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Many kids dream of visiting Disneyland deemed as ‘the most magical place in the world’, of course I had my own version of that dream and it was to visit a specific theme park located in the Netherlands – called the Efteling.
So, today I am taking you to a truly magical place (enter the exciting drumroll) – EFTELING amusement park! It is located in Kaatsheuvel, Netherlands and was first opened on May 31st 1952- being one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. Efteling started as a small playground in 1935 which then became a fairy tale nature park and grew into the big amusement park we can visit today. Now it portrays themes from myths, classic fairy tales, fantasy and folklore stories. With growing popularity, Disney even took inspiration from this park when constructing Disneyland Paris.
Throughout my childhood, forests, nature, folklore, myths and fairy tales were very prominent in everyday life. I found it as a form of escapism. Often looking across the road from my house into the forest and imagining that those magical creatures I read about live there. That’s why, when I found the Efteling brochure as a kid, I wanted to go ever since. It was a place where all my favourite characters from classic fairy tale books, came to life. In 2012 I worked double shifts to save up for my first international roadtrip and one of the places to see on my list was the Efteling! With that please proceed with caution, as the following images and a video were taken a while ago, so they’re a bit different to my usual documenting!
My hotel in Netherlands was situated quite close to the park with a nice bakery across the road, it was such a convenient location to spend the evening and rest after a vigorous car journey. I was mesmerised by what I saw of the Netherlands, though it wasn’t much due to limited time. The friendly locals riding their bicycles with baskets at the front, filled with groceries – along clean and tidy streets. In the hotel I tried some Dutch beer and had a nice cappuccino in the morning (being a coffee junkie there’s always a budget I set aside for coffee beverages). Both tasted magnificent.
In the morning, I set out to Efteling which was a 15 minute walk away from my hotel. There’s a lot of hotels and airbnb’s available for booking in the area if you’re looking for an affordable stay. Although it is pricey- there is also an option to stay directly in the Efteling Park as it has a hotel and holiday cottages available for booking. If you have a bigger budget you could stay in the main hotel which has several fairy tale themed rooms. Those rooms are decorated to portray various classic fairy tale stories such as Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White amongst many other. I hope to one day come back and experience staying in one of them as they look incredible!
My excitement peaked as soon as I saw the spikey domes that decorated an entrance to the park. Upon arrival, I was already facing a beautiful fountain display called Aquanura. Then I walked over to Fata Morgana attraction and decided that this is where I’ll begin my journey. Fata Morgana is a dark ride. After walking into the building you get into a boat which takes you on a calm ride through various rooms and corridors- all with displays in a chosen theme. The visual and auditory displays come to life when the boat passes through, with mannequins starting to move and talk. The lighting is very atmospheric and the scenes displayed are very grasping.
This specific ride was Far East themed where I saw the streets with sellers haggling, sultan with belly dancers, optical illusions and even Djinn the giant! You’ll definitely want to go on those rides more than once, as there’s so much going on around you. Dozens of mannequins all acting out specific scenarios in a highly decorated settings, so many details- that are hard to grasp all at once.
There’s other dark rides in this park, but my favourite one was definitely the Dreamflight (Droomvlucht)! It’s a fairy world themed and it is just simply: BEAUTIFUL. I still sometimes get urges to escape to this magical world and live amongst them fairies. Another personal favourite was Symbolica with scenes ‘out of this world’! (Look it up on youtube and let me know if I did well with my pun).
This is a good time to say, I’m not a fan of any rollercoasters. Not in one bit. And Efteling has plenty of them. I tried to be adventurous and go on couple of the ‘less extreme ones’. At first, I lined up in the queue for Flying Dutchman (De Vliegende Hollander) and it started as a deceivingly calm ride which then had a sudden drop down and back and forth manoeuvres that eventually end up with you riding and splashing through the water (remember to wear waterproof makeup). But this in general wasn’t that bad. I even came back again for seconds with my arms up. Then my confidence skyrocketed and seeing small kids line up at Vogel Rok I thought I might give this rollercoaster thing another go. Bad choice. This one was a more intense ride in complete darkness with occasional bird puppets flying above you, lasers and projections blinding you as the ride sways you in all directions. Riding in complete darkness was good and bad thing, good because I didn’t see where I was going and bad –because I didn’t see where I was going. So I just ended up engaging all my muscles and hoped for the best which resulted in my legs wobbling for the rest of the day like that of a young fawn. After that, I ignored all the other rides including the infamous Python which has two upside down loops- as this is what my nightmares are made of.
Next stop was the Pagoda tower. A tower that you walk in which then gently lifts off in the air showing stunning Efteling Park from birds-eye view. From this you can really see the amount of nature and trees surrounding the place. Next to Pagoda, you can go on yet another boat ride- Gondoletta. In this 20 minute boat ride you can admire the nature scenes surrounding you with this part of the park specifically designed to attract various wild animals. It’s a good way to relax and wind-down after the rollercoaster rides.
While walking around the magical streets of the park, the enchanted music from the speakers carries in the wind. There is a lot of restaurants, cafes, ice cream and coffee stands which are all unique and magical in design. The brilliant idea in this park I noticed… was the bins. YES, THE BINS. The bins were various sculptures (sometimes a bit creepy looking) which had holes for rubbish in a mouth or inside a cannon etc.
Those sculptures would ‘’talk to you’’ when you walk past, asking for rubbish and when you throw some into their mouths – they would respond with a ‘’mmm… thank you’’ except of the cannon one which would make an explosion sound. This idea is amazing as it urges kids to use them, in return making the park immaculately clean and free of rubbish. It’s such a fun and interactive idea that I’ve seen kids run over with a leaf to put in, just for the thank you from the displayed characters.
There’s many different buildings and castles surrounding you- many of which you can walk into, for more attractions. Such as Villa Volta where you sit on the bench while the whole room swivels upside down and creates several optical illusions (warning, this may make you feel queasy but when that happens, all you have to do is close your eyes). Or the pandavision 4D cinema where you can enjoy a short animal movie with occasional special effects of wind bursts or sprays of water for a super realistic atmosphere. The one I was really looking forward to, of course was a castle Spookslot! The only spooky attraction in the park. Walking into the castle, you then are faced with a graveyard scene while animatronic mannequins and projections of ghosts give you a performance alongside spooky audio. Of course the year I went, this attraction was closed for renovations…
Another place you can visit is Volk van Laaf village (People of Laaf village). A small complex of houses inhabited by imagined people of Laaf. You can walk or take a monorail ride which takes you across several magical buildings and houses where you can witness very unusual- people of Laaf- just living their everyday life. You can peak through the windows to see them learning at school or cook dinner and like everything else in the park, they are animated.
The next step on my agenda was the Ravelin Theatre. Due to my bad sense of time, I missed the beginning of the performance and was left a little bit confused in result. I did however, witness an intense dragon fight- where the animatronic dragon breathed fire, there was water sprinkling everywhere, trained birds flying around the place with ‘elfish-dressed’ soldiers riding their horses around the place. I had no idea what was going on…but it was AWESOME. The setting, special effects and dressed characters in this outdoor theatre all add up to an amazing experience you won’t want to miss. That being said, after this thrill of a performance, you can also grab a bite in the restaurant there with an indoor stone and wood indoor design adding to the castle aesthetic.
Of course I saved the best for last. My FAVOURITE part of the park is of course the FAIRYTALE FOREST (Sprookjesbos). The small path that takes you around the forest where amongst greenery you can find castles and homes of your favourite classic fairy tale characters. This is my favourite for simple reasons, it’s amongst nature and holds a lot of childhood nostalgia for me. Walking through the narrow paths, surrounded by trees with a sleeping beauty castle stunning you as you emerge from the greenery is such an amazing experience. You can visit Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Hanzel and Gretel, The wolf and Seven Young Kids and many more characters. Walking around those paths I felt completely immersed in the magical atmosphere of this place.
Some castles/houses had an option to walk in where behind the glass you could see characters in a stylized setting, for example sleeping beauty resting on the bed while a mannequin witch was working on the spinning wheel. In other cases you could see scenes through the windows of the house, where more mannequins would move around in decorated rooms, such as with Red Riding Hood where peeking through the window you can witness the Wolf dressed as grandma in bed. And then there was houses with buzzer on a gate. When pressed – characters would appear in the windows or open the doors, such as Hanzel and Gretel Witch house, where the Witch would peak her sinister face in the doorway and so would her black cat in one of the holes of her candy house.
I strolled around taking in every detail of this stunning place before having to leave, to continue my roadtrip journey. The impact that fairy tales had on me while growing up- made visiting this place even more spectacular. However, this place awakens child-like excitement and imagination regardless of your knowledge in classic fairy tales. And if in doubt – on Efteling website you can find shortened versions of fairy tales so that you can fully immerse yourself in the park’s scenery. I’d love to return some day to explore this place again. For people of all ages, it’s a great place to make some magical memories, so definitely put it on your bucket list!Hope you enjoyed this Post!
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