De Efteling

De Efteling, in the Netherlands, claims to be one of the oldest theme parks in the world. Hard to resist a visit, when it’s a public holiday, the weather’s fine, and you have three children to entertain.

The entrance hall is suitable spooky and impressive.

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Equally impressive is the interior of the construction.
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This “flying” Pagoda was a good place to start, giving us a view of the whole park, and what strikes you immediately is how green the whole place is.

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The attractions are integrated into a huge area of woodland, which not only creates an appropriate fairytale atmosphere, but also provides some much needed shade on hot days. Disneyland in Anaheim, good as it is, lacks this aspect and can at times feel like wandering around a large car park.

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Many areas of the park feature strange little baroque buildings through whose windows you can peer to look at, for example, a class of schoolchildren supervised by a frankly terrifying teacher.

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No wonder one of the kids has chosen to calm his nerves by surreptitiously taking hits from a bong.

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Here’s one of the more distinctive characters, “Long Neck”. Can you guess how he got his name?

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There is an interesting section on De Efteling’s wikipedia page about the extent to which Disneyland, which opened three years after the Dutch park, was inspired by it, and confirmation that the designers of Disneyland Paris paid a visit in search of cultural tips. But the influences run both ways: Carnival Festival is clearly a rip-off of homage to “It’s a small world”. Look, the peoples of the world greet you! The wine-drinking, can-can dancing French:

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The beer-guzzling Germans:

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The Japanese, who all wear glasses and have buck teeth.

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And who take part in bizarre, Society-style body-melding sumo.

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One of the rides, “Dreamflight”, featured some impressively imaginative and detailed models. Sadly I had neither the time nor the inclination to play with my camera’s manual shutter settings to get some non-motion blurred photos. On the other hand, I got some rather nice impressionistic effects.

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The most recent and most spectacular addition is the half-hour show Ravelijn. I’d read about this on another blog last year, and was glad we could make time for it during our visit. Moustachioed, black-hatted villain captures a lovely maiden.

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A brief video explains how (as expanded upon in the accompanying TV series) a group of children stumble upon the entrance to the town in an enchanted wood. Once through the portal they are magically transformed into five knights. Here they come!

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Oh no, the villain has a secret dragon!

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With several heads!

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And wings!

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And he’s turned one of the peasants into an evil Mini-Me Dragon!

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Only by working together as one can the five knights defeat the dragon. Behold its death throes!

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Victory!

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And the damsel is reunited with her owl.

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These are just a fraction of the attractions on offer. Give it a try if you’re in the area, even if you don’t have munchkins in tow.