Once upon a time there was this little pink blog that had a story to tell about a park that is very close to her heart .Hello my sweet Island Guests, when writing this I have been away for the weekend. After receiving some bad news in my family, I felt a bit down. My gay best friend took this to heart and treat me to a nice little weekend. One of the things he did for me was take me out to theme park The Efteling. A fairytale and local folklore theme park near Kaatsheuvel in the Netherlands. Why would I talk about this park? Well because I think it is one of the best theme parks you could visit as a geek.
Robot girls and talking Trash Cans
So what exactly is the Efteling? Well it all began in 1952 , when the town of Loon op Zand tried to attract tourists to the region to make them less dependant on their shoe industry income. What a horrible age 1952 must have been if shoes weren’t that popular that you needed to attract tourists! No pink pumps?! Anyway I will spare you the rest of the details.
The park started out a stroll around the forest where you can encounter certain fairytales, nowadays it’s one of the Netherlands biggest , popular and most technically impressive theme parks. What’s even more impressive is that a lot of these still impressive animatronics stem from the 80’s and 90’s. Their animatronics are some of the best you have ever seen. Many put “It’s a small world to shame’. Not only can you still stroll through the forest to take a peek at your favorite fairy tales, like Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretel, nowadays you can also visit one of the 5 (with the sixth reopening in spring this year) coasters, with many amazing dark rides, animatronic shows and classic rides stemming straight back from the 50’s. Like a steam powered carousel. Most iconic though is the fairytale forest and the talking trash cans named Holle Bolle Gijs (roughly translating as Hungry Tubby Guy). These round rosy cheeked fellows are scattered throughout the park. If you feed them your trash they will suck it up like you just fed them something delicious and will thank you.
You are the Hero
‘Pinkie, that all sounds like stuff for little kids, why is it that fun for geeks?’ Well of course in general I have found that geeks oftenly enjoy the old fairy tales a lot longer than our “normal” peers. So there is already the experience of seeing your favorite stories come to life right before your eyes, sure it might be catered to kids but there is just something magical about this theme park that resonates with my geek soul. The attention to detail, the way things are visually told to you. Regardless of language. You could visit the village of some people called the ‘laaf’ Laaf are a halfling like race, they are comparable to the hobbit. They live in somewhat hovel like homes and have their own customs and are little pranksters. Already we can take a step within a little fantasy world. Even though the village of the Laaf isn’t as lively as it used to be, I would recommend paying it a visit if you are somewhat geeky. With just a bit of imagination , this is the Shire of the Netherlands. There’s also stuff to visit like the great Knights show. These aren’t just your standard knights. In brightly coloured armors and with an entire fantasy novel themed around them they can feel between a mix between Power Rangers, Fantasy and Knightly roleplay. Such a delight to see.
What makes the efteling truly something special is in how many rides you a part of the story. In the ride of Villa Volta for example we are a group of people (everyone riding is a participant) visiting a former bandit who swore his loyalty to satan. These bandits have existed in Dutch History and Folklore and where known as the Bokkenrijders (Those who ride Goats) . Highwayman that were said to have demonic powers and who instead of horses rode Satan’s creature through the skies. In actuality they were all just regular highwaymen raiding churches but the goats sound cooler. History aside, in this ride you visit Hugo van den Loonsche Duynen. A former bandit who desecrated a church and now is cursed with immortality .. but not just of any kind. Hugo can not find any kind of rest ever. Only if one with a pure heart enters his homestead and preys the curse away can Hugo finally find rest and redemption. As you sit in one of the pews, the room around you starts to spin, ever faster, up becomes down forward becomes backward. But you are the one who has to help Hugo. In another ride you have to survive the legend of the flying Dutchman. In Joris and the Draak, a wooden coaster ride you and your band of fellow riders are a group of knights fighting a dragon, but there is also another group riding this coaster. Racing whoever finishes the coaster first is victorious. Still for a moment you are a group of knights! Racing in coasters is also incredibly fun and gives you the feeling of participating in some way shape or form. Symbolica , their newest darkride have you choose one of three routes through a fantasy castle. Through a context sensitive panel, you can influence this ride, make this happen … or not happen, yet again you feel like a hero. A lot of the animatronics throughout the park as well as those trash can guys interact with you directly so somehow, more than in most theme parks you can feel like a hero! A sentiment I’d think many geeks would like.
Pixies and Sugar
The entire park has a very distinct old timey feeling throughout. There are hardly are modern buildings through the park. Most of it feels like you are travel through very medieval worlds. The origins of the park are also kept intact, giving you an insight in classic dutch culture. A little island holds a bit of a classic middle eastern village which is home of one of my favorite dark rides. The Fata Morgana. In this ride you travel on a little boat trough an arabian town, following the path of a powerful sorcerer. Tigers, Camels and Crocodiles are alternate with seedy town filled with even shadier figures and even some mythical figures. My favorite dark ride however is a ride called the Droomvlucht (Dreamflight) we visit pixies and trolls as they dance around. We visit castles build on stars and other planets. We see a perfect world without strive. Pixies, trolls and whatever the green things are interacting together. Loving the animals of the forest. It’s a perfect little utopia there no one forgets to have fun. A really important lesson for us all to keep in mind. The Efteling also really caters to being super dutch, old/classic dutch to be exact. From the name and design of nearly all the stores and restaurants trough what you can find there, that old timey dutch feeling is woven throughout with just enough magic to surprise you every time. From classic stroopwafels to other famous dutch candies you can get it all here. There is something sweet for everyone. Maybe it’s a elf on a unicorn that does it for you, like me! Perhaps it’s one of the many dutch treats you want to try.
Princes and Princesses
This theme park commits to everything it does, it does everything well. Being one of the only theme parks in the entire Netherlands where you can get some solid food and have a meal that has character. You can spend an entire day here, and be completely content with the food on offer, as long as you are willing to pay theme park prices of course. If you like shows there is quite a few for you two visit. From life action jousting to an animatronic ghost show, that despite being 32 years old still looks impressive. If you do not like rides this still a nice place to visit, despite the fairly high admission cost. The coasters are all their own unique thing and all feel like their own distinct thrill ride. A wooden coaster, a dark coaster, a classic coaster, a coaster with holograms water effects and more, a hanging coaster with a a complete vertical drop 0/90 degrees.. I don’t know how to explain it so here is a capital /I …Like that! That’s a steep drop. The dark rides all vary a lot as well and add a great assortiment of mellow and swing rides to the mix and the Efteling is a theme park that is very suited for any kind of amusement park goer. That this park had to ban cosplaying already says something how popular it is among the geek community. (Mostly because of the large amount of disney characters showing up causing cues in inconvenient places and general saftey stuff) In this park you can walk trough a magical fantasy world, reminiscent of D&D, lord of the rings and those classic fairytales it is based on. It’s a park where you can be the hero or just stuff your face with sweets while sitting in little swan boats and old classic cars.
If you are a tourist in the Netherlands and geeky, this theme park is sure to please you. No matter if you want to be a hero or a lazy stroller, either way this park will offer you so much that you will feel like a prince or a princess. And as we know those always live happily ever after.