Hands up time. There was one big reason for Cologne ending up at the top of the list for this experiment in a post-COVID(ish) mini break. Their name is Phantasialand and I have been craving a visit to a theme park. Could I have gone local? Sure, but it is infinitely more fun this way.
The trip there was pretty painless via a train and a shuttle bus. I am being very specific about this and will get back to that later. Much like our trip to Europa Park, we got there before the attractions got going, which allowed for a little bit of an explore before picking our first ride.
The thing that is really striking about Phantasialand is just how all in they have gone for their theming. In terms of square footage, this isn’t too big a park and you can cross it in little over five minutes. However, there isn’t an inch in the themed areas where they haven’t tried to make it better. Whether that be a lamppost in a specific area looking like a robot frog or a bit of region specific vegetation.
It’s also pretty cool how much some of their bigger rides form the scenery. When you are in the medieval themed mystery area, both of the area’s roller coasters are rattling around you as you look for a drink or a bathroom. This was especially cool in the steampunk Rookburgh area, where the rollercoaster just works as extra scenery.
Rather than talk about the visit in chronological order, let’s continue with the themes. If you are looking for a part with an excellent selection of thrill rides, then Phantasialand is the park for you. Even the river rapids ride, usually a gentler ride, has some extreme drops and leaves you totally sodden. It’s a good thing that it was 27 and sunny today, else I would have gotten the trench foot.
There are so many coasters here that it would take ages to talk about them all, so let’s talk highlights. As a one of a kind experience, F.L.Y. ranks as one of the most extraordinary rides I’ve been on. This is as close as I will come to feeling like I am actually flying. Its little wonder that they included ankle supports, else you’d probably hurt something and it would ruined the experience.
Then there is Taron, this is the signature coaster of Phantasialand for a reason. It is an amazingly done thrill ride to the point where I was so adrenaline fueled that, much like when I rode the T Express, I fell into a giggling fit. Albeit a worse one this time; took me a very long time to stop laughing.
Whilst not a coaster, Chiapas is worth a special mention for how to do a well themed and original log flume. We even bought the photo from the kiosk afterward, that’s how much fun we had.
I could go on about the rides as we pretty much rode all the ones we wanted to. This was another trip like Europa Park or Hong-Kong Disneyland, whilst not empty we rarely had to queue more than 5-10 minutes to get on a ride. In fact so many of them, including Black Mamba (one of their major coasters) we just walked straight on.
As spoilt as this sounds – this was too much of a good thing. I don’t think my insides had any idea what was going on. Usually you have these 20-60 minutes between rides to get the inner ear back in order, here we were able to do 4-5 rides an hour. Which was amazing, but also took its toll as both of us got to about 4pm and our synapses had all but fired out.
When we did take breaks, they were good ones. There is a foccacia stall where Mexico and Berlin worlds meet, the food of which was great. Looked good, smelt goods and got all over my face as I tucked in. We even had time to take in one of the shows – Nobis. Ignoring the sudden appearance of a Gangsta’s Paradise cover, it was the kind of a circus skills show that fits well into a theme park day.
The only downside to the park was the lack of more chilled out rides that weren’t just for young children. Even those they had didn’t meet the standard of the thrill rides. The ghost train needs to be scrapped, its clearly ancient and doesn’t completely function anymore. The shooter game had a really cute theme around rats in a bakery, but the 3D glasses gimmick with the pastry bag guns you had to repeatedly pull and release just didn’t work for me.
Still though, Phantasialand is truly a world class theme park. The theming and thrill ride count are amazing. If you are there with young children, there is also slot for them to have fun with. Would definitely recommend it to someone who likes amusement parks.
Rather than head straight for the station, we went for a turn about the gardens of Brühl Castle. Well, think its more a palace, but I don’t name these things. After all the high-octane of the amusement park, this was a nice change of pace and relaxed us to deal with the travel problems getting back.
You see, we ended up waiting for nearly two hours for a train that is meant to be half-hourly. There was issues thank to a mix of engineering works and a forest fire, so passenger trains were being stealth cancelled or drastically delayed for the sake of the freight trains. This would have been more manageable if the station had bothered to mention any thing – instead it was radio silence as the platform got fuller and fuller.
Luckily there’s another way to get back to Cologne on public transport, it just takes longer and requires a hike across town. Which we did, and thank God because it turns out we arrived before any train from Brühl. It was actually kind of nice taking the light railway through Cologne’s suburbs, but we arrived tired.
Neither of us could stomach being all social in a restaurant, so bought filled pretzels and some hot sandwiches from the station and topped them up with some Lays and Mezzo Mix from a nearby supermarket. Tomorrow should prove to be quieter as we are actually remaining in Cologne. But first a lot of sleep.