So I decided to take a last minute trip to Phantasialand for a couple of days. I was going to write just a little bit about travel advice and how I got here, but Phantasialand surprised me with an hour's ERT on Taron and Raik as soon as I arrived. So there will be a little more than just travel too!
From Heathrow your only option is Eurowings (or Germanwings, depending on the day but they're essentially the same airline) for a direct flight. It's an hour's flight to Cologne (Köhl-Bonn Airport) and the staff were super friendly. Some quirks, such as the various slogans on the "comfort" bags. This was my favourite from what I saw:
I took a taxi from the airport to Phantasialand, as I arrived at around 5pm on a Sunday and didn't want to play with public transport. Ideally I wanted to pay by card, so I used the MyTaxi app to order a taxi to the hotel and it arrived within a minute. Whilst MyTaxi is available in the UK I hadn't used it before, so here's a few pointers for those who also haven't. Firstly, unlike Uber you pay at the end via an action, so don't just jump out thinking you're all done! Secondly, if you tip, they will see it immediately. Thirdly, chances are your credit card will not work in Germany, because Germany really doesn't like credit cards. My credit card failed first time, making the driver a little nervous, so I reassured him that I'd preloaded with three cards and had cash worst case. My debit card worked and seems the more reliable option in Germany.
Staying at the hotel Matamba, which is a glorious African themed hotel, far beyond anything Merlin produces and rivals a lot of Disney hotels. Thankfully credit cards work here, as I still had to pay for my room. That's when they surprised me with fast passes for tomorrow, potentially the park being open an extra hour until 7pm tomorrow, oh and if I wanted, there's ERT right now for Taron. The website says you can only have ERT if you have a park ticket for that day, which I didn't. So with a huge smile I said, oh yes please, ran and dumped my bag in my room and legged it to Taron, taking this as my single photo from my room.
For ERT you have to go through the hotel Ling Bau, straight out the back, around a pond and to the completely unmarked hotel entrance. You then walk straight until you get to this view.
It is unlike anything I've seen in any other park. The last time I was taken back by theming in a park was Cars Land at Disney's California Adventure, and in particular the reveal of the mountain range from the side entrance. This blew that away, by some margin. Everywhere you look there is detail. Everywhere sounds. Everywhere Taron.
So within 10 minutes of checking in I was in the queue for back row on Taron. I waited two whole minutes, because even though it was soaking wet and even though there was hardly anyone from the hotel in the park, they were running this at max capacity and getting each train out the door as quick as possible. The staff were visible happy. I was like a kid at Christmas!
The ride. Oh my. So it was raining and it stung like anything, making some parts impossible to see where you are going. But even so, I don't think I could figure out the route this thing takes. It just goes where it wants and even with the restraint stapled the airtime caused me to feel like I was slipping out. Multiple times per ride!
This was extreme and not like anything else I've experienced and incredibly fun. I cheered/woo-ed nearly all the way around, as did many others. I did it twice in a row, first time back row, second time row one from back, then I went over to Raik.
Raik is a fun little family coaster, but it's not designed for someone with my legs. I had to sit cross legged in the front. I don't think I'll ride it again!
Rode Taron for a third time, then spent 20 minutes just taking in all of the ambience. Nearly everyone riding tonight was an enthusiast it seemed, such a great crowd. So far I've seen this area and the two hotels and I'm in love with this park. This is really what Alton should be aiming for. Everything here is several substantial steps beyond anything Merlin has done. I mean, they have a kids agility course and small climbing wall, in a corridor in the hotel!
So that's it from tonight. Now crashed out in my room, tomorrow I get to see the rest of the park! The excitement I got from this park in just an hour, was not something I've experienced in a very long time.