On the evening of September 26, 2014, Scott Ault, Josh Updike, John Rust, Lisa Levy, Annette Stock, and yours truly checked into the Hotel Ling Bao at Phantasialand in Brühl, Germany. Opened in 2003, Hotel Ling Bao (formerly Hotel Phantasia) was built with the talents of over 140 Chinese craftsmen. The hotel features a private entrance into the park's China Town, which was also renovated by the same Chinese artisans.
The next morning, we set out to explore the neighboring Hotel-Village Matamba, bordering the park's Deep in Africa land. This award-winning hotel opened in 2008. It boasts a richly detailed African theme.
Next, we walked to the park's main entrance. Germany's second-most visited park behind Europa-Park, Phantasialand opened on April 30, 1967. From what little information I've been able to gather, the park was the brainchild of Richard Schmidt, a famous puppeteer, and Gottlieb Löffelhardt, a traveling showman/entrepreneur. What was once an open-pit lignite mine, was now a Märchensee (fairy tale lake) with a fairy tale forest. Other original attractions included the Oldtimerfahrt (classic car ride), the Western-Express train ride, and the Hawaiian restaurant. In 1968, a dolphin show and the Wikinger Bootsfahrt zur Piratenstadt Cartagena (Viking boat ride to the pirate city of Cartagena) were added. In 1970, Die Gondelbahn "1001 Nacht" (The Gondola "1001 Nights") and Alt Berlin (Old Berlin) were added. The park has continued to expand over the years. Today, Phantasialand consists of six themed lands: Berlin (formerly Alt Berlin), Deep in Africa, China Town, Fantasy, Mexico, and Mystery.
From the main entrance, we entered Berlin, the park's turn-of-the-century German "Main Street".
When Old Berlin opened in 1970, it featured scale replicas of Berlin's Neptune Fountain at the main entrance plaza and the Brandenburg Gate at the opposite end of Berliner Straße (Berlin Street). Behind the Brandenburg Gate was Europe's largest two-story carousel manufactured by Preston & Barbieri. In the late 2000s, the Pferdekarussell (horse carousel) was relocated to the main entrance plaza, replacing the Neptune Fountain, and the Brandenburg Gate was removed, replaced by the Kaiserplatz with the Wellenflug, a Zierer Wave Swinger.
Our first stop was at Heino's Kaffeehaus for a delicious German breakfast.
Fueled on meats and coffee, we arrived at our first attraction Das verrückte Hotel Tartüff (The Crazy Hotel Tartüff), a 27-room funhouse spread over three floors.
Our second stop was Maus-au-Chocolat, an interactive 3D dark ride in which we join forces with master exterminator Oskar Koslowski to rid the Imperial Cake Factory of mice.
From Berlin, we passed through a covered walkway to the Fantasy themed area, which occupies the entire west side of the park (the original Märchensee.)
In 1988, the Space theme was added to Phantasialand with the opening of Space Center, the world's longest indoor roller coaster. Space Center used to be a ride through the stars with various lighting effects. In 2001, due to the construction of Wuze Town, the Space theme was replaced by Fantasy and Space Center became Temple of the Night Hawk. The four-minute ride now takes place in complete darkness.
Another prominent feature in Fantasy is a golden geodesic dome that once housed Galaxy, a space themed simulator attraction, which opened in 1994. In 2005, the theme changed to the more fantasy appropriate Race for Atlantis.
In 2002, Wuze Town opened. The backstory goes that during construction, Phantasialand unearthed a civilization ruled by a powerful warrior queen named Winja. Wuze Town is a large two-story indoor complex that houses Winja's Fear and Winja's Force, two spinning Maurer Söhne coasters with trick tracks, the Tittle Tattle Tree, a Vekoma Paratower, and Wuze Town Kinderland, a children's play area with seven kid attractions on the second level. In 2010, the square in front of Wuze Town was redeveloped to include several additional kid attractions.
In 2007, the original Märchensee with its fairy tale forest and Schloss Schreckenstein (Castle Schreckenstein) closed forever to make way for the new Baumbergen (Tree Mountains) and Mondsee (Moon Lake) expansion of Fantasy. The Viking boat ride had already closed in 1998. In 2009, Wakobato, a Preston & Barbieri Splash Battle, made its debut on Mondsee.
We crossed back through Kaiser Platz in Berlin, to the east side of the park where the remaining lands reside. Mystery was our first stop. This Gothic themed land opened in 1998 with Mystery Castle, an interior Intamin Bungee Drop, the only one in the world, featuring a 65-meter free fall. In 2001, a major fire destroyed the Gebirgsbahn (mountain railway) in the neighboring Western-themed Silver City area. In 2002, on the site of the Gebirgsbahn, the Mystery theme expanded with the opening of River Quest, an innovative Hafema Water Rides GmbH rapids ride through a castle. It features a vertical lift, a whirpool, and intense drops. In 2014, the remaining Silver City area was closed for future expansion.
In 2006, Phantasialand expanded with Deep in Africa, a new area, and the neighboring Hotel-Village Matamba. Slithering through the landscape is Black Mamba, an inverted B&M steel coaster. The tight integration of the coaster track into the environment is impressive. The ride is exhilarating!
Next, Mexico – we just had to go. The area's origins date back to 1974 when it consisted of Hazienda de Mexiko, a restaurant, and the Casa Magnetica, a crooked house. Today, it features several popular attractions, including what were parts of the Western-themed Silver City. In 1996, Michael Jackson officially opened the Colorado Adventure, a Vekoma steel mine train coaster. In fact, its official title was Colorado Adventure – The Michael Jackson Thrill Ride. I was thrilled by the prospect of being able to ride in the locomotive, but the ride itself left me a bit shaken by its intensity. In 2007, Talocan, a suspended Huss Top Spin replaced the Condor, also by Huss. Unlike the Condor, Talocan is beautifully themed with guests being subjected to the fiery, watery wrath of the Aztec god Tlaloc. In early 2014, Chiapas - DIE Wasserbahn, a six-minute long Intamin flume ride with the world's steepest drop, replaced the Wildwasserbahn, a Mack flume ride featuring two tracks, Stonewash and Wildwash Creeks, which opened in 1974.
Our last area to visit was China Town, which opened in 1981. It features Geister Rikscha (Ghosts Rickshaw), Europe's only underground ghost train. On it, we rode through several spooky perplexing scenes inspired by Chinese mythology.
With our time in Phantasialand at an end, we exited the park, taking advantage of the convenient China Town entrance located at our hotel.
Phantasialand is a fascinating theme park, featuring many innovative attractions and excellent theming. We truly enjoyed our stay at Hotel Ling Bao and our day at Phantasialand. We wish we could have spent more time exploring, but we had a four-hour drive ahead of us to Freiburg.