had a dream ever since I’ve been born;
To see earth from the sky on the very first morn.
No borders for nations,
No thought limitations,
MIR is my perfect sojourn!
real MIR (Russian for 'Peace') was born in 1986, the time
of the Cold War and succeeded in as many things as it failed. Whilst Russia had
lost the race to put the first man on the moon, MIR was the first home in
space, and by 1995 had taught the two superpowers, the USSR and USA, to
Whilst MIR’s contribution to
material science was limited, MIR itself was a scientific feat of epic
proportions. The 135 tonne structure remained in space for fifteen years,
orbited earth 88,000 times and played host to a hundred cosmonauts from
countries all over the world.
Whilst for the first years
living aboard MIR was described as pure and unadulterated tedium, many were
more white knuckle than any coaster could ever be with often near fatal
Numerous incidents later, its
fate was sealed. 2.2 billion miles had passed since it was first commissioned,
and Russian President Putin announced MIR was to be ditched into the sea in the
middle of 2000.
space tourism has become a fundamental part of the Russian space
program, funding space stations such as MIR, ISS and the missions
to and from these destinations. Only basic training is given to civilians
so that they can pay millions to travel into space. Dennis Tito
was one of the first and most certainly the most famous.
Europa Park has chosen to
celebrate the accomplishments of many countries, predominantly European, by
lovingly recreating local architecture, culture and even food.
MIR honours the Russian
space programme, predominantly MIR itself.
From the outset, Euro MIR demands your attention. Five cylindrical
mirrored towers form the ride, capturing
the surrounding architecture in all their electric-blue incandescent glory,
around the summit of which the colourful four car trains slalom, and around the
front of which, the track sweeps around in large, plunging arcs down towards
the water and lawns below.
The entrance is underneath the
training capsule as used by the crew of MIR, suspended from a glass roof,
before you enter the darkened corridor that forms the start of the queue.
This scene greets you at the foot of the largest of
the five towers
The ride starts off with a series of turns around
the mirrored towers
The electric-blue towers of MIR form a fitting
backdrop to Euro MIR
The first drop is a tight swoop back to the
A darkened staircase lit in UV
climbs a storey, black-lit constellations litter the wall, and a rich, dreamy
dance track effectively builds the excitement. The station is fantastically
organised. A couple of zig-zags line the room before you are filtered off
behind the gates on the edge of the platform.
Trains seat sixteen riders in
four trains with pairs of riders sitting back to back. They come in bright
shades of metallic green, red, mauve and blue and the ride has been known to
make use of a people-gobbling nine trains.
It makes no difference as to
whether you sit forwards or backwards – the direction in which you travel is as
random as the numbers drawn on a Saturday evening’s lottery, which of course
helps with the loading of trains.
We load the trains. In a
demonstration of German efficiency, single riders are hastily paired up
clearing the queue of another two people before the comfortable single lap bars
are locked, thumbs up are given and the train is powered into the darkness.
As you turn a corner, almost
immediately, the smooth rotation of the trains begins. At approximately one
rotation every four seconds, it is enough to disorientate, even more so as you
pass through a violet tunnel, revolving around the track in a particularly
trippy moment of disorientation.
The train pauses as it passes a
scene of astronauts working on a space station before you are pulled up into an
anti-clockwise spiral lift. The cars once again begin revolving, and an
uplifting dance track thumps away with lighting effects en-route.
Every so often, the inside of
this tower will light, and a glance upwards will show another train on the lift
above you. It is also here that you realise how simple the lift actually is,
using a revolving drum in the centre to catch onto a small arm on the train and
effectively push it up.
Soon, the drum revolving in the
centre becomes just a frame work with a Russian space rocket in the centre and
not long after this, you break away from the enormous spiral with a pair of
doors sliding open as you approach the outside.
As you exit, the cars once again
begin rotating. An unnerving feeling of height is experienced here, with
contrasting visions of yourself being reflected from the luminescent towers or
of just plain nothing due to the lack of supporting structure.
The track weaving around the top
turns 190-degrees before heading off to another tower, around which it turns
once again. All the while you are becoming increasingly curious as to which
direction you will be travelling for the majority of the ride.
miles per hour
Many turns later, the revolving
stops and the train dramatically swoops towards the ground, almost skimming the
bushes below, before climbing back up towards the mirrored towers that form the
backdrop of the ride.
As you reach the top, another
180-degree rotation from the train means that the last half of the ride is
taken in the opposite direction to the first half. This is where you hope that
the first drop was taken forwards.
Another swooping turn takes you
around the back of the towers, re-emerging around the front, swooping over the
swampland below. You quickly turn around one of the towers, swooping down into
The pace gets more and more
frantic as each turn gets sharper. A quick flash as you head through the base
of one of the towers, quickly doing a turn around the back of this tower before
tightening into a tight and gutsy helix.
Into another tunnel, this time
slightly longer and behind the water that cascades around the rocky base of the
towers, before you skim the swamp, water sprays from the sides as a final turn
sends you into the brake run and back into the station.
MIR is almost a story,
evolving chapter-by-chapter, and building up to a surprisingly climatic ending.
The first half almost lulls you into a false sense of security – it could
almost be that you’re on the wrong ride, enjoying well themed scenes, dramatic
lighting and a beautiful dance track.
Once you’re outside – it dawns –
this is a roller coaster. But to pad it out, the ride is almost like a sedate
people mover, slowly gyrating at great height, almost as if to remind you of
just how high you are.
And as soon as you swoop into
the first arc, the ride is non-stop. It remains well paced, getting more and
more intense throughout. The highlight is the tight helix towards the end, and
whilst the trend throughout it smaller and smaller turns, when backwards this
really takes you by surprise.
MIR is a lottery.
You never know which way you’re going to be going, to do the second half
backwards, though, is to experience Euro MIR at its best. The turning is novel
and unique, but it isn’t as pointless as standing up (for example) where too much emphasis is
burdened on this innovation.
The enclosed section and final
roller coaster section of the ride go to prove that this ride is far more than
just a turning roller coaster.
Marcus Sheen (2 March 2003)