The first day I arrived in the Netherlands, Noëmi mentioned that we might go to Efteling Theme Park; and since I am 100% up for anything, I said, “Sure!” Our family went Disney World when I was a small person, and Great America, which I haven’t been to in about fifteen years, is more of a carnival than a theme park; so I was ready for a proper theme park in a foreign country. Bring it on!
Noëmi explained it as a kind of fairy-land, and everyone we talked to on Monday and Tuesday seemed excited that we were going, but some mentioned that it was a good place for children. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but, since everything in the Netherlands is an adventure, I was happy to go.
We set out on Wednesday morning with our packs full of sandwiches and fruit in case we got hungry, and our shoulders covered in sunblock. We stopped by the college campus to pick up ticket coupons from Noëmi’s coworker, and then set off to the park.
Noëmi had checked the park’s traffic prediction earlier in the week, and it was forecast to be a “light” day in terms of crowds. We got there moments before the park opened at 10 a.m., and found ourselves a prime parking spot just three rows from the entrance.
As we approached the entrance we saw a mascot waving at us from a balcony above the ticket kiosks; this was Pardoes, who is described on the Efteling website as “the magic Jester from Symbolica, a planet on the other side of the universe. Pardoes, who is always jolly, can be found in the park every day.” That immediately sounds amazing, right?
I didn’t get a good picture of the entrance, but it’s really beautiful, so here it is from Wikipedia:
And this is a warning: my pictures don’t do the park justice. It’s gorgeous. It is full of soaring trees, lush greenery, cobblestones, and buildings that, while only sixty-five years old, and many of them much, much newer, all looked ancient.
Our first stop was the Bobsleigh ride, which went really (really) fast and was not on a track. I screamed like a child and it was terrific.
After that we went on a more low-key ride that was just as wonderful, though in a different way: Fata Morgana, a water boat “dark” ride (you ride through in the darkness and look at moving tableaux along the way). The Fata Morgana is reminiscent of One Thousand and One Nights, and is called the Forbidden City. The models and effects were so cool, and there were a few times I jumped a bit.
We also had a great time standing in line; there were four school children in front of us with their teacher. One of them opened a container of mini-cookies and quickly offered one to Noëmi; she declined, and then when he saw me smiling at the gesture, he offered one to me. I declined as well, but I wanted to hug him. I did not. Farther down in the line, two of the kids were standing in front of a window that looked down onto the boats, and one of the boys saw us standing at the wall and told the others to hurry up because he wanted to give us a chance to look as well. I also wanted to hug him. I did not. And then, another boy with a turtle-shell backpack (amazing) heard Noëmi talking to me in English and asked if we were from London. She told him that she was a native and that I was from America, and while he did not seem impressed, I also wanted to hug him. I did not.
After the Fata Morgana, Noëmi walked us to the section of roller coaster rides to get a sense of how long the Joris and the Dragon line was. It was too long for us impatient adults, so we went to the Piraña instead. It was getting a bit warm out (the day turned out to be about 85 degrees F.) and the Piraña is a water ride, so we chose well. We managed to get an entire raft all to ourselves — I think the kid loading in the passengers wasn’t paying attention, and by the time he realized there were only two of us, we had floated too far away. Sorry, sucker.
Since we were already wet, we went from the Piraña to De Vliegende Hollander water coaster (The Flying Dutchman). The line took us through the inside of a pub and then into what looked like a 17th Century street lined with bars (and probably brothels). There were little videos playing that told the myth of the Flying Dutchman, a haunted ship that must sail the seas forever because of the greedy and reckless captain. I loved the story, and De Vliegende Hollander was my favorite ride.
We moved on to another ride that, because it was in the dark, I thought would be another slow and lovely “dark” ride like the Fata Morgana. Noëmi described it as “the eagle,” and said that it felt like we were soaring through the air. That sounded great, so Vogel Rok was next. Yes, Vogel Rok is a ride with a story that involves an eagle (all of the Efteling rides tell stories, which is special and fun), but it wasn’t anything like Fata Morgana. The Vogel Rok was a proper roller coaster, but it was indoor and almost entirely in the dark (and even the partially lit portions were shrouded in mist) so I never knew exactly where we were going or what was coming next. It. Was. Terrifying. I loved it. We walked out having taken no pictures, and that’s probably because I was still shaking in my sneakers.
Noëmi, perhaps sensing my unsteady legs, suggested we go to an easier ride, which meant that the Carnaval Festival was up next. This was another real “dark” ride and it was meant for children, so I was pretty happy.
It was a bit like It’s a Small World, and the music played was just as…let’s say catchy as the Disney World ride’s music. And now I have them both running through my head. You’re welcome.
After the Carnaval Festival, we wanted something quiet and outdoors, so Noëmi steered us to the Volk van Laaf section. The Laaf are plump-cheeked characters that live in Efteling. I found them to be a bit lazy.
After meeting the lazy Laaf, we took a short break to regroup and plan our next move. Noëmi suggested that we get some poffertjes, and since we’d already eaten our sandwiches and apples, I was up for some food.
But I was not expecting this:
These poffertjes are little fried discs of deliciousness, covered in powdered sugar with a hunk of butter for smearing. Jesus, were they good.
We made a plan to check out our final dark ride through the Droomvlucht (fairy land) and then to the Fairytale Forest. Noëmi checked our route…
…and we were off! The Droomvlucht was lovely and fun, but it was the Fairytale Forest that dazzled me. There were life-sized houses and towers and animatronic statues and mannequins from fairy tales — many of them Grimm’s Fairy Tales — all spread through an enormous forest. Along the path through were small red and white “singing” mushrooms (they played classical music [possibly lute music]), and at every turn was something more wonderful than the last thing. The creativity, time, and manpower that must have gone into building the forest astounds me, and I just adored it all.
We finished walking through the forest and I was mostly done for the day. I’d seen so much and I’d had so much fun that I was about ready to just sit in a corner with a happy smile on my face and slowly digest my poffertjes (and the fried potato spiral-on-a-stick that we also got and it was delicious but there is no picture). But Noëmi had one more stop she needed to make: the Baron 1898 roller coaster — or dive coaster.
I was the “bag mom” and while Noëmi was in line for the ride, I waited at the bottom, smiling and digesting. But my digestion stopped as soon as I realized that her car was about to start the drop. This was her path:
I was happy with my decision to stay on the ground, and Noëmi was very happy that she took the plunge. We headed home, smiling and sun-tired. I am so glad Noëmi took me to the park. It’s not an attraction I’d heard of and I doubt that I would have found it on my own. But every second was well spent and the day was pretty perfect.
Sometime tomorrow or the next day I’ll write about the amazing students I met on Thursday (I know I say that all the students are great, but on Thursday I met students from five different classes and three different teachers, and they were great, like really great. for real). Here’s a terrible selfie to tide you over until then: