ride", a calm boat ride that went through a series of gardens. It wasn't anything very special, but I always enjoyed riding such scenic attractions and was a bit disappointed to have missed it. I also missed a chance at a flat ride featuring boat-shaped tubs that went around in a circle, moving up and down rapidly as if on waves, and turning to face in different directions. The generic name for such rides is Sea Storm, and though they're fun they are rare on this side of the Atlantic, hence my desire to take an opportunity to ride.
Instead we spent our last hour before the closing of the park riding Lisebergbanan a few times. It was at least as fun in the dark as it had been during the daytime. The working lights on the sides of the trains showed up well in the darkness; from the back seat it was interesting to watch the lit sides of the train curl around in the various turns.
Though the park was closing, we had a final special ride time for an hour on Balder. We had a few minutes to wait as they cleared out the park, while I sat on a bench and admired the changing colors of the lights illuminating Balder's dense wood structure.
When we were admitted to the queue one of our tourmates commented on how everybody seemed so quiet. I was actually somewhat happy for this; I was tired in general, and tired of overenthusiasm. In any case, people loosened up after a few rides on the coaster.
Balder is quite a famous coaster among enthusiasts, with good reason. It has a twisted layout, but still has some of the most potent forces on its hills of any coaster around. There are many hills, and all of them lift riders almost impossibly strongly. The turns are less inspiring, seemingly only there to set the train up for the next hill rather than as thrill elements in their own right. Perhaps for this reason, I'm not as big a fan of Balder as many, but it was certainly popular. Several people who hadn't ridden it before immediately ranked it among their top coasters.
Regardless, Balder is certainly a ride to be reckoned with. We wound up with a dozen rides in various seats without having to leave the station. It was a very exciting set of rides, enhanced by being in the dark. In terms of raw coaster riding, the only better experience that trip may have been our ride time on Twister at Gröna Lund.
After a satisfying set of rides, we walked out of the dark and deserted park to the hotel. It was quite late, after 1, by the time we got to bed after a long and eventful day.
This post is one in a series. For the other installments, see: