We had somehow managed to put off the inevitable for the last few years but there was no way we would get through the summer without conceding. This summer has been a staycation for us, so instead of a sun holiday abroad somewhere, excitement has been driven by free time, no commitments and good weather here in Oslo. With some encouragement from yours truly here, the kids also came up with a list of 10 things they wanted to do locally and that’s proudly pinned to the fridge as we work through it. Near the top of the list is Tusenfryd, one of Norway’s biggest amusement parks which is only 5 km down the road from us here.
I’ve seen it from the motorway many times, a big park built into the rocky terrain with an ominous-looking railway track up in the clouds. On a good day, you can also see this massive pendulum swinging over and back more than 180 degrees, with presumably very adventurous people locked into it. Neither sight was a big draw for me, something to do with not having a need for that type of thrill-seeking or aerial suspension, at all at all. But there it was on the list, the time had come last week to cast off my inner diehard and go for it.
The fun started before we even got to the main amusement park area. Still feeling relaxed and vaguely excited after ticket check, we then had to get on a long steep uphill escalator to the main amusement area. It turns out the escalator goes through one of the loops of a roller coaster, so you have screaming people whizzing by under or over you, at up to 90 km/h. It’s great engineering but seriously, talking about a baptism of fire. I reckoned that if my heart survived that, which it did, barely, I might just get through the day.
We then found a merry-go-round near the entrance that went at 2 km/h and even had benches if you didn’t want to sit on one of those dangerous barely-moving horses. My kind of ride, equilibrium was briefly restored at that point. I was the only one who wanted to spend the day looking at the world from one of these benches but got out-voted in a brutal democratic fashion. Onwards, we marched.
As with all of these places, there are height restrictions for many of the more thrilling rides. With 2 kids under 10, some were thankfully not even a discussion point because of the rules. I maintain that grown-ups tend to be in one of two camps when it comes to roller coaster rides that make your hair stand on end; those who love it and those who go running for the hills at the very prospect. The husband and I are both hilly types in this scenario. So unfortunately, there is no chance that one can opt out and leave all the thrills to the other. As The Three Musketeers famously said “All for one and one for all”, it was the only way to go, albeit reluctantly.
When we found the roller coaster called Loopen, it sure put this mantra to the test. It’s a roller coaster that could take all of us up, sideways, upside-down, over and sideways again, with an impressive top speed of 75 km/h. Some of us jumped with glee at the prospect, the other 2 of us stayed fairly muted in the queue. Then it was our turn. We were locked in, braced ourselves and off we went. It was every bit as scary as I imagined it could be, even if it took barely a minute from start to finish. I just stared down at the floor of the carriage and screamed. On the up side, we were all mighty pleased afterwards, walking away in silent amazement at ourselves and each other.
I’ve been to Legoland in England and amusement parks in Germany but nothing like this place. Because it’s rugged, hilly terrain, it felt like it was more tiered than sprawled. So as you are walking along on the numerous pathways, you frequently feel like there are speeding people on rails coming at you from some direction at 500 km/h. The Thunder Coaster looks like a giant meccano project but it’s apparently wooden, which I hoped was fine on the basis that Norwegians a) tend to be sensible and b) know their wood. We had ice-creams at some point sitting near this thing, I kept ducking involuntarily as the carriages came hurtling towards us and then veering off, fastest ice-cream I’ve ever eaten.
There’s a great water ride in the park and after seeing that you didn’t even have to wear a seat belt in the 4 person boat, I thought it can’t be that bad. Off we went bobbing along on the water contemplating life and the nice trees around us when suddenly, we turned a corner and went off down a steep slide at high speed. It felt like we were all going to be flung out of the boat right onto a carriage on a roller coaster far far away (I was unshockable at that stage) but we weren’t, we came away a little bit water-sprayed and with loud racing hearts. This was one of my favourites.
But the pièce de résistance when it came to rides was surely the giant catapult where you could get into a huge sock and be flung off into the air at high speed, screaming. As a wise man once said, “we human beings are very strange creatures”¹. We weren’t in the mood for flying outside of an airplane last week and so speedily walked away from this one.
Something I found remarkable was that all the rides, shops, cafes and stands are all being run by youngsters. It’s seasonal work and probably a great summer job for students. They were all very professional and friendly but the Irish in me wanted to ask those operating the life or death rides, of which there were many far as I was concerned, a few test questions; was there any risk they were enjoying their summer too much, had they been out the night before or even been to bed on time, were they fully compos mentis. But then I thought it was a bad idea to set them on edge so I kept my mouth shut and silently prayed to whoever was listening.
All in all, it was a great day out and I understand why people travel from far and near to visit. Tusenfryd means literally ‘a thousand delights’ which it surely was, amidst all the frights. There is so much to do, with something for all ages. There is already excited talk here about the next visit and I’m sure there will be many more over the coming years.
The husband does owe me one though as he bailed out at some point (very important telephone call, I believe…) and I had to get into a racing ladybird and a ‘look how fast we can spin this’ revolving tree-trunk. There is an impressive water park that we haven’t even tried yet and I reckon the giant water slides will be pay-back time. That, in itself, might just be reason enough to have a return visit fairly soon.
¹The husband, on seeing human catapults, Tusenfryd, July 2017