On the final day of the coaster tour (though not our last day in Scandinavia) we were due to hit two parks, which happened to be two of my very favorites from our 2004 trip. I was looking forward to the day very much, though a bit concerned that we wouldn't have enough time at either park to do it full justice.
In fact, the rushed nature of the day started with breakfast. We got down to the breakfast room with about 20 minutes to spare, only to find a long line just to get into the breakfast room. We skipped it and just had snacks for the morning, which fortunately we always had on hand.
With a busy day ahead of us I was glad when the bus left promptly. We arrived at our first park, Bakken, at 10:30. Bakken, short for Dryhavsbakken, bills itself as the oldest amusement park in the world. For that reason alone it was significant, but the real reason I was eager to visit was because of the unexpectedly delightful time I'd had there in 2004, perhaps the most surprising park of that trip.
Bakken is located in a wooded area, the original deer park that led to the establishment of an amusement park in the first place. Outside the park we met our host, Ole, who told us a bit more Bakken's history and led us on a tour. First he took us along a wooded path toward a spring that had been the original attraction of the site. It was pretty unimpressive except for its historical significance. However, the wooded area, and the little restaurant there (with a friendly cat in the window) were attractive. The alms box associated with the spring was also interesting to look at.
Returning to the park we were led to an enclosed area in the middle. It was isolated enough to make it almost feel like it was also outside the park with the surrounding rides well hidden by intervening buildings. It was the "Christmas Garden" and I hadn't known it had existed. Apparently Bakken had a whole crew of Santa Clauses, all of whom were very serious about their jobs. They even had to complete some kind of Santa obstacle course! There were plenty of other Christmas-themed items in the area, including a decorated tree and a wooden Advent calendar. It all seemed incongruous in July. A sign posted on a wall showed the history of Santa diagrammatically. I was surprised to learn that Santa had originated in Turkey!
After this they led us to an area enclosed by their Scenic Railway wood coaster, Rutschebanen, not ordinarily open to the public. Here we could get free soda or even beer. The drizzle we'd been experiencing got heavier, so many tried to take what shelter they could. The park representative kept talking to us but it was really too loud in the area to hear much of what he was saying.
Rain or not, we certainly wanted to ride Rutschebanen, as a relatively rare variety of coaster (though it happened to be one of three Scenic Railways on the trip--Scandinavia for some reason has the greatest density of Scenic Railways left). Fortunately the rain let up long enough for us to get a couple of rides while staying relatively dry, though in a middle seat. I'm sorry to say it was something of a disappointment. The ride had been modernized in several ways. However, as an old-style scenic railway, I found this modernization to be a step backward. The trains no longer had brakemen to operate them; everything was automated. I'm sure this was easier for the park, but it robbed from the ride's charm. The automated system also braked the ride pretty heavily cutting down on the thrills. The station had also been updated with glass queue gates, but this was at least less offensive to me.
We spent much of the rest of the time at the park dodging the rain as best we could while still sampling the attractions and getting a sense of the character of the park. In addition to the many riders, there are all sorts of restaurants and even bars, a kind of preview of the even more restaurant-heavy Tivoli Gardens. Perhaps because of this, I saw an alcohol testing machine in the bathroom.
However we were there for rides, not restaurants. Initially we had little luck. Tornado, the park's newest coaster--not there on our 2004 trip--was not yet open and showed no signs of activity. Another coaster we had ridden in 2004 and liked a lot, Mine Train Ulven, was also not yet open.
We finally managed to find a couple of rides that were open. Safari was a dark ride with guns that could shoot at targets. I prefer the older, more passive dark ride style where things happen without your activating them by shooting them, so I didn't absorb much of what was going on. We also rode a very intense flat ride called Xtreme. Its ride motion was conducive to crazy flipping, but I remembered liking it much more than most flipping rides in 2004. On this trip the ride cycle seemed rather short, not enough to put me at serious risk of getting nauseous anyway.
Another attraction we were very eager to sample was the Fun House. I had very fond memories of it from our prior trip. It had taken me a little while to get the idea behind it, but the theme seemed to be drunken sailors, very appropriate for a fun house with a lot of disorienting tricks. It was much more modest than Gröna Lund's fun house, but more charming because of the way it was presented. I liked it a lot.
We came to another small coaster, named Racing, and it looked like we were going to be denied again as the queue was roped off. However there were people waiting, and in a few minutes the rope was removed so finally we got to ride after all.
Racing is a very modest stock model coaster generically known as a Flitzer, most frequently seen in boardwalk locations on the Jersey Shore. The small cars in which riders can ride tandem if they wish to squeeze a bit zip around the turns on a modestly sized track. Though not really very thrilling it's a lot of fun, and I have a real fondness for such rides. I was tickled to find one in Scandinavia.
It was time for lunch. As full of restaurants as Bakken is, we we didn't have time to explore that much, so we took advantage of one right next door called "Caesar's Palads", where we got pizza. The payment system was a bit odd; we had to pay the cashier first to get a ticket, which we presented to the person at the counter right behind us. It didn't help that there was nobody at the register initially. Oddly enough, the ice for my drink (a Schweppes lemon drink) was scooped from a Jaegermeister bin. I had a "kebab pizza". The proprietor was skeptical when Janna and I asked for crushed red pepper to add to the pizza. Apparently the Danish are not fans of spicy food!
After lunch we got a ride on the park's kiddie coaster, Mariehønen (which I believe meant "ladybug"). It wasn't very notable for its ride of course, but it had an attractive setting around a koi pond. There was a figure in imitation of Belgium's famous "Manikin Pis" statue, but it was not operating.
By the time we returned to Mine Train Ulven, it was running again. I had fond memories of this ride from 2004, partly because of the crazy music they had playing in the station (first Monty Python's "Sit on My Face" and then a techno song by a band called the "D Devils"). But the ride itself, though of the fairly standard and usually tame Mine Train genre, was pretty good. I remembered a moment where the train looked like it was heading straight for a tree, but to my puzzlement I missed it this time. I'm not sure if the tree had been removed or I simply failed to notice it.
Bakken had a very impressive dark ride called Spokslottet. The best feature was that it had live actors within the building. Unlike people in most American attractions, they would not hesitate to touch you. One guy brushed Janna on her leg, which got a good reaction. Somebody rode on the front of our car for a while. Even at the very end I was startled by a sudden loud drumming noise.
One of my favorite moments from our earlier trip to Bakken was the discovery of an unusual ride called Dillen, so I was very eager to get back to ride it again. It's a simple concept; riders board little crocodile-shaped tubs and then travel around a circle in a pool of water. What makes it fun is that riders can control whether their tubs go in and out, and by doing so kick up a splash. Well-aimed, it can hit people watching on the midway, though this takes some skill (and it doesn't soak them, by any means). Whether because they changed it or because I wasn't as skilled this time, I had a harder time kicking up as large a splash. Nevertheless it was really fun and gave me a nice nostalgic kick from my previous trip.
We were running out of time, and still had to see if we could get a ride on Tornado, but on the way there got ice cream. It was as good as usual. Janna's cone came with an odd strawberry marshmallow cream. Had we wanted to we could have gotten a dish with 6 scoops (or "balls" in their terminology), plus some extra soft serve, and three "flødeballer" (chocolate covered marshmallows), all for 50 Kroner.
Though our hopes were slim, we stood in the Tornado line in the hopes that they would open it before we had to bail and catch our coach. We weren't the only ones of the group doing so. In fact, we were reassured that our tour captains were behind us in line; as long as that was the case we knew we wouldn't miss the bus! Even if we had, it wouldn't have been too difficult to get back to Copenhagen on our own, but we'd have had to pay our own way into Tivoli if we weren't with the group.
Just about at the point we were going to give up, we saw the metal grate for the station being opened. It still took a bit of time for the ride to get started, but we had a clear indication they intended to run it, so we waited it out. Finally they began to actually let people into the station. We still had a bit to wait as many people had lined up before us. I noticed that the station music was provided by an iPod.
Tornado has some interesting features. Its round cars seat four people, facing inwards. Janna and I wound up facing backwards. I've certainly done this before, but it led to a great deal of discomfort at the top of the lift, when the car was launched down the drop--the launch being the second interesting feature. It might not have been bad except that there was an unexpected twist, causing our heads to be driven into the over the shoulder restraints. The cars were supposed to spin, but I didn't really notice much of that, so when there was a second quick twisting drop we were stuck in the same position. The rest of the ride was a blur, twisting around inside a building, occasionally venturing outside. The name "Tornado" was apt, and it was certainly an intense, wild ride, particularly for its size, but I can't say I enjoyed it.
Once off the ride we headed out to catch our coach. We lingered to take a few last pictures of Tornado, only to find that it had gone down again. I was somewhat concerned that some of our tourmates would not get to ride at all, and worse yet, that some would be stuck on the ride.
In fact, for whatever reason, one of our group didn't make it back to the coach. We had to leave on time, and so she got left behind. Only later did we learn that she also didn't have any cash on hand. The park was kind enough to send her back to Copenhagen in a cab on their dime, and we in fact ran into her at the Tivoli gate.
On the way back into Copenhagen we encountered one interesting sight, of police roping off a building. We wondered if it had anything to do with the Norway terrorism incident. Fortunately this was the only real sign of increased security we saw during the trip.
I had thought we might be dropped right at Tivoli, but fortunately they gave us some time to collect ourselves in the hotel first. This gave me a chance to take my travel bag up to my room, rather than have to carry it around through the park. It also gave us an opportunity to collect some US money to take to the exchange. We had plenty of Danish money left, but came to realize that the next day we'd need Swedish money again, as we'd be traveling to a small island owned by Sweden. We hadn't factored this into our original plans.
We regrouped at the iconic gate to Tivoli Gardens. A man in a very spiffy outfit met us there and introduced himself as Salem. He would serve as our host for the day, and led us into the park. From the outset I was charmed in the same way as I'd been on our prior visit. One of the first things we saw was the Peacock Stage, on which ballet was being performed. It was one of the many unusual features of Tivoli, unlike what you'd expect from any other amusement park. Further in we saw a real peacock.
We also passed by one of Tivoli's most impressive structures, the Nimb hotel and restaurant with its ornate minarets, even more beautiful lit up at night (as was true of almost all of Tivoli; it is best seen after dark). When planning the trip we'd considered trying to stay there, but prices were unbelievably expensive. In front of the Nimb building is the "bubble fountain", designed by the famous Danish physicist Niels Bohr.
However, our destination was Tivoli's Scenic Railway-style wood coaster, known as Rutschebanen. Though it was the middle of the operating day, they had arranged for us to have our own ride time on the coaster, having to turn away many disappointed Danes in the meantime.
Fortunately Tivoli's Rutschebanen was still operated in the classic manner, unlike Bakken's, including brake operators that rode every ride. I got to observe several in action. One was a woman, which seemed a rarity. They had an odd seat on which they put their feet in metal stirrups on hills. They also seemed to signal to somebody else on some of the hills. I presumed it was some kind of safety measure, but I couldn't figure out what it really meant.
As with all the Scenic Railways the ride was more enjoyable for its historical nature than its thrills. But history is a powerful draw for me, so I loved it. Hills alternated with flat turns. Around one turn I noticed a table and chair, perhaps set up for maintenance people. At the end was a dark tunnel with several twists and turns that I thought wrapped the ride up very well.
The loading procedure for Rutschebanen is worth noting. There are no queue gates on the platform, so boarding is something of a free for all. To get a front seat ride, most people wait near the back of the station and hop on while the train is beginning to move in. It seems rude but also appears to be accepted practice.
All in all, it was very pleasant to ride Rutschebanen, a rare opportunity for a truly old-style coaster experience unlike anything that remains in the US.
We also had ride time scheduled on the park's premier stand-up steel coaster, Daemonen, but it was not running. Salem blamed it on the weather, but I had a sneaking suspicion that there was a more serious mechanical problem. I never saw it run the rest of the time I was in Copenhagen but later read a report that somebody else on the tour got to ride it.
As a substitute we got time on a ride called "Odinexpress". Though Salem characterized it as a roller coaster, he was stretching the truth, as it uses a motorized train rather than running via gravity. Nevertheless I knew it was going to be a fun ride, as it turned out to be. In fact, the operators seemed to get into the spirit of the thing more than the ones at Rutschebanen did. One operator dangled his arms in imitation of a semaphore as we left. It was one of the few rides of the trip I took photographs on.
The park's hospitality extended to providing us with a modest meal of sandwiches and drinks. We were ushered into a building with a round atrium area and an aquarium in the back to eat. I had a salmon sandwich with green onions and other greens, as well as a Royal Pilsner beer. Space was limited; we were fortunate to get a table where we could stand. Others just had to make do in the middle of the floor. The soda cups would have made great souvenirs but we would have had to carry them around with us after that so we reluctantly discarded them.
The aquarium, billed as the longest saltwater aquarium in Europe, was not as impressive as it perhaps first seemed. It wasn't very tall and didn't house very big fish. There were sharks among the other fish but on the smallish side. Särkänniemi's display wasn't as large, but was more varied. I liked the small freshwater aquarium in the men's room almost equally well. I even took a picture of the bathroom, very nice by any standards. I saw I was not the only one who did this.
The last thing Salem did before dismissing us was make sure we all got a stamp on our wristbands. This gave us the right to leave and re-enter the park. This is a service most parks offer for free, but it turned out that if he hadn't done this for us we'd have had to pay.
From that point on we were on our own. We immediately went to ride the final roller coaster available to us, a kiddie ride called Karavanen. Though a somewhat generic ride, the manufacturer's name for such coasters is "Tivoli coaster", so perhaps this was the first of its kind. We had to wait in a pretty long line with a lot of kids, which was embarrassing. Operations were slower than usual too, as they left two seats empty per cycle due to the drizzle. The most memorable thing was not the ride itself, but its setting among lush foliage, very appropriate for Tivoli Gardens. I wish all parks decorated their kiddie coasters as well.
Nearby was a very interesting-looking ride that we watched in fascination but never rode. It had two long arms that could rotate vertically, with plane-shaped tubs at the ends. These could be rotated on their own axis under rider control. Using the controls, one could presumably give oneself a milder or wilder ride. I'd seen similar rides, but this seemed to be a step up from them. However only one of the two sides was running, it could only board 4 at a time, and the line was long, so we skipped it. I know some ACE members managed to get into line just before they shut it off late in the evening.
Instead we went on to other things. Nearby was a ride of great interest to me, Monsunen. It was configured like a ride I used to like at my local park Kennywood, in which riders were lifted around in a vertical circle on a flat platform, but kept upside right at all times. However Monsunen had an extra twist; riders were seated below the platform rather than above. This allowed them to add fountains of water beneath that always threatened to brush riders' feet. It was a fun ride, and the only one like it that I know of.
It was at this time that Janna and I left the park briefly to exchange money, which we did at the train station. Chris and Mike continued to explore, and we met them back at the front gate at 8. When we rejoined them, the news seemed grim. Several of the rides we'd had in mind were rumored to be down all night, and the first other one we tried to go to, the Flying Trunk, was out of order too.
We wound up in the rather cramped but dynamic-feeling area around the Rutschebanen, where we found the park's Fun House. This Fun House had no predetermined path through it; there were many stairs and slides to go from level to level. There was a suspension bridge across the second level that made a lot of noise when people walked across it. I managed the trick for the moving stairs perfectly--earlier fun houses had given me enough practice to get the trick right. The layout gave it a unique feel, but something about it didn't strike me right; perhaps the commotion from all the kids inside unnerved me somewhat.
Next we rode a little scenic boat ride called Minen. I had remembered being charmed by it in 2004, and it didn't disappoint this time either. It had a somewhat mild theme involving elves and a friendly dragon, but it was cute and fun, with a little fakeout water curtain to make it look like riders would get wet.
We needed to find someplace to eat, not a difficult task in Tivoli! Chris proclaimed that he'd be happy with just a burger, but I wanted to try something at least moderately more unique than that given our opportunity (not to mention that I simply don't trust European burgers). We ultimately chose a place called Italia, which had the benefit of being near one of the rides rumored to be shut down all night, but which we saw them working on as if they intended to open it after all. If they did, we hoped to be able to get on it pretty quickly after dinner.
We were seated in a narrow glassed in area. Janna and I split a half carafe of red wine; with more riding to do it didn't make too much sense to drink too much! I got tagliatella with ham, mushrooms, peas, and cream sauce. It came with bread, which was good for soaking up the sauce. I enjoyed it quite a bit. As is sometimes the case in Europe, it was hard to get the check. Our server was helpful in splitting the bills, however, even bringing a calculator over and doing it right in front of us.
By the time we were finished, the ride we'd been eyeing had indeed opened. Called Himmelskibet, or Star Flyer, it was a variety that isn't particularly wild, yet has the capability of making me nervous. Riders are suspended from swings and spun around in a relatively slow circle, but unlike older versions of the concept, this is all done nearly 200 feet in the air. I get a real sense of vulnerability being in a swing that high up.
Perhaps because Himmelskibet had just opened, it seemed people had flocked to it, and we had a long wait. It wasn't too unpleasant as the lights were beginning to come on at the park, and there were many things well worth looking at. The light package on Himmelskibet itself was very attractive, featuring constantly changing green and yellow patterns.
They had some odd policies about peoples' belongings. It made sense that no loose items could be brought on the ride, but their enforcement method was odd. Riders coming off the ride were kept in a kind of pen until everybody had picked their items up from the bins. Only once they'd done this and exited could oncoming riders then drop off their own objects. I wondered if they'd had problems with stolen items.
Apparently they were running the ride more slowly than usual due to the wind, but it didn't really matter that much to me, since the view of the lit-up park from a height was the real reason to ride. On the downside, it was really cold up there!
Returning to Flying Trunk, we were glad to find it had opened too. The building it was in was gratifyingly warm as the night got chillier. The ride itself was a simple dark ride depicting various H.C. Andersen fairy tales. Some were familiar, others not so much so. The ride was a bit different from what one would expect in the US, down to the bare breasts on some of the mermaids. The vehicles we rode in were indeed shaped like trunks, and had switches to allow people to choose English or Danish narration.
That was the last ride we took that evening, and thus the last of the trip. We spent the rest of our time wandering through the park just taking it all in. It was well worth doing. Day or night, the park is beautiful, whether for the gardens or the lights. In particular, I almost wish we had a few more hours of darkness to experience the latter. The Nimb hotel building was particularly fantastic.
We also got to see a bit of a big band show on the park's stage. The performer's name, it turned out, was Bobo Moreno. Though it's not really my style of music, we had fun just watching. It made up for Tivoli no longer having a fireworks show for us to watch.
Incidentally, there was one thing we didn't do at Tivoli--get ice cream. It was the only park of the trip where we missed the ice cream, but it was simply too chilly for us to want it. I can only say that I had my "ice cream credit" at Tivoli on my prior trip.
Tivoli is one of the greatest parks in the world. Unlike BonBon Land, it shone well through inclement weather. Of course it wasn't raining, but it was windy, cold, and unpleasant, yet we had a great time. I sincerely hope that this visit will not be our last.
This post is one in a series. For the other installments, see: