Animals in the Park

Click through to see it larger… the horses in the middle were communicating *something* to the camels, I’m not sure what.

Elephants!  Camels!  (And dogs the size of small horses, oh my.)  My run in the Djurgården yesterday took me past one of the temporary circuses that come to visit now and again.  How lovely, how bizarre, to see camels in the King’s Animal Park!

Sheltering in the woods? Uh oh, maybe rain was on its way!

After that, I passed a couple walking two Great Danes that looked larger than me.  And then I paused to say hello to the Icelandic cattle, imported to substitute for the older more traditional shaggy cows that the Royal Family owned long ago.  Sadly, no herons were to be seen near the fen where they have their rookery, but I have already spotted them gathering and will look forward to visiting them over the next few weeks (on my longer runs! 8+ km yesterday!).

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In line, waiting to take the plunge at Gronalund!

I recently got the chance to meet my own inner animal on the other side of the Djurgården, at the Grönalund amusement park. One of Matt’s colleagues has been trying to persuade me for years to get on a roller coaster with him — he and his family were headed to Grönalund in between island stays in the Archipelago this summer.

The amusement park has several roller coasters intertwined on a tiny postage-stamp patch of land. One is a “classic” American-style wooden roller coaster: no loop-the-loops, just the roller coaster car climbing steep inclines to the sounds of rickety gears (even though the structure is only three years old), then plunging to the bottom, only to climb again for the next dive.

I screamed and screamed, unable to control myself, yelling through the giant grin plastered across my face. We rode the same coaster twice in a row (six tickets total, at 20 SEK apiece — totally worth the entry fee too!).

I have not screamed so loud in ages — probably not since my last roller coaster ride, more than a decade ago, at Six Flags Magic Mountain in southern California.  My dad and I were visiting my poor uncle, who stood at the foot of the Colossus, clutching his nauseated stomach watching while Dad and I zipped around the wooden ride (it’s over two minutes long, versus the one-minute ride at the smaller Grönalund). We used to go to Marine World Africa USA and Marriott’s Great America with my friend Karen.  Imagine my dad, with two screaming teenage girls in tow, on the pirate ride: a ship swinging like a pendulum until it went all the way around, 360 degrees, hanging upside down for just a moment at the top… !

My trips this summer on the roller coaster felt almost therapeutic. Yelling like a wild thing made my throat sore, but I also coughed up some phlegm from my lungs, which felt like clearing out the cobwebs. And on top of that, the feeling of that chemical flood of relief after the adrenaline rush of fear and survival and thrill — it was SO much fun!

No more rides here, as the forest encroaches on an old roller coaster ride

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Juxtapose that experience with our trip earlier in the summer to a dormant (if not yet dead) amusement park in what was once East Berlin. Berlin’s Spreepark is fascinating, with its hulking wrecks of old roller coaster rides, swan boats, and various accoutrements. But the sordid tale behind the park is even more interesting — cocaine smuggling and politics killed the revival of this attraction, an amusement park spread out over acres of forest at the edge of the city.

After a tour from the daughter of the bankrupted family that still owns the Spreepark, I want to see the documentary (“Achterbahn”) about the downfall of the family patriarch and the park.  He’s the one who stuffed the Magic Carpet ride with drugs to bring back to Germany.  A different kind of animal behavior altogether.

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