Thursday and Friday, July 18-19, 2019 Day 7 / Day 8: Efteling Part 1: Around the Park
Efteling is a very immersive, extremely large park.
So large that I'm splitting up this trip report into two parts. This post will contain a big overview of the park and the rides as a whole, while the second part (which I'll post next week) will cover the shows and some other extra stuff.
Let me start out by saying that I love Efteling. I really liked it in 2016, but liked it even more in 2019 -- better weather, lighter crowds, and a little more time to explore. It's as heavily themed as any top-tier park in the US, but with a less overtly-commercialized, very Dutch take on the whole fairy tale / theme park experience. That means you're getting versions of the stories that are much closer to their European origins than to their cleaned-up, Disney-fied iterations you might know from elsewhere. And that's a huge part Efteling -- the Fairytale Forest (Sprookjesbos) is the heart of the park. Throw in a few thrills (most of which are heavily themed) and a whole lot of great things to eat, all nestled into a beautiful forested setting, and it's not hard to see why Efteling is such an amazing, world-class park experience.
Here's how it worked for the TPR group. We started the day in Amsterdam on the 18th, gathering the few stragglers who didn't go to Bobbejaanland with us the day before. We arrived at Efteling in the afternoon, and had a couple hours in the park before it closed. We stayed on-site at the Efteling resort hotel, and most of us got dinner at the hotel's restaurant. We had a full day at the park on the 19th, and it was a very full day -- outside of a quick stop back at the hotel, I was in the park from 8:45 AM until just about midnight. That still wasn't enough time to explore every little pathway and scenic view and attraction at Efteling, though between both visits in 2016 and 2019, I think I got pretty close.
We did some filming on the morning of the 19th, and Robb's posted one video from Python. Be sure to check it out.
This is one of those parks where the rides are really second in importance to the overall experience, but I'll review some of them anyway.
Bob: I'll start with the coaster that is no longer with us. Efteling's classic Intamin bobsled gave its last rides not long after our visit. It was a good ride, almost completely hidden by the trees, and I'm glad I got one more go on it before it disappeared for good.
Baron 1898: I liked Baron in 2016, but liked it even more this time -- perhaps the warmer weather had it flying a little quicker through the course. Baron is one of the smaller B&M Dive Coasters, and its short overall layout is maybe not the absolute best, but it's still quite good. The theming on Baron is the real draw, as it's one of the best-themed large coasters in the world. If you've been there, you can probably still hear the banshees wailing in the pre-lift room. Baron is probably my favorite B&M Dive Coaster outside of Sheikra and Griffon. It's a million times better than Valravn, so don't even go there.
Joris en de Draak: A fun slightly-small-sized dueling GCI woodie. If you like Lightning Racer, you'll enjoy this one too. It's not particularly intense, but it's action-packed from start to finish. I give it a solid B+. Quite fun, but not as good as the GCI at our next stop at Toverland.
Python: I got to ride the "old" Python in 2016, and the almost-completely retracked version in 2019. If you've ever wondered what a standard Vekoma loop-screw would feel like if it were un-coathangered and engineered properly, ride Python! It's still not a great ride, since the layout is just not all that inspiring, but it's perfectly comfortable and even re-ridable. Plus, if you ask the local fanboys and fangirls, it's the most important coaster in the country.
Vogel Rok: It'd be a forgettable coaster outdoors, but this Vekoma-in-a-box is actually pretty fun! The lighting and soundtrack effects were recently upgraded, and the overall experience is one worth riding at least a couple times.
De Vliegende Hollander: The problems getting this ride constructed (Intamin taking over for KumbaK) are an interesting side note, but I really like this one. It's a heavily-themed ride that is part-coaster, part-dark water ride, and it's the dark ride section that is far and away the best segment. It's so good I'm not sure I want to spoil it, but Efteling makes outstanding use of some very simple fog and lighting effects, and then throws a few tricks in just before the lift hill. The coaster portion and splashdown are nothing special, but that's not why you ride this.
Symbolica: Wow, this is good. Efteling's huge investment for 2017, it's a trackless dark ride, and clearly the best of the three that I've been on -- the others being the pretty enjoyable Ratatouille at DLP, and the abysmal Antarctica at SWO. Symbolica's an absolute dream of a design, and a visual feast in every single one of the spectacularly-themed rooms. The fact that they do just about everything with practical effects, sets, and lighting is even more impressive. This is easily one of the best dark rides I've ever been on.
Droomvlucht: This is old-school Efteling at its best. A suspended dark ride on a rail (note: not a coaster) that goes through scene after scene of forest nymphs, trolls, fairies, mushrooms, and other fantastic elements. The final scene -- as you complete a huge spiral down and around the forest -- is quite the experience.
Fata Morgana: An older dark ride -- it's basically Pirates of the Persian Gulf, with less drops than the Disney version, but more recreational drug use.
Villa Volta: A Vekoma madhouse. It's kinda fun. I never remember that much about these when they're over.
Carnaval Festival: Efteling's take on Small World, with a stupidly catchy theme song, and a whole bunch of interesting depictions of foreign cultures.
Spookslot: Spookslot is a thing that exists. That's it. That's the review.
Pagode: A "flying island" observation tower, it's worth the ride just for the uniqueness. The views are good, but since much of the park is forested, you can't see a lot.
Gondoletta: Every theme park should have a tow boat ride. Why do no theme parks in the US have a tow boat ride? Or are there some that I can't recall? There should be more. Absolutely should be more.
Along the way, I'll mix in some photos from the 2016 trip, just because I had a few things I didn't get pictures of in 2019.
The Efteling Hotel -- designed to look like a floating castle.
You never know what you're going to run into at the hotel. Perhaps it's storytime with an old wizard.
Or maybe you'll meet some characters -- quite skilled bilingually -- while eating breakfast!
AJ and David catch the latest from these royal visitors.
Or maybe you'll be crowned king for the day at dinner. Enjoy the best seat in the house, Steve.
The House of the Five Senses -- Efteling's grand entrance.
We didn't actually go through the main entrance -- I'm just sticking these pictures here anyway since they seem like "start of the TR" pictures.
I don't have any pictures of the hotel guest entrance, but that's one of my few complaints about the park -- it's terrible! It dumps you out in a playground for toddlers! But anyway. The main entrance is fantastic. Go see it, even if you're staying at the hotel.
Trash is never a problem at Efteling, because their characters will eat it with a vacuum-like efficiency. Papier Hier!
Hey, you might just run into a giant frog while you're out and about.
But we're here early this morning for some coasters!
Python is up first -- and TPR is ready for some filming.
AJ and Daniel are showing off the latest in Vekoma restraints. Actually, the new trains were already installed back in 2016, even before the coaster was re-tracked. They're fairly comfortable.
Python drops some more.
Coming out of one of the two vertical loops -- among Python's four inversions.
We've reached the "screw" part of the loop screw.
Python was originally created in 1981.
In 2018, it was almost completely re-tracked. Some of the track on the non-intense parts of the ride was kept.
The end result does not look too painful.
Actually, I think we were all pleasantly surprised. Python was enjoyable.
Next up is De Vliegende Hollander -- The Flying Dutchman. Here's the outside of the station.
The inside of the station has a real Pirates of the Caribbean feel, which makes sense since this is basically a ride on a ghost ship.
I couldn't get pictures from the inside section, which is extremely dark and rather damp. However, the outdoor section -- unexciting as it is to ride -- is quite photogenic. The clean early morning reflection was soon to disappear as soon as boats started running.
The splashdown follows just a small hill, but kicks up a good bit of water.
Then, the boat floats along a guide path on its way back into the station.
The small hill at the end of the outdoor section. The rest of the outdoor part is just a few little turns and shallow drops.
Catching the start of the splash.
It does kick up a bit of water, so if you're on an outside seat, you'll get a bit wet. If you sit in the middle of the boat, you'll stay mostly dry.
Baron 1898 sneaks into my De Vliegende Hollander shot.
De Vliegende Hollander was opened in 2007.
It did have some problems, opening a year later than originally intended. Intamin took over for KumbaK and finished it up.
That's the dueling GCI woodie, Joris en de Draak, just behind.
A few more views from the other side. The 3-4-3-4 seating is a little odd.
...and the splash gets bigger...
...and a rainbow!
It's a water ride, don't act like you're surprised.
Front row seat at the Church of Efteling.
The boat gets some tilt as it decelerates.
A closer look at Boat #6.
Efteling's insignia -- and the ride logo -- at the back of the boat.
So, next up was supposed to be Baron 1898, the B&M dive coaster...
...but that got delayed. Things break, and things have to be repaired, so we got our instructions to keep in touch with the group in case it opened back up.
In the mean time, let's head out to the rest of the coasters -- including our final rides on Bob.
Bob opened in 1985 and had a 34 year run, closing in September 2019.
Hey guys, I see you on the lift hill!
With Bob's demise, there are only two more Intamin bobsleds left in the world -- La Vibora at SFOT, and Alpine Bobsled at Great Escape.
How was your ride?
Next up is Vogel Rok, which translates to Bird ... something.
Vogel Rok is a Vekoma-in-a-box, and the entrance is graced by a giant statue of a mythical-looking bird!
Inside the queue, you'll find one of the bird's eggs. I wouldn't recommend disturbing it.
This picture is an accurate depiction of the Vogel Rok ride experience. Hope you're good at hanging on.
The dueling GCI is up next -- this is Joris en de Draak, or George and the Dragon.
Pick your side -- Water or Fire.
The station theming on Joris is fantastic. When the winning train pulls in, these banners on the ceiling unfurl, and a fanfare is played. When the losing train pulls in, a soundtrack of boos and jeers is played instead.
Dumb luck to get this shot of Joris and Python -- I was going for one of the coasters, and the second just happened to skate on by.
Joris opened in 2010. It's smaller than your typical GCI -- only 72 feet tall.
A not-so-fun fact is that Joris was actually /broken/ at the beginning of both the 2016 and 2019 TPR visits to Efteling. It re-opened in time for some rides the morning we departed in 2016, and was open for most (if not all) of the second day in 2019.
There /is/ a big dragon near the end of the coaster. I couldn't find a good spot to get a picture of it, but Larry and Chuck did, so such a spot must exist.
Which train usually wins? It seems like it's probably based on the weight of the trains -- so mine seemed to lose a lot.
Both Joris trains complete the turnaround as they race to the end. Look close for a bonus cameo from De Vliegende Hollander.
And then ... Baron 1898 opened!
This is a 2016 picture, from a rainy day, but I love how it's kind of a moody photo -- it matches the theme quite nicely.
Baron's post-drop course is relatively short, but it's more fun than the over-large, drawn-out elements on rides like Valravn.
The wheel at the top of the lift hill is constantly spinning. If the theme all looks kind of steampunk, it's not exactly supposed to be that way -- it's actually designed to be like a fantasy version of a turn-of-the-20th-century gold mine.
The Baron 1898 station, and the start of the story. So, it seems this old Baron owns a gold mine.
The Baron sends his workers into the mine. See the tag board at the left side of this picture? Mine workers grab their tag when they go in for one of the three daily shifts. If someone doesn't put their tag back at the end of the shift, you know you've got trouble...
The baron, Gustave Hooghmoed, speaks from the balcony in the pre-show room. He wants his gold, but there's just one problem. The spirits of the mine don't want the gold to be disturbed, and they're willing to take drastic measures to protect it. Will you enter the mine for the baron?
This shot is of an empty Baron 1898 station in 2016, but ours was quite full in 2019. As the ride opened several hours into the park's operating day, a queue had already built up when the TPR group assembled. Efteling was fantastic, though, and let us use one train for a few rides for filming purposes, while loading the other guests on the other trains. We got some good shots, we all got a few rides in, and everything went well!
I got very few shots of Baron in operation -- that's one thing I wished I could have spent more time on, especially because there are some very good photo angles.
So, I'll share a couple, and take some more next time I go back to Efteling.
All those coaster rides sure worked up an appetite. Time for a lunch break.
We'll stop at one of my favorite spots in Efteling -- the little assortment of snack huts just outside the entrance to Bob. Or, I guess, the entrance to Max & Moritz for anyone visiting in 2020 or later.
We'll start with a very fancy-looking bratwurst sandwich...
...continue with a fried spiral-cut potato...
...and end with a stroopwafel. No one would be shamed for also starting with a stroopwafel. Or basically just eating nothing but stroopwafels.
The Pagode observation platform is a "flying island" -- a tower that entirely raises and lowers on every ride. That way you can have an observation platform that doesn't require a fixed tower high above the ground, spoiling the untouched treetops.
It's called Pagode, because it looks like a pagoda.
Views from the top include the House of the Five Senses.
In the distance, the arena for the park's big Raveleijn show -- which you'll see in next week's post.
A view over an open field that is used for festivals and things. In the distance...
...is the Efteling hotel, in all its fairy tale majesty.
The corner turrets are home to some of the hotel's heavily-themed suites. Even the regular rooms are quite nice, though!
Looking down from the Pagode at the park's Gondoletta pond.
The Gondoletta tow boats are very scenic, very relaxing, and very European.
That hole in the ground is where the Pagode comes to a rest. From the looks of the queue, you can tell that it wasn't an especially busy day at Efteling.
There's Vogel Rok! Oh, and since writing the earlier sections of this post, I learned that Rok refers to "Roc," a legendary bird of prey from Middle Eastern mythology.
A view toward the cluster of coasters, which are mostly smashed together at the south end of the park.
Python crests the lift. The church steeple in the background is outside the park.
Baron looks quite nice from up above.
This turn is fun, especially on the outside seats.
Picture from 2016: looking down from the Pagode at what used to be one of Efteling's main open plazas. It was heavily under construction for one of the park's biggest investments ever...
...and in 2019, that same plot of land was now Symbolica, a massive and immersive dark ride.
And given that it's right underneath the flight path of the Pagode, they did a good job heavily theming -- and solar-paneling -- the roof.
Some kind of show going on just underneath the Pagode, next to Symbolica.
The Efteling insignia on the roof of Symbolica. Why not head down and take a ride?
From ground level, the Symbolica castle looks very impressive.
Inside, you'll meet this very stately, stuffy herald. He's reading something important in Dutch.
I believe we're awaiting his instructions on making a visit with the king. However...
...as we're waiting, he's interrupted by Pardoes, Efteling's court jester mascot! Like any good mascot, he's up to a little bit of mischief, and we're along for the ride.
There's an awesome effect in that pre-show room where the staircase opens up to present our path forward through the queue, but I couldn't get a clean shot of it. I did get this view going down the staircase on the way to the ride station.
You get to choose one of three different ride experiences -- the Muziektour (Music tour), Heldentour (Hero tour), or Schattentour (Treasure tour). 90% of the ride is the same no matter which option you pick, but there's a part in the middle with some interactive stuff that is different for each version. I think I did the music tour and the treasure tour, so the hero tour will be on the agenda for next time.
No pictures from on the ride, since it's quite dark and you're constantly moving around. I wouldn't have even wanted to try. Symbolica is amazing -- you just want to soak in how beautiful everything looks, even if you're not totally sure what's going on.
Continuing with the rides at Efteling, we have Monsieur Cannibale.
It's a teacup ride, but instead of teacups, you're being cooked in big anthropomorphic pots...
...presumably to be eaten by Monsieur Cannibale. Yeah, I'm not so sure about any of this.
Right across from Mr. Cannibal is Carnaval Festival!
It's basically Efteling's version of Small World! It has frogs!
It has birds!
It has tropical scenes.
It has Parisian love.
A British jail.
Possibly a drunk driver.
A look at the Swiss Alps.
Life in Italy.
A trip to Japan.
An oft-pictured, truly bizarre representation of sumo wrestling.
Silhouettes of kites.
A polar plunge.
A south-of-the-border fiesta.
And a closing scene with a little bit of everything. Just like on Small World, the music changes a bit from scene to scene, but the main melody keeps on going.
Say Aloha to Carnaval Festival!
TPR enjoys the final scene of the ride.
It's true that the ride was changed slightly during some downtime between 2016 and 2019. I have pictures of both versions and when I have some time I'll post pictures with the changes in the main Efteling thread.
There's also a river rapids ride called Piraña, themed to pre-Columbian civilizations.
Not so fun fact -- I did not ride, but other friends from my group did. I went and got set up to snap some pictures of them. But they got through the queue quicker than expected, and I didn't get their text that they were boarding because the wifi was acting funky, and I stood around taking pictures of other random boats for 20 minutes. Oops.
Well, I did get some good views of the ride.
It's actually quite nicely themed. And like many European rapids rides, the boats are sort of set free to head downriver at their own pace, making collisions not just a possibility but an inevitability.
There are some waterfalls...
...but the boats don't go completely underneath them.
That said, people still react to them rather strongly.
It's just a bit of water.
Pretty sure you're not supposed to do this!
Efteling has a train! We rode a half-circuit to get from one end of the park to the other.
Here's our whole group on the train! Well, minus one, because I'm the guy behind the camera. The fun part of these trip reports is I get to post a whole lot of pictures of other people, but never any pictures of me!
What's up next? Poffertjes. Sweet, glorious poffertjes.
We split three different versions -- strawberries and cream, banana nutella, and apple cinnamon. If these look absolutely decadent and ridiculous, it's because they are, and we should have ordered more.
From there, we headed to Droomvlucht (Dreamfight) -- another dark ride that moves too quick for good pictures, but that is such an important staple of the Efteling experience.
Oh, I guess I should post one thing we /didn't/ do in 2019...
This is Spookslot. This picture is from 2016. I am posting this picture to prove that I experienced Spookslot in 2016. I advised the group not to experience Spookslot in 2019. There were no objections.
The north end of the park (near Droomvlucht and the poffertjes restaurant) has several of the park's older and more traditional rides and experiences. We'll continue with those in the final segment of this report.
This is the outer facade of Efteling's Stoomcarrousel (Steam Carousel).
The Stoomcarrousel dates back to 1895. That's not a typo. It was brought to Efteling in the 1950s after operating at fairs.
It's an amazing old carousel -- it's small, but with incredible detail, and you know the upkeep is good because it's Efteling.
Here's what drives the whole thing -- a steam engine. On the left you can see the organ, playing from sheets. This thing is quite the antique.
As for the ride experience? It takes a while to get up to speed, but it moves pretty good once it gets there!
Inside the same building as the carousel is Efteling's Diorama. The Diorama is one of those little details you'll miss if you're going through the park too quickly, but it's such an amazing accomplishment that you'll want to see it.
The Diorama is a huge miniature world -- and if that sounds like an oxymoron, well, the circumference of the showcase that houses it is 60 meters.
And the entire thing is this detailed -- houses, hillsides, bridges, waterways, lights.
It's got train stations with working trains.
Villages, churches, and livestock.
There are working boats!
And working cable cars!
The diorama, opened in 1971, was designed by Anton Pieck. If you haven't heard that name before, it's one any theme park aficionado should be familiar with. He's responsible for designing just about everything for Efteling in the park's early decades. He's just as important here as Walt Disney was to Disneyland.
OK, the moment you've all been waiting for.
You're here for the donkey.
Why are you here for the donkey? And why is Ryan staring at its arse?
Because the donkey poops souvenir coins.
The problem is that the donkey is sort of, err, irregular. Sometimes the coins fly out. Sometimes they plop down. Ryan missed this one because their trajectory is almost impossible to predict.
The way it works is like this -- you put some small number of Euros in the coin slot, the donkey raises a tail, and a coin flies out. David is ready and waiting for his shot at glory.
AJ picks his up on the short hop.
Daniel goes all Bill Buckner on his.
Colin gives it his best try, but also misses.
Barry lines up for the catch...
...but soon finds his attention drawn elsewhere.
Steve, perhaps our most athletic contestant, is ready for the challenge.
When the coin plops out softly, he makes a dive for it...
...now that's some dedication to the craft.
For the record, I failed to catch mine. It's not easy!
So there you have it -- the latest entry to the long-running chronicle of TPR and the Pooping Donkey.
The donkey is part of the Sprookjesbos -- the Fairytale Forest. I've called this section of the park the heart of Efteling, and I don't think that's overstating it. This part of the park is just as busy as the rides and attractions. Locals have been visiting this area for decades, bringing their kids to see the animated scenes of fairy tales they explored when they were children.
As best as I can count, the Fairytale Forest has around 30 different fairy tale scenes, with new stories added every so often. I'm not gonna try to post all of them -- just a selection of photo highlights from both 2016 and 2019.
For one thing, there are several anthropomorphic trees.
We meet these kinda creepy ladies...
...and are then introduced to the emperor, who is, of course, clothes-free.
The Gardener and the Fakir is the story of this guy, who rides a magic carpet...
...crosses to the other side of his palace...
...and plays a flute to make the flowers grow.
Little Red Riding Hood is a story known to all.
Her grandmother has clearly seen better days.
Tom Thumb, that little thief, is working over the boot of this sleeping giant.
An old lady does the laundry.
Mother Hulda shakes out her pillow -- and makes it snow.
Langnek is one of the Six Servants -- one of the fairy tales that isn't as well known in the US.
This is De Indische Waterlelies -- The Indian Water Lilies. It's a short little musical animatronic show with dancing water lilies that come to life.
Snow White and a few of the seven dwarfs, who -- in this traditional interpretation of the story -- appear much older than we're used to.
The dragon! It blows smoke! It may have escaped from the GCI woodie at the other end of the park!
Rapunzel in her tower. There are no restrooms underneath this one.
The Little Red Shoes -- tap dancing on the table all on their own.
Pinocchio's been swallowed...
...will you help get him out?
It's so interesting to see non-Disney versions of some of these classic stories. They're all a little darker, a little more grim, a little more unsightly...
...well perhaps except for their version of The Little Mermaid, for obvious reasons.
Near the Fairytale Forest is the Volk van Laaf -- the village of the people of Laaf.
The people of Laaf live in Lavelaer. It's a kids area themed to a small village, with a bakery, a windmill, a monorail ride, and various play areas.
Allow Daniel to demonstrate Bench: The Ride: The Self-Powered Carousel.
There are rocks to skip over, and we all made it through unscathed and un-wetted.
Here is a fantastic shot of AJ almost demolishing a young child at the bottom of a slide!
(To be fair, this was not AJ's fault!)
"Hey kid, you want some of this?"
Ready for a ride on the monorail!
We soar over the village of Lavelaer.
The monorail goes through several creatively-designed buildings, many of which are supposed to be the homes and workplaces of the villagers.
Meanwhile, you'll enjoy views of yet another spectacularly-designed section of Efteling. I'm not sure most visitors make it back to this part of the park, but it's proof that there's always something new to explore at Efteling.
For one brief moment, the monorail peeks over the wall at the edge of the park and out into the real world. It's sort of like a low-key version of the Disneyland monorail running alongside Harbor Blvd. It breaks the spell, but not for too long.
There are a few other kids rides near Lavelaer, including some swings.
David and Daniel gave the swings a go.
There's also another carousel, and I know there are carousel enthusiasts here, so I made sure to include this one.
Efteling's history museum is also in this section of the park. This map, from the park's early years, shows that the layout has actually not changed all that much.
Well, this collection of heads in the museum is a little creepy.
One more museum piece for the coaster enthusiasts -- a piece of the old Python!
According to the sign, this is a "track piece of the old Python with one of the many nuts."
Ladies and gentlemen, I have found one of the many nuts.
Alright, last ride for the day is the Gondoletta boat ride.
Here's a 2016 picture I had to include -- on that trip, we rode the boats in a downpour!
Much better weather this time around.
Colin and Caroline are laughing at something. It's probably Barry.
These tow boat rides are peaceful and relaxing. Watch the fish and the birds swim up to the boat. Enjoy being guided around a pond and under the magnificent stone-arch bridges. Just relax and enjoy the scenery.
As far as scenery goes, Efteling is hard to beat.
We'll let Colin and Caroline end this post with a great big "thanks for reading!"
(OK, I'm not actually sure /what/ they were doing, but it works.)
Hope you enjoyed the post. If you're looking for some sword fights, stunts, and fire-breathing dragons, check back soon for Efteling Part 2...
Funny how you disliked Spookslot so much. I think it's pretty unique in how they went all out scary over whimsical in such a child-oriented park. Especially considering this was their first large scale attraction, largely designed in house when they were just a playground. I'm not familiar with any European walkthrough/dark ride built before this that doesn't look cheap.
Meanwhile I can't stand Symbolica in all its random Nickelodeonesque loudness, but I guess I'm just turning into a curmudgeonly old man
WOW. I can’t tell you how many times I laughed out loud during this report. It truly captures how much FUN we had on this trip—including but not limited to when AJ nearly obliterated that child on the slide.
Efteling is such a special place. I missed out on a lot of the magic the first time I went, so I’m very thankful for this TPR group.
Hard to beat a highly themed park with 1.5 fantastic coasters in a box! Especially ones with so much almost-airtime!
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