PENNIES FROM KEVIN - Spain's Terra Mitica
Just three days after his trip to PortAventura, Kevin visited another big theme park in Spain. Here's his photo essay of Terra Mitica.
Written by Kevin Baxter
So after a wonderful five days in the Barcelona area, where we visited the not-so-wonderful PortAventura, we were at the middle point of our 25-day trip, so I planned on a quick visit to Benidorm on the Costa Blanca. This beach resort is also insanely popular with Europeans, which may be why Terra Mitica was created in 1999.Tweet
The problem with the whole idea, though, is that Europeans tend to come to Benidorm only during the summer, and the rest of the year the place is wall-to-wall with senior citizens. (Seriously, on my way back from the old town, I felt like the hero running through the mall in Dawn of the Dead.) Not exactly the perfect destination for that crowd, which constitutes the majority nine months out of the year. Which is part of the reason the six-year-old park has been losing money since it opened. And why Paramount was brought on to run the park in 2001.
To be fair, this park is excellently located, as there is major development going on in this area, which is surprising because this resort town otherwise looks like Honolulu, with highrises crowding the blocks near the miles-long crescent-shaped beach. This area is at the base of the mountains miles from the happening part of town, where not long ago there was nothing. So this place is definitely turning from a resort town into more of a suburb of nearby Alicante, and if this park wants to survive, it needs more families in the general area. Even so, it has a major road ahead of it as being about an hour south of Valencia, Spain's third-largest city, hasn't helped make Terra Mitica money.
Well, at least whoever has planned this area - whether it be the company developing the area or Benidorm itself - has done a spectacular job making this a beautiful area. The roundabouts on the way here - and there are several - all have gorgeous sculptures in the middle of them, which really get you excited to get to the park. Plus, the entire way there, you can see the huge Terra Mitica sign above the park on the hill. And Terra Mitica's entrance plaza delivers on that excitement, unlike PortAventura's wan entrance plaza. Though why I don't have a picture of it is beyond me. I swore I took all kinds of pics of it. Who knows, when I am really enjoying something I'll forget I have a camera.
Once inside, the park has a small square for all your park-entering needs, then it's onward through an Egyptian arch into Egipto (ay-HEEP-toe). (One thing on languages here. While PortAventura strangely ignored Catalan in a region where all signs are in Catalan and the secondary language on those signs is sometimes English instead of Castilian Spanish, the national dialect, Terra Mitica does not ignore its home language. The area south of Catalunya, basically Valencia south to the Costa Blanca, speaks a variant of Catalan called Valencià, so basically they are speaking a variant of a variant of Castilian Spanish. It's crazy, and Terra Mitica's guidemaps uses Castilian/English/Valencià for nearly every attraction, shop and restaurant, and even bothers to translate the land names. I mean, COME ON! If you can't figure out what Egipto stands for, maybe you're too dumb to travel. Anyhow, I will use the Castilian for everything I speak of, and will use a parenthetical for the English translation, if I feel one is needed, or for a pronunciation of the harder words.) Already, I was more impressed with this park than I was with PortAventura. While the first lands both front small lakes, it was the surrounding sights that are worth mentioning.
There are actually attractions here, and something called Pirámide de Keops. Okay, first off, in the English translation it is still spelled Keops, but we call the pharoah Cheops in English. At least in America (what do you call him in England, Ben?). Obviously this is named after the Great Pyramid of Khufu in Giza, the tomb of Cheops/Keops who was also known as... wait for it... Khufu! (I am very interested in ancient Egypt, but I always find myself bored halfway through a great exhibit, like at the Met in NYC, because the names are NEVER the same. Seriously, the whole thing is worse than the ever-changing spelling of al-Qaeda/al-Qaida/Alkie-duh.) Anyhow, whatever it was in there was closed. I have heard of some sort of elevator thing, like a ride, but the guidemap places it under the heading Área Recreativa, which is also used for arcades, remote-control boats, the water pistols over the rapids ride and the carny games. So I dunno. (Ben is visiting soon, so he can tell us.) Around the bend (yes, ANOTHER curvy road up to the next land... GRRRRR) we came upon the Cataratas del Nilo (Falls of the Nile, cuz the Nile is just loaded down with waterfalls... did you know cataracts is another word for waterfall? I didn't.). The loading area had some nice somewhat Egyptian buildings, but the Cataratas are just right out there in the open. There are two stations where the log-barges make a 90-degree turn, one to flip you backwards and the other to return you to the right direction. Just having a backwards drop makes this better than the similarly-not-too-themed flume in PortAventura, but couldn't they have enclosed the turntable sections and added some effects of some sort? I'll give it a 7. Next door is the requisite kiddie version (seriously, what is UP with this lame trend?) with no hills. Needless to say, we did a Dionne Warwick and walked on by. (The other ride here is the boat to Iberia.. yawn!)
The curving walk to Grecia ended up being not as bad as the Polynesia/China walk at PA, and once inside the gate to the land, we immediately came upon another ride. El Laberinto del Minotauro. I had no clue what we were getting into, motion simulator, dark ride, an indoor maze? But one look at the loading station cars and I knew we were at a shooter! Alas, a fairly lame shooter. The scenes were nice enough, but the guns truly sucked. They didn't have a non-stop feature like those on Men in Black, so you have to pull the trigger over and over and over. And the red dot it emits is so tiny, and disappears so quickly, you never really figure out how to correct your aim. The story didn't make a lot of sense either, as the Minotaur gets pissed at the end of the ride... or something. He did the same exact thing on a later ride, and we performed pathetically that time. An okay ride that could use a technology update and some sort of outcome. A 6.
Around a corner we hit the main Grecian area.
Then onto the new ride, Synkope (seen-KOE-pay, no English translation so I thought this was something from Grecian history, but the best I could find was a definition about a massive rush of blood to the head or fainting, which kind of fits), a giant frisbee. I was quite impressed with the queue:
There is also a larger-boat flume here, La Furia de Tritón, which has two drops coming out of a rocky "mountain" right at the base of the real thing. It's pretty, and is spectacularly located, but it isn't much of a ride. One drop is very short, and the other is a decent height. This thing is basically an expanded up-and-down flume, the kind meant to create a huge splash, so why not use the usual two-step drop for one of the drops, just for a little variety? It gets a 7 just for how well-thought-out it is, and it's pleasant enough. We also rode Alucinakis (no clue, something to do with Hallucinations?), which is supposed to be the kiddie replica of Magnus Colossus, but this is a steel coaster with minimal wood attached, so whatever. It's basically one of your standard Flying Unicorn-level coasters, one step above the kiddie coaster in the Universal and Disney kiddie areas. It's okay, the turns are fun, and it does have a little height to it, but it is a bit short. 5. The two other rides in Grecia are Los Ícaros (The Icaruses.. Icarus was winged), swings and Arriarix (again, no clue... it sounds a little flight-oriented but there aren't Pegasuses here), another kiddie horse-on-a-rail ride that would never happen in the states.
On to Roma! In this direction, you reach Roma via a bridge across a "moat" into a large castle wall. This is really a wonderfully-designed area as it does seem like the castle walls completely surround you. They don't, though, but Magnus Colossus comprises one missing "wall" and the huge dining complex makes up the other. Unfortunately, other than Magnus Colossus, this is just an enclosed kiddie area, with six kiddie rides and a games-of-skill area. I'd complain, but rides like this work better all concentrated - and hidden - in one area than they do littered amongst the pretty buildings elsewhere. As for Magnus Colossus...
Outside the other wall of the castle, there is more to Roma. This is when I realized that each land we have seen has basically two distinct areas. I think this is great, as the lands here are fairly large and having distinct squares instead of one long land, like at PA, keeps you enveloped in the theme, instead of seeing just a couple of aspects of the theming at a time.
Around the corner we found yet another "square" (in quotations, because not everything is actually squarish in shape) which held the requisite drop ride, El Vuelo del Fénix (The Flight of the Phoenix), a gorgeous restroom complex, another beautiful souvenir shop and another highly-detailed archway representing the boundary between lands.
It was over and I dragged my roommate over to that coaster.
There is another coaster in the area, El Tren Bravo (duh), which is yet another kiddie coaster, but this one is 50% longer than Alucinakis and a little more fun. It also has twin tracks that move in different directions, though only one track was running when we were there. Every time I see a fun kiddie coaster, it irritates me that Islands of Adventure built the crappy Flying Unicorn. (And, yes, I AM bitter, thank you!) It gets a 6 because it is better than Alucinakis and there is a little ingenuity going on here, but the endlessly-long trains make parts of the ride too slow. There are two other kiddie rides here are Arietes (Bumper Cars... "arietes" refer to hydraulics, but the translation of that is "ram" so maybe it has something to do with "ramming"... maybe...) and Jabato (haw-BAW-toe, a young wild boar, which is what the cars are shaped like) a junior version of the Arietes. Seriously, what is UP with having kiddie versions of Bumper Cars, which are already kiddie rides??? Seriously!!!! There is also the boat back to Egipto, which is right next door. So, yeah, whatever again.
Okay, so we had a Cirque show and a dance show, so what are we missing? Oh yeah, a stunt show! Barbarroja (which combines the words "barbar" and "roja"... "beard" and "red") is that stunt show. Spain takes a perverse pride in its attacks by the Barbary pirates, so a show involving the most famous Barbary pirate shouldn't be as surprising as seeing Colónbus talking about Squaredancing. Like most shows we saw on our trip, there was audience participation at the beginning, with some woman leading the "zany" antics. Of course a guy falls in the water, which screams "PLANT!" but I had already figured that out, even though the guy did a pretty good job pretending otherwise. Anyhow, they do some stoopid stuff we didn't need to see before Redbeard and his cronies come around the corner on their pirate ship.
Over to Las Islas, which really confused me. The only real "islas" in the Mediterranean are either Spanish, Italian and Greek, but those places are already represented. I have a feeling this land is just an excuse to play a little more with the mythical creations of ancient Greece (this is Terra MITICA after all). Especially since one of the "Islas" is actually landlocked right next to Grecia. This area, which is accessible, strangely enough, from Roma and Egipto, really only has the Mithos carousel which has mythical creatures instead of horses. There is another sit-down restaurant (which might have been closed) and Los Sorpresas de los Dioses (Surprises of the Gods), which is really just a mini-Innoventions focusing on videogames (a big Pokemon ball sits outside the building... really the only glaring exception to the thorough theming in the park). We also saw a bit of the Pasacalle Imagina (a kind of bastardization of familiar words, I think, basically Imagination about the Street) which was less a show than weird creatures roaming about adding atmosphere. Which was fine, as the other characters that would be about the Street would be Nintendo characters. Mario, Luigi, Link and Samus would be cool, but I feared this would be those Pokemon freaks.
We crossed the bridge to the real Isla in Las Islas, where the two big rides are located.
Then onto El Rescate de Ulises (The Rescue of Ulysses, which is still Ulises in the guidemap), which was a total mystery to me. It ended up being being basically a more-themed, less-rapid version of the rapids ride across the way. There are like nine scenes here, but I am a little too unfamiliar with Homer's The Odyssey to figure out what exactly was going on. I didn't even recognize many characters outside of Poseidon, the Hydra and the Cyclops.
And then back out of Las Islas.
So if you come here, try to find other things to do. It was our rest period, so we didn't head off to the "must-see" Guadalest or up the coast to Penyal d'Ifach, much less north to Valencia, which is supposed to be quite beautiful and modern. If I ever visit again, for more than a few days (we were here for three), I'd do all those things and maybe drive around and visit some of the smaller towns. We didn't bother renting a car here, and if you need to get out of town, a car is a must. The train station is between Terra Mitica and the main town - so inconvenient - and Alicante's station, where we flew in, is nowhere near the airport - even more inconvenient. The whole train system here seems like such an afterthought, when it is so important elsewhere in the country. The bus system within Benidorm is very hard to figure out, which is why we took a taxi everywhere, including to the park (though the bus back had a stop a block from our hotel). If you head there, do your best to figure out the system, because it would've made everything much easier, as well as much MUCH cheaper.
So, while I think there are better places to visit, a visit here should include Terra Mitica. It doesn't have nearly enough attractions, and some of the shows are dreadful, but overall it was a better day than our day at PortAventura. You can also find cheap tickets to the park in the old town, so definitely look into that.
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