Monday, October 22, 2012

Welcome to Toverland

(All images borrowed, because who wants to lug a DSLR around Toverland?!)

This weekend, I opted to "SAC it" (what Kasteel students affectionately dub sleeping in the castle). It's a lovely refuge for when you feel so overwhelmed with travelling plans you could explode. For me, this is all the time. So a weekend at the castle was just what the doctor ordered.

Andrew, Caitlyn, David, Sam and I decided to hit what was touted as "Holland's #1 Day Trip Destination!" - the illustrious Toverland. What could very easily be described as a children's theme park turned out to be a wonderful journey into the culture of the Netherlands (and a fun day, to boot).

In the Netherlands, Halloween traditions only started seeping in around the mid-1990's, and they were very heavily borrowed from America. And apparently, every Dutch citizen has major Halloween fever, because Toverland was packed on this (granted, unusually warm) October day for the Halloween festivities. At one point, at least 3/4 of the park gathered around to watch a man in a vampire costume stalk around and occasionally stop to glare menacingly at a passerby. This is entertainment.

The park included "the tallest, fastest wooden roller coaster in the Benelux!" (Des)Troy

We were unfazed looking at this coaster from the ground, but speaking as a serious coaster junkie, this thing packed a punch. It was a steel/wooden hybrid with an alarmingly steep drop and a top speed that didn't let up for the entirety of the ride. We hit this twice, and would have kept riding it all night if we didn't have a bus to catch.

And this crazy contraption

Booster Bike, the strangest roller coaster ever imagined by anyone. Only the Dutch would insist that their amusement park rides include bikes. The method of securing you into this ride can only be likened to placing a clip on top of a potato chip bag to seal in the freshness. It was an experience. A bonus treat was the Backstroke, a flume ride that inexplicably turned around and went down the hill backwards.

Apparently new to the sensation of actors dressed in spooky costumes meandering around amusement parks, the Dutch children (and adults) were having a serious breakdown when they found bloody ghosts and skeletal Trojan soldiers in their gift shops and fun houses. Equally new to me was the fact that the actors could touch you (!) and the way they interacted with children. A ghoul wielding a chainsaw with the chain pulled out let a child rev it up for him, then turned and pretended to hold it up to his neck. Chalk that up on the list of most frightening things I have ever seen, ever. Other fun cultural differences included giant bonfires in the middle of the park, rafts that children could take out on shallow man-made ponds (?), and amusement park pizza places that have their own basil growing next to the cash registers (!!), the latter being the most exciting, of course.

My favorite moment of the night was my encounter with a little Dutch boy wearing a red Scream mask. I gave him an exaggerated gasp when he turned around, and he lost his mind. He tugged on his mother's coat and pointed at me, then jumped back again. I tried to look even more scared for his benefit. He turned the mask around to the back of his head (presumably so I would be perma-scared), and then, when he thought he might have broken me, he took off the mask and pointed at his face, assuring me it was only him under there. It was among the most adorable things that have ever happened to me.

Naturally, with the good comes the bad, and as we headed off to go home later that night, our bus never came. We figured out that you have to call Dutch buses to come for you on off-peak hours (naturally?) and we had missed our window of opportunity. Thankfully, we made it home safely with the help of a taxi driver from Indonesia with a fondness for American music (the highlight of the ride was the great "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred).

It is fascinating to see what traditions are adopted by other cultures to appropriate their own, personalized version of Halloween. No matter how many tiny Justin Biebers we saw, Toverland remained stubbornly, incredibly Dutch, and we loved it for that.


  1. Hi Annie! I love the new blog! It is so easy to read and the pictures are so much bigger! And the name ....well, I would not expect anything less! I LOVE it!! You are so creative and we are so proud of you! Love you so much! Ma

  2. Thanks Ma! Love you too.