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ESCAPE; FLIGHTS OF PHANTASIA.

It's not just Disneyland that opens its doors for a private visit when Michael Jackson snaps his fingers. Phantasialand, the theme park in Germany halfway between Bonn and Cologne, also gave him the VIP treatment.

At the end of last year, the park gates swung open for Jacko and his entourage as rides that had been locked up since the end of the season sprang into action.

The theme-park-mad star's favourite was Galaxy, a motion simulator experience that's been a big success with Germans and foreign visitors since its first passengers found themselves attacked by meteorites in 1994.

Once you're strapped in, you're shot into hyperspace at stomach-churning "speed" until, inevitably, something goes wrong and you need the skills of your "captain" to get home safely. It lasts only four minutes, but it seems like 40!

Maybe it wasn't a good idea to go straight into the neighbouring Space Center, a hair- raising, roller-coaster trip in the dark that also seemed to go on forever.

The other attraction Jacko liked was Hollywood Tour, a boat trip past recreations of scenes from epic films like Jaws, The Birds and Tarzan.

On the Silver Mine ride - reminiscent of Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean - you visit a Mexican mining village, are drawn into a dazzling fiesta and take shelter as a fort is stormed.

New for '96, the Colorado Adventure, promises a mad dash in a runaway train through waterfalls and rapids. For a more relaxed time, the Waltz Dream Ride goes through a sea of flowers, and the Viking Boat returns to the 10th century world of a Viking settlement.

Phantasialand, which opened in 1967 as a Fairytale Park, is the brainchild of puppeteer Richard Schmidt and showbiz pal Gottlieb Loffelhardt.

They wanted somewhere to keep the puppets and scenery Schmidt used on TV, and came up with the idea of creating a park out of an old coal quarry and lake, which is still used today.

Phantasialand is split into four fantastic theme areas - Old Berlin, Silvery City, China Town and the Fairytale Forest.

Jacko isn't the only superstar with links to Phantasialand.

Magicians Siegfried and Roy, big hits in Las Vegas for years, are pals of the park's founders.

They often visit the theme park, and donated two white tigers. One tiger appears out of nowhere during the slick Fata Morgana Super Magic Show.

There's all the features you'd expect from a modern theme park - including wild-water log rides, ghost trains, rollercoasters and a monorail.

The shows more than hold their own, too.

Dancers, swimmers and comedians prove there is fun to be had in the water at the Aqua Theatre.

And the Super Globe - with a roof that can be peeled back in four minutes - alternates a live variety show with a 3D film.

The problem with eating here is making up your mind.

From enchiladas to Peking duck, pork with sauerkraut to crepes, most tastes are catered for. The cost of a main course varies wildly - from pounds 2 to pounds 12.50.

At snack bars, you can also get soup for around pounds 1.65, ham or cheese baguettes for a couple of quid, or a cheeseburger and chips for pounds 3.65.

Coke and small beers come in at about pounds 1.50.

Phantasialand may not be as slick and hi-tech as Disney...

But the shows more than make up for that, and there's a great atmosphere about the place.

Advance booking, call Phantasialand direct on 00 4922 3233831. More information: German National Tourist Board, 65 Curzon St, London W1Y 8NE. Tel: 0171 493 0080.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Coach trips to Germany, which include a visit to Phantasialand, are available from Top Class Travel, Coatbridge, and Southern Educational Tours, Dunlop, Ayrshire.

Go by train to Cologne - it's six hours from London Waterloo - then take a local bus to the park.

If you decide to drive, the park is 200 miles from Calais.

WHEN TO GO:

Weather changeable, just like the UK.

Summer months can be very busy. Avoid weekends and German public holidays.

CURRENCY: Admission costs pounds 14 a day for adults, or pounds 19.50 for two days. Some children get in free.

Sterling, US dollars, Belgian, Dutch and French currency all accepted for entrance, in shops and restaurants.

There are 2.24 Deutschmarks to the pound.

LOCAL DELICACIES:

Try a rye bread roll with Dutch cheese. Or else mashed potatoes and apples, served with black pudding.

BEST BUYS:

Perfume, of course, in the home of eau de Cologne.

GETAWAYS

Save money on flights to Canada with Going Places. Go to Montreal for pounds 255, or Vancouver for pounds 355. Departures from all UK airports during May.

Go on safari while on holiday at the Turtle Bay Beach Club in Kenya and see African big game in its natural habitat. A 14-night holiday from Tropical Places costs pounds 649 - a saving of pounds 120 per person. The price includes return flights from Gatwick. Meals, drinks and watersports are all laid on at the three-star hotel. The two- day safari costs pounds 140 extra per person.

Why not treat yourself to 14 nights bed and breakfast in Turkey with Inspirations. Fly from Glasgow on May 11 to Turan for pounds 248, or to Ahkorti on May 17 for pounds 262.

Bronze yourself in Bali with a 14-night stay at the Intan hotel. Fly from Glasgow on June 16 for pounds 769. Contact Scotia Travel.

School holiday specials from Scotia include a trip to the Meerufenfushi resort in the Maldives for pounds 599. The 14-night stay includes half-board accommodation. Fly from London on June 30. Add pounds 80 for Glasgow departure.

There are free pick-ups from Scottish departure points for Cosmos' six- day coach tour to Ostend. It departs May 5 and costs pounds 208. A similar coach tour of Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris costs pounds 239.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Murray, Neil
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 28, 1996
Words:981
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