A trip to Germany's largest theme park, Europa-Park, allows you to sample everything from Swiss alps to Spanish flamenco to Icelandic roller coaster thrills. Begun as a small amusement park in the 1970s in southwest Germany, the park has expanded multiple times throughout the years and each growth spurt has led to the addition of a new land.
Walking through the park, visitors can enjoy the different country themes, rides and attractions. If you're not sure what country you've wandered into, look up at the signs for a theme (like the Norwegian Fishing Village in Scandinavia) or look down at your feet where customized manholes are marked with city names throughout the park.
This overview of the different lands and attractions can help you make the most of your visit. Figure out if you want to hit old-school Germany first, or start in the heat of Spain. Do you want to lunch in Portugal or France? A helpful interactive map is also available on the main page to explore the park and bookmark favorite areas.
(Learn about the rest of the lands in part 2.)
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Most visitors enter the park in "Germany" with a stroll down "Deutsche Allee". Full of shops, cafes and the architecture of southern Germany, this is the oldest section of the part. The original grounds are a bit old-fashioned, yet still charming. Those in search of the big rides (like me) might be tempted to rush past, but this is the perfect area for smaller riders and those looking for a quiet corner of the park.
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Visitors can see Russia's impressive Mack-made Euro-Mir roller coaster before entering this foreign land. A bizarre skyscraper a building, the bulk of this structure is a spinning roller coaster based around Russian space travel.
Techno music emanates from this edifice of steel and light and follows riders up the spiraling entry. Once you have been safely secured within the car, there is a dark, ominous climb toward the top with the car eventually popping out on the tracks high above the park. If you can keep your eyes open as you spin at great heights, this is one of the best views of the park.
If you prefer a ride that shouldn't be followed with a vodka shooter to calm your nerves, there are also handcrafts, a children's car ride and a snowflake ride through the Siberian landscape.
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A walk through Italy is centered on the seven meter high Fontana di Paradiso in the middle of the lake. Piccolo Mondo is a guided ride by Enzo the parrot through Pisa, Venice and Florence. If you prefer something a little more thrilling, the Geisterschloss (Ghost Castle) can inspire fear in younger visitors.
And what to eat? Pizza! What else at Pizzeria Venezia?
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Another of the park's star rides can be found here. The Silver Star is Europe's second highest (239ft tall) and fifth fastest roller coaster (top speed of 78mph).
The eye-catching EuroSat is another high-stakes thrill ride of an indoor coaster that looks suspiciously like Walt Disney World's Epcot. It is - like the Eur-Mir - themed around space travel.
Prefer something prehistoric? The Universe of Energy provides a cheesy and enjoyable dinosaur themed ride.
Take a break at this mid-way point to glide gently upwards on the Euro-Tower for a spectacular view of the park.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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One of the best interpretations of a theme, this area tackles all of Scandinavia rather then the individual countries that make-up the region. True to form, there is Fjord-Rafting, a Norwegian Church and a complete Fishing Village.
For a little action, take a giant swing on the Viking ship, Vindjammer.