Storm Clouds Over Hamburg - Day 2, Hansa Park
Lo and behold, Day 2 of 2 is here!
After staying the night in Lubeck (in what was apparently a non-smoking hotel, but in a room which smelt strongly of cigarette smoke), I was energised for another day. The weather was cold and windy, but no rain.
The journey from my hotel to Hansa Park was much simpler than the previous day: a direct train from Lubeck to Sierksdorf, and then a walk to the park. The walk was again very straightforward - pretty much a straight path which takes about 10-15 minutes. Unfortunately, by the time I'd arrived at Sierksdorf, the rain was kicking in, setting the tone for the weather for the rest of the day...
I got to the park just before rides opened at 10, and walked straight on in after a quick security check. Dumping my stuff in a locker (1 euro for the whole day with unlimited entries - bargain!), I made a beeline straight to the park's main event - Karnan. I'd been keeping an eye on the park's app in days prior, which showed that it's availability had been...sketchy, at best. So ticking it off first was the safest bet.
Arriving by the entrance, there was a staff member out the front, and a queue of people. Karnan was also testing, but filled with test dummies
Shortly after I got there, the staff member said something in German I didn't quite understand, but about half the people waiting left. I imagine it was the usual "We don't know when it will open, hopefully soon, but try other rides and come back later". Realising the park would be very quiet and not wanting to take any chances, I decided to hang around and see. It was still regularly testing, still with dummies, so I remained optimistic.
That optimism was perhaps foolish though. After about half an hour, and engineer came to queue front, after having emerged from "the tower" and said something and waved his hands, at which point everyone left dispersed. Uh oh, that didn't seem good. I asked the lovely guy out front what was what, and between my basic German and his basic English, I managed to piece together "We don't know when it will open, keep looking at the app".
Bye for now
The rain at this point was pretty consistent; not heavy, but not light either. I wandered away from Karnan, not quite sure what to do first. My first thought was obviously the park's other Gerstlauer, Flucht von Novgorod. But instead I walked right past their Wild Mouse, so thought why not...
Well, it was closed, so that would be why not...
Undeterred, I carried on walking in the random direction I had chosen, and eventually ended up the park's Beautiful Britain area, which included two creds. Let's go.
First up was Nessie. The park's Schwarzkopf coaster, with basic lap bars and a vertical loop. Nice walk on too. The station for this is wonderful; really nicely themed. This was my first taste of what Hansa Park could do with their indoor spaces, and I was impressed. As for the ride itself, it was...fine? I was a bit disappointed in some ways, maybe because I set up high expectations thinking this might be like a mini Lisebergbanan (a cred I really like) with a loop. But yeah, it just didn't do it for me. Also, the aggressive brake run in the dark was not something I was prepared for (no nice warning signs a la Lisebergbanan!)
I also didn't take any photos of it, which also highlights my lack-of-care for this.
I wanted to tick off the other cred in the area, Royal Scotsman, whilst here. But lo and behold, it was closed. Entrance shut off with no explanation. Was it because of the weather? Would it open later? No idea.
Instead, I turned my attention to the small matter of Highlander. You know, the 120m tall drop tower? I was very confused by this, because the gondola was not parked on the ground; it was instead about 10-15ft off the ground (like in some sort of maintenance mode?), but the entrance was open. I hadn't seen it go yet, but I decided to walk through and see. A staff member appeared from the op box, indicated to give him a moment, and then he lowered the gondola down. Huzzah!
At this point, it was still raining pretty consistently. It was windy. My phone said it was 3°. Yet I was going near-400ft in the air. Cool.
I love drop towers, but this did get to me a bit. The climb up is slow and suspenseful, and the accompanying music fits really well. It was going up and round that I also realised how close Hansa Park is to the Baltic Sea (spoilers: very close!). Going up just went on and on and on. And the wind and the rain was making me feel very cold. Nearing the top I got the tilt, which doesn't really do a lot for me, but I'm sure gets people. It was running the "super tilt" mode, where it stays like that for the drop, so it quickly went back to the upright position. Then, finally, it stopped. And I waited. And waited. And waited. There's no more audio, no countdown, nothing. Okay, this was a tiny bit terrifying, in the best possible way. How long was I up there, who knows? But soon enough, I was dropping down. That was fine...fun enough, but these larger ones give you more time to adjust to the sensation.
In short, whilst the drop on Highlander isn't anything special, the whole build up and anticipation to it is. Really fun, and slightly nerve-wracking, experience!
Now it was time to move on over to the much-praised Flucht von Novgorod. I knew the secrets this had (ie launch and vertical lift / beyond vertical drop), and that it had on-board pre shows. But beyond that, I was in the dark. The ride was only running one car, which meant the wait for front row took a bit of time. But I'm not complaining, as it gave me a chance to dry off in the indoor queue, and appreciate the theming around.
I was told off by the operating for taking this photo...although maybe he was just telling me no phones on the ride. I don't quite know.
Quickly enough, I was on. The pre shows before the launch are great. They set a really nice tone; creepy and spooky, with some neat effects in there too. That, however, it where most of my positives run out. You drop into the launch and it hits you. But at the same time, it doesn't feel that punchy? I know it is a quick acceleration, but it didn't feel like it was all that powerful. Maybe going in from the drop you already have a decent starting speed, so the boost doesn't come across that great? Maybe being in near-total darkness drains it of some reference? I don't know, but it didn't really do it for me. This was particularly sad, as I love Anubis' launch at Plopsaland!
You then head on outside and the layout is...fine. Fine seems to be a word I'm using a lot for Hansa Park so far, doesn't it? It doesn't really do much, and it doesn't really give any notable forces / airtime. The inversion over the building is nice, but forgettable.
Then you head on inside and reach the vertical lift. Oooh, back to Hansa indoor quality! Stopping on the vertical, you get some more "pre show". I guess if I could understand it more coherently I might enjoy it more, but it felt like a bit of a pace killer - the ride had just got going, now you're stopping me for this? The rest of the ride then takes place in total darkness, and is a bit rough and ready in typical Gerstlauer fashion, which made it hard to enjoy. It then ends with a projection of a crow on the wall (I've since learned about some scarecrow scare, which seems to have gone?).
I did like how after the ride, you walk through a maze which has an actual potential dead end. That was a neat little 'post-ride' touch.
Overall first impressions of Novgorod though: not that good. This is a ride I'd heard lots of good things about, and was something that seemed right up my street. Again, maybe I set my expectations too high? Maybe it was just a bit of a bum ride, which Gerstlauers sometimes give. It wasn't something I was prepared to write off just yet, but I was disappointed.
By this point, the weather had improved ever so slightly - it was still raining, but it was a bit warmer. That, or I just got used to the cold. In either case, I decided to check out what was going on with this mystical Karnan thing. Still closed. Same poor soul stood outside. Fortunately by this point, the Wild Mouse, Crazy Mine, had opened. So I decided to get the +1 now. It gave me some nice Rattlesnake at Chessington vibes, and the singing animatronics were just on the right side of annoying to be charming enough. Ride is standard though of course.
Sticking near Karnan, I then went for their Gerstlauer junior cred, Schlange von Midgard. This ride looks stunning, though sadly I didn't get any photos. In true recent Hansa fashion, it features a nice indoor pre-show section, with animatronics and some backstory. At the top of the lift, there's a screen with some stuff going on. Couldn't see what though as there was a huge warning message over the screen. Whoops. Ride itself is pretty fun; surprised there isn't more Gerst family coasters in general.
Thanks to my slow wandering round the park, it was coming up to 12. Karnan had stopped testing, and the rain was coming down heavier again and it was becoming a bit colder. I took shelter under a nearby canopy to try and figure out my plan for what to do. I quickly decided that food would be the best option, even if it was a bit early. There didn't seem to be many indoor options except the restaurant at the front of the park, "Weltumsegler". This place looked really nice, and had a "canteen" style set up.
This turned out to be a great choice, as demonstrated by this wonderful spicy currywurst and fries, and Oreo/grape dessert...
This gave me a chance to warm up and take stock. I had managed all open creds, but there were still 3 closed creds and no clear indication if they would open. The park had a selection of water rides, something which I usually like but wasn't feeling because of the weather. There was some smaller rides which didn't appeal, and the Gerst sky fly, which again isn't my thing. So I decided after lunch to just walk around, despite the rain, see parts of the park I hadn't yet seen, and go with the flow. Here's some random pictures...
I came across Novgorod on my wander round, and decided now was a good time to give it another shot. I had a back row ride this time. It still didn't do it for me. Disappointing.
After this, I caught a glimpse of Karnan again (it's hard not to in the park!). And I saw a car moving. And it was empty - no test dummies! That had to be a good sign, right? So I made my way towards to it, and lo and behold, it was open!! Yes!
So let's get to - Der Schwur des Karnan.
The queue line is absolutely fantastic. Highly detailed, with great special effects. The indoor section has some TV screens explaining the story (with English sub-titles), in a Hex-at-Alton Towers like fashion. I know that some people don't like this style of storytelling, but the park have made it work. I got to see the full loop plus some repeat during this wait. Then I was batched into the first pre-show room, which again is told by TV screen and following the same character in the queue line videos. This features a wonderful reveal of where to store your bags; really liked that!
Then comes the first special feature of Karnan; the row choosing ceremony. I'm sure most know what's what: you stand in a row, then a dramatic sequence occurs which randomly assigns you to a row. I'm sure that it's not everyone's cup of tea, but I really loved the suspense this built up, and it's just a great deal of fun. Top rating from me.
I was assigned into row 2, and was finally sat down in the beast that was Karnan. I've had previous experience with Gerst's clamshell restraints, on Gold Rush at Slagharen, and liked them then, and this was no different fortunately.
I won't explicitly talk about the indoor section of Karnan. What I will say, however, is that I knew what happened, and still loved it, was still mightily impressed by it and found it truly exhilarating. Fantastic. If you know, you know, if you don't, don't look it up.
As for the outdoor section of the ride - I can't sing its praises enough. The first drop is fantastic. The non-inverting butterfly element thing that follows is brilliant; filled with some weird moments and the exit to it is better than so many first drops on other coasters. The remaining parts of the layout are low to the ground, taking at high speed and feature great pops of airtime and lateral forces. And whilst doing all of this, it remains comfortable, and not too forceful. It truly is a masterpiece.
Hitting the brake run leaves you processing everything which just happened. Annnnnd then, Karnan goes and spoils itself. There's a short indoor section to end the ride, including a verrrrrrrrry slow roll, which isn't particularly comfortable or interesting, followed by pitch blackness, bar the pointless on ride photo opportunity on a brake run (why?), and some heroic music to end off. This ends the ride on a low note for me; that whole section as it stands is either unnecessary, or needs some theming / effects to bring it to life. Or it would be better if you took the inversion at some speed; a final big hurrah.
I don't want to 'do a Karnan' and leave its review on a bum note. So let's focus on the positives: this is a fantastic attraction, which looks visually stunning (even the weird supports for the butterfly thing work), has brilliant build up which is dramatic and serious, whilst still exciting. And it has a great roller coaster to back it up too. Definite Top 10% material and, for me, gets a Top 10 spot too.
After my first ride, I was itching to get on again. I completely forgot about the rest of the park. I forgot I still had 2 creds to check on. I forgot that I would have liked another go on Highlander. There was Karnan and only Karnan. The wait this time was a bit longer; no doubt by now everyone had converged to the almighty Karnan. It took about 40 minutes this time.
And here's where I have a bigger niggle about Karnan. It feels like a nightmare to run. It was only running one car, which means its throughput on that day would have been shockingly bad. But the staff were still struggling with timings. We were batched into the batching pre show room before people had left it. This left an awkward wait. I don't know why the ride was delayed for over 3 hours, but it's dodgy reliability seemed to be a common trend when I was looking in the days leading up to the trip.
Is Karnan something bigger than Hansa Park can handle? Did they try to create such a fantastic, larger-than-life experience that they got carried away and lost sight of making sure it was easy to operate? I don't know, but that's certainly an impression I got.
Maybe I'm being harsh here, since the park had only been open for the new season for just a few days, and they'd still be re-adjusting. But still, something which lives on in my mind.
On a brighter note, Karnan still rode fantastic on my second ride, in the third row. And in literal brighter news, the storm had subsided, and the blue skies had appeared!
As much as I loved Karnan, I wanted to take advantage of the good weather and be outside, and see what was what with the other two creds. Fortunately for me, they were open! Royal Scotsman was first, and this was a nice Vekoma junior ride. Nothing special, and you could tell this was an older ride which they've tried to retrofit into their newer, theme-heavy ideology. Then after getting briefly lost, I found the park's kiddie cred, Kleine Zar, and ticked off that +1 nice and easy.
I also took this photo of a waterfall which features on a slow boat ride, which I quite liked
With the weather still nice, I decided to wander round the park and appreciate it in the sun. I also got a glimpse of Baltic Sea too.
I took a quick ride on Störtebekers Kaperfahrt, the WildWater West dingy boat ride, for the primary reason that these lift hills give you a nice foot massage, and I wanted a few minutes off my feet.
That was enough time away from Karnan though - a third ride followed. Getting row 2 again, it truly cemented itself as a top tier ride for me here, and it had warmed up very nicely.
After this, the storm had annoyingly returned, and it bought the rain again. It was now that I was left with a dilemma too, as time was now against me. I could squeeze in another ride on Karnan (maybe even two if the queue was nice), but then have an awkward wait after park close for my train. This would also cut my time fine for getting back to the airport, and a delayed / missed train would be very stressful. Or I could leave now, and have a more relaxed journey to the station.
In hindsight, I probably would have chosen differently, but I opted for the latter of these options and called it a day. At the time, I think the new wave of rain had hit me, and even though I would be queueing indoors for Karnan, I didn't fancy getting wetter and colder later.
So that was that for my day at Hansa Park. I had a good day, certainly helped by the excellent Karnan, but equally, I felt a bit downbeat about it. Hansa was a park that I had heard such good things about, but I just didn't get the same buzz from it. I definitely think the weather has played a part here. The little bit of cred anxiety too. But even then, I think you can enjoy the real top tier parks whatever the weather.
I did really enjoy the park's theming attempts, and it's clear they have some real talent and drive behind them, wanting to make them a fantastic park. I'm not writing the park off, and I look forward to returning at some point in the future.
The trains back to Hamburg Airport were simple enough, and no delays. The same couldn't be said for my flight home, which ended up being delayed by a couple of hours. Given the problems that Easyjet were facing at the time though, I guess it's better delayed than cancelled. It did mean I got home at like half 1, and had to be up at 7 for work. Not my brightest idea that.
As for going to parks solo, was fine. I enjoyed it; none of my fears about it were founded. I'm looking forward to my solo America trip in a few weeks all the more now!
I'll round of the trip with a little geek summary:
New parks: 2
New creds: 15
Best new cred: Karnan
Most surprising cred: Limit, for not killing me
Most disappointing cred: Flucht von Novgorod
Best non-cred: Highlander
Highlight: Broad one, but actually going abroad again
Lowlight: The bloody weather