This is the ninth post in a long-running series on a trip I took in 2006.Â Here are links to the previous installments.
Our main plan for this day of the trip was to visit Stuttgart's Cannstatter Wasen, where at that time of year they held their Volksfest.Â Unfortunately travel constraints would prevent us from getting more than a few hours; we'd have to run in, do the rides we could, and get back to the train station for our journey out of the city.Â Our itinerary had turned out to be more haphazard than it should have been.Â There are some things we should have done differently, but weren't able to due to having had two different people plan things at different times.Â Still, we wanted to do whatever we could within the constraints we had.
I still felt a bit worn out and draggy from the past few days' worth of partying.Â I'd slept 9 hours that night, probably the first full night of sleep I'd had on the trip, but perhaps needed more recovery time from all the drinking and traveling I'd been doing.Â I wound up knocking over a glass in the bathroom, which fortunately only broke into two pieces.Â I also mixed up the bath mat and my towel.
I had some further problems that morning.Â In an earlier report I mentioned the jacket that I was wearing with many interior pockets.Â Unfortunately the one that I used for my passport was fraying.Â Fortunately the jacket had so many pockets that I could choose another spare.Â And better that I found out the problem then rather than after the passport had fallen out!
Unlike most of our hotels on the trip, there was no breakfast to be had in Stuttgart.Â However there were places to eat at the railroad station right next door.Â There were specialty markets, and a very good smelling sausage and cheese stand.Â Greg was also intrigued by "Apfelchips".Â Were I trying to shop for anything I would have been interested in the tea stand as well.
I ultimately ate in a permanent food stand called Yorma's.Â I got an "Eierbaguette", that is a baguette with sliced hard boiled eggs, along with "Orangensaft", that is orange juice.Â I enjoyed the egg sandwich pretty well, not the sort of thing that's easy to find in the US.Â We ate just standing at a table rather than trying to sit down.
Uncharacteristically we had a bit of extra time before we had to catch our train, a local S-bahn that would take us to Stuttgart's fairgrounds.Â We did have to check out of the hotel but could leave our bags there rather than search for luggage lockers.Â Janna took the opportunity of the extra time to send some post cards, something I should have done myself but always find myself too lazy to do.
The train trip was not long.Â We passed a little park, and crossed a river.Â It looked hazy outside but when we stepped out we found it sunny and chilly.Â From the station we walked through a tunnel with paintings on the walls to get to the Stuttgart fairgrounds.Â We were among a pretty large group of people.Â I was a bit worried about whether we'd have to wait a long time for the various attractions since we didn't have much time.Â But as soon as we got into the fairgrounds the crowds dissipated.
The fairgrounds reminded me somewhat of Prater, down to the small "random dogs" we occasionally would see wandering about the midway.Â These seemed to be owned by the ride and game operators, living in trailers by the grounds (we'd see the cramped mass of trailers later from the roller coaster and Ferris wheel).Â Greg tried to pet one once, but this only got him barked at.
Nothing was really operating when we first arrived; in fact we saw some of the game booths being cranked open as we walked around.Â Some of the games had a huge variety of stuffed animals dangling in front.Â Because we really couldn't ride anything we took the chance to just wander the grounds, peeking into a couple of the beer halls, including Dinkel Acker and Schwaben BrÃ¤u.Â We never did get to try any of these beers unfortunately.Â Though not as elaborate as the ones in Munich, the tents were quite impressive.
In this tour of the fairgrounds made it all the way to the far end, where we found out what had happened to all the people.Â They were waiting at a gate to get into an area past the rides.Â I wrote down the phrase "Landwirtschaftlichen Hauptfest", and later found that this meant agricultural exhibits.Â I think at the time I thought it might be a concert.Â Only being interested in the rides, we turned back.Â At this end of the fair we also found a tower at the end of the midway topped with a giant cornucopia of fruit.Â I hadn't done my research so I didn't realize how emblematic of the fair it was and it made little impression on me then.
Rides were finally beginning to open, including a nearby Wilde Maus ride.Â I believe Janna and I were on the first car of the day.Â The ride was pretty typical for a Wild Mouse, but Janna proclaimed it to be more enjoyable than the ones at Oktoberfest.
We thought there were two other coasters at the fair.Â One, supposedly an indoor ride, we never found.Â The attraction list changes from year to year so we chalked it up to that.Â The other, Alpina Bahn, was much easier to find, but not yet open.Â In fact the Wilde Maus appeared to have opened much earlier than any of the other attractions, so we found ourselves having to do more wandering to pass the time and get more of a sense of the atmosphere of the fair.Â I liked one haunted house called Psycho that had a big scary tree in front of it, but we never got to try it.Â Janna loved some of the food stands that were shaped like different kinds of food, such as hamburgers or ears of corn.Â She also reported hearing somebody singing Beethoven's Ninth from somewhere, though I didn't hear this myself.Â I did hear Ozzy Osbourne blasting from a bumper car attraction, quite a contrast.Â Another interesting pop culture sight was a "Crazy Town" fun house with celebrity caricatures painted on it, airbrushed as seems to be so common over there.
Returning to the area where we'd entered the park we found a little market, named the KrÃ¤mermarkt.Â There was quite an assortment of different stands there.Â I was amused to see a "Bibel" (Bible) stand next to a "Condom Mobil".Â Some stands were labeled "GewÃ¼rz", a word stem I only knew from GewÃ¼rztraminer wines.Â I inferred after seeing their wares that it meant "spice".Â Some other proprietors seemed to be chopping up fresh vegetables.Â I couldn't quite figure out what this was for; my best guess was that you could prepare your own salad at these stands.
Returning to the far side of the fair, we ran into a very interesting sight in front of the Schwaben BrÃ¤u beer tent, a wagon stacked with beer barrels with a team of horses.Â We saw similar wagons in front of other beer halls, differently decorated.Â How they got there we weren't sure as we hadn't seen or heard them.Â Suspecting something was going to happen, we stuck around for a while, but we never really saw any action.Â Even if we didn't see anything really happen, the wagons themselves were interesting to look at.Â Everything was covered with garlands, very festively decorated.Â The drivers themselves were entertaining.Â They were all dressed in traditional costumes.Â I saw one climb up on the wagon and get some bottles of beer from behind the seat for the others.Â However, running out of time at the park as we were, we had to eventually leave to try to get our ride on Alpina Bahn, which fortunately had opened by this time.
As with all the fairground attractions, we had to pay for each ride (4 Euros per ride).Â Once I paid with a lot of change to try to get rid of it, but this move backfired, as the cashier just pushed it right back to Tim as change when he paid.Â Above the ticket booths was an animated bear, and there were other charming "Alpine" decorations such as some wreaths.Â We might have been the first riders of the day.Â For our first ride Janna and I chose the front seat, Tim and Greg took the back.Â I think we switched places for the second.Â I don't remember for sure, but there's every chance we were the only riders on the train for either ride.
Alpina Bahn is a steel coaster by the same company that created Olympia Looping Bahn, but it lacks any loops.Â In spite of that there is a distinct family resemblance.Â From the curving lift hill to the series of turns that wrap successively more tightly on each other as the ride gets lower, the experiences are not as dissimilar as one might expect.Â If anything, I preferred Alpina Bahn to Looping Bahn, simply because it was more comfortable to ride.Â Looping Bahn's upside down element meant stronger forces pressing one into the seat, one of my less favorite coaster sensations.Â They also mandated tighter restraints; I preferred the freedom of Alpina Bahn's single lap bar.Â In contrast to many American rides where the bar falls right into your lap, pinning you tightly, it was actually hard to pull this one down (and I got rust on my hands).
I also loved the view of the nearby river from the top of the lift.Â Also interesting, though less scenic, was the view of the trailers of the fair operators off to one side.Â The first drop had a great deal of pull to the side.Â Otherwise the ride was fast with enough forces to be interesting without being punishing.
With time dwindling we had to satisfy ourselves with two rides and move on to sample a few other rides at the fair.Â First we decided to try the Ferris Wheel, expecting a very good view of the river.Â It cost 3.50 Euros to ride.Â From the German sign I inferred they were billing it as the largest transportable Ferris Wheel.Â As I boarded I dropped something from my pocket and the operator helpfully pointed it out to me.
They wasted no time boarding us, but the ride itself was long; we went around many times.Â As expected we got some really good views of the river and the many bridges crossing it, as well as a good view of Alpina Bahn.Â Unfortunately the haze prevented us from getting very good photos.
The most amusing aspect of the ride was that they were playing music at the bottom, so that each time we reached the lower part of the Ferris wheel, we'd hear a fragment of a tune before we started climbing again and it faded out.Â The music selection was somewhat odd; I think it was either jazz or swing.Â We called it the "snazzy music zone".
We also rode a dark ride called Daemonium.Â We'd passed it by when it was still closed and were intrigued enough to return.Â The exterior decorations, including a blood-colored fountain were impressive.Â I noticed that they were playing a Vangelis song (one of my favorites of his) featuring a monk-like chant as attractor music.Â The cars looked like cages, much like we'd seen at Prater.Â The lift was a spiral, which led to an outdoor portion behind the ride faÃ§ade.Â At the end of this segment of track was a set of rotating maces.Â There were several other outdoor parts.Â Inside there was a parade of robed figures with red and green LED eyes, and a rotating barrel that we passed through.Â During this segment of the ride we were amused by a recording of a deep demonic voice.Â Otherwise the ride was rather unmemorable to me, though I never seem to absorb the details of dark rides very well.
Though we'd only been at the park about two hours, we had run out of time.Â We had to get back to the train station to head to our next destination.Â We used the rest of our time to split up to try to find something to eat.Â One stand that intrigued me had toasted bread with salami or other toppings, like a baguette pizza.Â This looked very appetizing (certainly more so than the crepes with Smarties at another stand) but I had gotten my heart set on trying a currywurst.Â I'd seen several places to get it as we wandered about the grounds, but when it came time to get some food I couldn't find a stand that sold it!Â By the time I gave up trying it was also too late to go back to the stand with the baguette pizzas.Â I wound up getting bratwurst with in brÃ¶tchen, though I was starting to get a bit tired of bratwursts by that time.Â Though I'd been noticing that Coke seemed to have locked up the market everywhere we traveled, this was the one stand with Pepsi products I saw.
Greg had a much better time finding good food.Â He'd spotted a stand that had smoked fish for sale.Â He bought one and said he liked it.Â I'd seen it in my wanderings and considered getting a piece myself, though it did look a bit oily.Â In the end my search for currywurst precluded my getting back to that stand, though I probably would have preferred the fish to the bratwurst at that point.Â Greg also had some "Apfelchips", which I tried and found to be very strong.
Upon returning to the train station there was a currywurst stand right there!Â Â Though I really wasn't hungry any more I was curious enough to give it a try.Â I ordered the "Riesencurrywurst menÃ¼", which I approximately translated as the "Giant currywurst combo".Â It came with fries and a drink.Â The sausage was bent in half, then put into a machine that chopped it into a little paper tray.Â Then tomato sauce and curry powder was poured over it.Â I found it a bit disappointing.Â Much to my surprise though, I really liked the fries a lot, when I usually don't care for them because they're the most pedestrian part of a meal!Â As I threw the remains of my meal out, I noticed that though there were plentiful recycling receptacles in the station, the icons labeling the different types of recyclables were not clear to me, and nobody really seemed to respect the differences anyway.
From Stuttgart we headed to a small station called Ringsheim, closest to the park we'd be going to the next day, Europa Park.Â It was beautiful weather, and we got a compartment to sit in, making for a pleasant trip.Â We transferred through Karlsruhe and Offenburg to get to our final destination.Â There seemed to be a lot of kids waiting in the Offenburg station, making us wonder if they were also going to our theme park destination, but they disappeared.Â Offenburg looked like a cute town but I didn't get my camcorder out quickly enough to capture it.
On the last leg of the train trip I happened to look upwards out the window and saw a remarkable sight in the sky, a circumzenithal arc.Â It's a very brilliant colored arc, like a rainbow but brighter and with deeper colors.Â It's a phenomenon caused by ice crystals in the upper atmosphere.Â I've only seen a really bright one a few times.Â When we got off at Ringsheim it was still there so I could take a picture (which doesn't do it justice).
From the Ringsheim station we had to take a shuttle to our hotel.Â We didn't know quite how long it would take for the next one to show up, but the weather was pleasant and we were in a hurry so we didn't mind.Â We sat on some large stones by the road, observing a large number of Polizei cars nearby.Â When the shuttle did come it cost 7 Euros for the four of us together.Â The drive took us through open countryside.Â The only signs that a theme park were nearby were distant glimpses of the Silver Star coaster and a few decorations set up in some roundabouts on the road.
Our hotel was one of several associated with Europa Park itself, similar to the way Disney runs things.Â All were heavily themed in one way or the other.Â We'd chosen the cheapest one, El Andaluz, with Spanish theming.Â It was quite sufficient for us; I never felt the need to have anything fancier.Â When I checked in, I was surprised to be offered free park admission for an hour.Â Tim didn't seem to get this offer until he asked.Â Naturally we accepted the offer; we knew Europa Park was full of things we wanted to see and do, and the chance to get a bit of a jump on our agenda was welcome.
We briefly stopped in our rooms, just enough time to get a sense of the hotel.Â It was organized around a nice indoor courtyard with a glass elevator.Â Our room had a window that could be fully opened onto a balcony over an outdoor courtyard or just swung open from the top for ventilation.Â We later found ours was one of the few rooms with a balcony.
We only took a little time before going into the park.Â For Janna, Tim, and me it was a familiar experience; the three of us had visited the park already on a trip in 2002 with American Coaster Enthusiasts.Â We knew from personal experience that it was a top-notch park and were eager to visit again.Â I, in particular, had always felt like I'd not gotten the full park experience on that trip, as we'd been in a hurry to try to cover everything.Â Greg had heard all about the park from the three of us and other friends of his that had been on the trip, so he was very eager to visit too.Â However, with only an hour to spend that evening we knew we'd only be getting a taste.
We decided to take advantage of our unexpected time in the park to ride one of the coasters that was new to us all, since it had been built since 2002.Â Called Atlantica Supersplash, it was a "water coaster" that we didn't expect we'd really want to ride more than once.Â It was located in an offshoot from the main part of the park, as befitted a new attraction that hadn't really been built into the park's original plan.Â The area was nautically themed (I was a bit confused by the model of a ship entitled "Santa Marian").Â It was located near the Spanish section, as I could tell when I saw what looked like a bullfighting ring from the lift hill of the ride (something I recall seeing from the monorail from my prior trip; on neither trip did I ever see it closer).
The ride had a very simple configuration, to the point it could barely be considered a coaster at all.Â The ride vehicle--itself a boat--went up a lift, down a little dip, then down a big drop into a splashdown with a bit of a hump in it.Â There was one extra twist to the whole thing.Â Between the top of the lift and the first dip was a turntable, then there was a second turntable before the big drop.Â These would rotate the boat so that it first faced backwards for the little dip, then forwards for the big drop.Â The first turntable rotated several times so we had the feeling of "where it stops nobody knows".
There wasn't much else to make the ride memorable.Â As a water ride, we did get wet, though we didn't really want to; we were just there to get a ride and the weather was cool.Â The moldy smell of the restraints gave us some indication of what to expect.Â The random geysers didn't really do much, but the water splashing over the side did.Â I rode in an edge seat (in the second row) and got the wettest of all of us.
We had a little time left, so we decided to spend it at one of the most unique coasters at the park, or indeed anywhere, Euro-Mir.Â Once again, those of us who'd been on the 2002 trip had already experienced it and were eager for repeat rides, while Greg was looking forward to riding a coaster he'd only known by reputation.Â I had only gotten one ride on it in 2002.Â Time had just seemed to slip by too fast to get more.Â It was one of my biggest regrets from that trip; it was a coaster to be savored with multiple rides.Â I planned to make up for it on this trip.
What made this coaster so unique?Â It might be better to ask what wasn't unique about it, as it had many unusual features.Â Rather than being tall or even all that intense, it is full of quirks that made it one of the most memorable rides around.Â It begins with the cars, which have two forward-facing and two backward-facing seats.Â The cars can twirl as they go, so that even if you start sitting forwards, you will be backwards during at least part of the ride.Â The twirling starts during the climb up the lift and continues during a meandering, slow, high journey between mirrored columns.Â This feels nothing at all like a roller coaster, until finally the cars lock into position and the drops begin.Â At the top of the second drop there is one final 180 degree switch so that people who were facing forward on the first drop are reversed for the rest of the ride, and vice versa.
Even this is getting ahead of the game; the lift is perhaps even more interesting than the thrilling parts of the ride.Â Unlike the straight lifts of most coasters, Euro-Mir has a helical climb.Â The cars are pushed by a huge rotating cylindrical assemblage in the center of the helix.Â Looking up and down you can sometimes see other trains at other parts of their climb--the ride can accommodate many people at once!Â Other coasters have this, but few have one indoors with light effects (though fewer than I recalled from my prior trip) and catchy rave music.Â The rave music can also be heard in the queue, which also has some fluorescent lights to make everything white you're wearing glow.
We took two rides, having a pretty minimal wait for either by that time of day (though we did get to see a man walk out of the station in a huff when told to put out his cigarette).Â With the twirling cars, terms like "front" and "back" of the train become somewhat ambiguous, but we tried to get a ride at either end.Â We also tried to arrange things so that during one of the rides, Janna and I would be facing Tim and Greg at times while the cars rotated.Â Another time we wound up facing a woman who was riding back to back with her kids; she probably would have preferred if they were facing her instead.Â The strange train configuration makes it hard to arrange riding together with the rest of your group.
On both of my rides I discovered something new about the coaster I hadn't seen before; first some water effects, then a rotating barrel at the base of the first drop.Â Euro-Mir continued to have surprises for me!Â We would have taken more than two rides if we could have; but by the time we came back the second time the last train of the night was just leaving the station.Â No matter, we knew we had a full day at the park to come.
We just left the park after that, having just a little more chance to look at some of the theming.Â Since the park was themed after Europe I was a little surprised to see a safari section (complete with Tarzan and Jane bathrooms).Â We'd have a lot more time to savor the elaborate park themes the next day.
Our next task was to find where to eat for the evening.Â The hotel complex had several restaurants to try, so we took a walk to select one and just to see the whole area.Â We wandered over to the more expensive Colosseo and Castillo hotels, the former with its courtyard made to look like the Colosseum on one side (but on others it looked more like an Italian street with laundry strung across).Â Next to the pathway between hotels there was a little water feature.Â It was a kind of moving sculpture, consisting of a metal ball on a track.Â Water would pour into a container, which would eventually lever the ball up until it was released to roll around the track once, at which point it would stop and the cycle would begin again.
The restaurant we finally settled on was called Don Quixote.Â Unlike the others it could have been accessed from the park while it was open.Â In fact it happened to be the restaurant that we'd been treated to a very nice lunch at on our 2002 trip.Â We got a table in a little sun room facing a courtyard.Â A flamenco band was playing.Â One of the songs I remember was "Que sera sera", which had been a kind of theme song of our previous trip.
I split a half liter of sangria with Greg, refreshing at the end of a long day.Â Most of us went to the salad bar, which was less of a "pile stuff on top of lettuce" bar than a set of olives or premade salads to choose from.Â I got several small bowls with different items (olives, a creamy cucumber salad, and a dill pasta salad), only later to be scolded by the waiter that I was only supposed to choose one.Â It turned out later when I was getting full, that I had to make a special effort to finish the olives so that at least it didn't look like I was wasting anything.
For my main dish I had "Sancho Panza Schweineschnitzel mit Paprikasauce".Â I ordered it because I thought it would be close to the pork dish we'd had on our previous visit, one of the best meals of that trip.Â It also came with spÃ¤tzle, which was served in a pan so it could be shared with the rest of the table.Â I remembered liking frozen spÃ¤tzle when I was a kid, and wanted to see if the authentic dish was anything like it (not really in the least, but it was very good nonetheless!).Â Even Tim, not usually the most adventurous gourmand, liked it.
After dinner we went briefly to our rooms.Â Tim and Greg were impressed by ours; theirs looked to be a family room with bunks.Â They had a tiny balcony facing toward the walkway to the Colosseo, compared to our better balcony overlooking the courtyard.Â However, one drawback of our room was a dearth of usable outlets.
We didn't quite feel like going to bed yet, so we went to the bar for a few drinks before turning in.Â We got seats out in the nice courtyard.Â The menu had not just the usual drinks, but cigars and absinthe too.Â I was tempted to try the latter but stuck to beer.Â Someday I'll get up the nerve to try the stuff.Â We stayed until about 10, when the courtyard fountains suddenly stopped running.Â Then it was up to bed to rest for what was sure to be a busy, but rewarding day at Europa Park.