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The Efteling is pretty much the Netherlands' best known theme park. It started out as a bit of forest with some barely moving animatronics based on such fairy tales as Little Red Ridinghood and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, but over time it has expanded into a park that apparently now has a place in the top three best visited parks of Europe (Note: this top 3 includes EuroDisney). It had been a long time since I had been there, and I have to admit to being amazed at all they had, considering that it's really only a theme park in our dinky little country! I had feared that maybe it would be a disappointment to Beedoo!, honestly.

The statue in the picture is 'Longneck', the iconic image of the Efteling. It is part of a section of the old part of the park, called "The Six Servants". This little Grimm's tale involves a prince and his six servants, each of which has an amazing power. Longneck's super mutant power is to be able to stretch his neck so high, that he can see the world. It is no small surprise then that that is exactly what the statue does: the head slowly goes up and down as the eyes move back and forth in a slightly creepy fashion:

This statue has been a source of fascination for generations of children, myself included, but this time I found myself more fascinated by the image of another servant, one named 'Kogeloog', which translates to either 'Bullet Eye' or 'Canonball Eye'. The painted image of the man having taken off his blindfold to produce an enormous explosion in front of him suggests the latter. It also suggests that Bullet Eye must have had a hard time sneaking peeks at girls when he was younger.

Anyway, we had a great time, there were some very interesting attractions there, and I think it was time well spent.

(A note on the quality of this and other images: Beedoo! draws these with pencil alone. I then scan them, and use a program to artificially darken the lines so they are better visible. This often leaves the image in poorer shape than they started out as. This image is a particularly big victim. The original looks much better.)

As Arno was typing about Efteling being one of the top three parks in Europe, I was thinking that this has to be one of my top three favorite theme park trips (the other two being Disneyland when I was 14, and Busch Gardens in Virginia for the Gathering 2002). Admittedly, I had my doubts. Upon entering the park, it seemed like an endless procession of animatronic fairy tales. A big speaking tree was one of the more recent additions... better animated and more interactive than the earlier animatronics... but I still couldn't understand him. Arno did his best to translate things for me, but it's annoying to have to listen to things in two languages. Once we made our way to the part of the park more dedicated to rides for the "big kids," I had a lot more fun. Efteling is home of the largest swinging ship in the world (so they claim... I wouldn't be one to verify. They might have just left the sign there. ;p ). There is also a river-raft ride (The Piranha); "experience" rides, which take you through a fairy village and an Arabian village; a bobsled; and various and sundry roller coasters.

Somehow, we never made it to the major roller coasters in our time there... While Disneyland is more expensive, to their credit, they're also open until midnight... Efteling closed at 6:00 pm, sadly. (I am told that if we had waited until after July 1st, though, they would have been open until 10... but I bet theyt would have been more crowded!)We did get to ride some rather thrilling, though short, coasters. The rides were short, but therefore, so were the lines. The "Flying Dutchman" is very similar to DIsney's Pirates of the Carribean ride, complete with waterslide drop, but the wait time on this one lagged to about an hour. The Bird-Rok was a neat roller-coaster in the dark--we went on it twice because the line was so short--but to be honest, the outside of the ride impressed me much more than the ride itself... as this picture ought to show. The roc moves its head as well, which makes it even more impressive.

Our last ride of the day took us completely by surprise... something touted as a haunted house. We were stood in a room and told a story about a group of robbers called the Goat-Riders (again, I think I missed most of the experience here by language barrier) and then led into an adjoining room, where an animatronic man continued the story... Arno explained to me that he had been the leader of the Goat-Riders, and on one of his trips, attacked an abbey. The wrath of God fell upon him, and he could get no rest in his own home or anyone else's, until a pure soul entered his house, so he welcomed us. After this, we were led into a gallery of sorts, with benches lining both sides. At this point, I was thinking, "Great... another part of the show which I won't understand..." Instead, the room started swinging around us, and I got the feeling of motion that didn't quite align with what I was seeing... very disorienting!! This part of the house was actually a ride similar to the swinging ship; but indoors, you get more of a feel of how far you're swinging, especially when your seat is suddenly level with the chandelier! This ride earned clapping and cheering from the park patrons as it stopped and we got out. Pity it was so close to closing time, because I definitely would have liked to go again.

I would love to go to this park again, and will probably drag anyone who comes to visit us to it. There were a couple of attractions which were not yet completed, just short of opening, when we went, including a St George & the Dragon ride (a wooden roller-coaster) and something else with a castle... so I must go back to see those (especially to cheer on the dragons!). ;)