Kids Corner: Rollercoasting back on top of the world at Bakken

First Brexit and the rollercoaster ride that has yet to go up. Then the football. This expat Brit was fed up, and then it got worse.

From reading the small print on her permanent residency permit and ordering a replacement marriage certificate only to find the envelope was empty, to crossing my fingers that my application for dual citizenship would go through … I needed some FUN. I needed Bakken!

The Tornado rollercoaster, not far from the gate near the huge carpark, went up, down and sideways so fast it took my breath away more than the referendum vote and made me scream louder than at Boris Johnson. And with that first ride, my troubles melted away in a whirlwind of giggles. Jake didn’t mind me yelling because the ride disappears around hidden corners and no-one can see.

So what is Bakken?
It’s not Tivoli, though it attracts the second largest number of visitors every year, has rides and shooting stalls etc. But it’s hard to describe what’s different. Admission is free. Instead of a lake full of shimmering carp, it has a vast forest and friendly horses pulling carts. Instead of Columbine the Ballerina and Harlequin, it has Pjerrot the Clown, a smiley, cuddly soft-ice Michelin man in recycled pillowcases wearing a folded napkin for a hat. Children adore him, and he can wash his outfit at a high temperature to remove sticky fingermarks.

A folksy atmosphere
Though both parks feature the latest technology, Bakken is actually older than Tivoli – apparently the oldest amusement park in the world. But its clientele seem younger. I don’t remember my big feet tripping over any old ladies’ walking sticks near benches, but that could be because it was teatime. For some, fast food is good. The faster the better, as they pause briefly from the adrenalin rush to scoff down a buffet for 150 kroner.

Of course, for a really lengthy culinary experience, buy your two-year-old granddaughter an ice cream mid-way. It’s not only long but has an enormous surface area as it’s passed backwards and forwards to Grandad as she tries the rides.

Sedate pace if preferred
Maybe the older visitors were relaxing inside the many cosy restaurants listening to live singers – or at the other end of the scale, dining in the replica old town featured in the famous Danish series ‘Matador’, (like ‘Upstairs Downstairs’), where actors relive the parts between mouthfuls.

There are free concerts with top bands. The band we heard on the main stage was singing cowboy songs. “How lovely,” I thought. “That’s one of my favourites. I must sing that to my grandchildren.” Sitting here now, I can’t remember what it was. But it was good, I remember that. In fact, something of Bakken’s atmospheric past was also reflected in the nostalgic tunes playing near the bumper cars and around and about. It wasn’t all techno thumping.

Jekyll and Hyde
We learned that if there’s a height requirement, there’s a reason why there’s a height requirement. Little kids are little kids. Grandad is also a little kid. Big kids want to try everything. Fast. Little kids think they want to try everything fast, but quickly realise they really just want to try a few things over and over so they know what to expect and where Grandad is standing waving. Naturally, both Jake (13) and Petra (2) wanted to make the most of the experience, but it was hard finding things they could both go on together. So Granny here was the wild card, swapping from aaahs to AAARRGHS with each successive ride. Even now, I don’t know which was best: the dear old carousel with horses and elephants or the Tornado. A Jekyll and Hyde personality no doubt.

Happily, our dilemma was solved as, out of the blue, our neighbours appeared in front of us. What luck! Mikkel is exactly Jake’s age – in fact they’re classmates. They had been there since four in the afternoon and four hours later were still going strong. So off Jake went with them and the crowd of youngsters they had sensibly gathered for the trip, leaving us to explore with Petra at our own pace before toddling off home.

Jake had a great time trying most of the 33 rides, including five goes on The Extreme – which made me think of a pair of socks in a washing machine as he described the experience. He even got a ride home with Mikkel long after Petra was tucked up in bed.

No queues
It might have been the weather forecast but we didn’t queue. Not even at the ladies’ toilets. The short burst of hard drizzle soon stopped, but besides, as Jake said, they didn’t even feel the seats were wet, they were having such fun.

So don’t be put off. Bakken will cheer you up. It made such an impression on Petra that she looked up at me with a sunny grin and said “Granny”’ for the very first time, which isn’t easy for a dear little Danish girl to say. With a mouthful of ice cream. It came out “Gwannoo”, but that’s close enough for me!

Helen Dyrbye is a published author, translator and former scout leader from East Anglia in England who relocated to Denmark a long time ago and loves it here as much as ‘back home’.