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Although the UK has a reputation as being the European roller coaster paradise, several parks in continental Europe are offering attractions that would excite even the most fussy coaster fans. This is in no small part due to the presence of the American group Six Flags. To convince you of this, here is a tour-in order of increasing preference (ours of course)-of the six rides at Six Flags Belgium. Fasten your seat belts and enjoy the rides!


TORNADO To begin, let's start with the good old Tornado. For this coaster made by Vekoma, its age is probably the biggest factor going against it. Certainly, in 1979 when it first came out we would have appreciated it, but now the 730-meter ride would not really be of interest to fans despite the corkscrew and the twenty-meter descent towards the beginning. The tracks would permit higher speeds, but the numerous pulls on the brake prevent Tornado from going beyond 65 km/h.


WEREWOLF This is yet another Vekoma product-a more recent one this time (2001)-and that accounts for its popularity, making it the champion in the longest waiting lines category. To be honest, the Werewolf is much more exciting than its second-to-last placing in our rankings would suggest. This rank is due, in fact, to the quality of the other rides. It is also due to the inevitable competition with his twin brother Wild Wild West (made by Roller Coaster Corporation of America) at Warner Bros. Movie World Germany, another Six Flags park. Both roller coasters are made of wood and cover a distance just over a kilometre; both have a height of about 30m and a speed of 80 km/h. They have the same impressive structures and the vibrations during the ride that are hardly reassuring: in short, all the characteristics of a wooden coaster. But it is the originality of the path the ride takes that places Werewolf's German alter ego on a slightly superior par.


CALAMITY MINE Calamity Mine is less exciting than Werewolf and even Tornado. What's more, this mine train is not even that original. So why, you might ask, this 4th placing? Well, simply because it is possible to achieve high standards all the while remaining traditional. Calamity Mine has done very well in terms of creating a theme and designing a path for the train: beautiful décor, humps, descents, bends and modest speeds when compared to other roller coasters, but they follow each other rapidly, making the ride a lot of fun. It may be difficult to make a roller coaster aficionado tremble, but it is even more difficult to satisfy the whole family. That is precisely what Calamity Mine succeeds in doing.


VAMPIRE Again another Vekoma creation, Vampire is an inverted roller coaster, which means the tracks are above your head, leaving your legs dangling in mid-air. The 661.5 meter ride with a classical design includes a good 30 meter descent and five inversions: it all happens very fast (at times close to 90 km/h), besides the inversions there are also many bends...and you laugh a lot. However, we do have one reservation about this ride, and it could apply to all inverted coasters, and that is that only the two people at the front can see and anticipate what is going to happen. For the others, it is a two-minute ride filled with chaos but they do leave slightly frustrated at not having "understood everything".


TURBINE Second in our ranking, Turbine is a shuttle coaster made by Schwartzkopf. A shuttle coaster is one where the train goes in one direction and then travels the same path but in the opposite direction...backwards so-to-speak. The tracks are 220 metres long and so the ride covers 440 metres in total. It is actually quite simple: a straight line takes you at 85 km/h to the summit of a 70° incline 42 meters above ground, and then the same thing but in the opposite direction to an identical incline. The thrust in the beginning is unbelievable. And in the middle of the climb (or descent for that matter) there is a looping. In 1999, a building was built to cover the central part of the ride that includes the looping because it was too noisy. An idea that turned out to be brilliant since apart from reducing the noise, those that get on to the ride do not see the looping, thus making the ride more fun.


COBRA Last but not least, first prize for "Best Roller Coaster at Six Flags Belgium" goes to Cobra. Like Werewolf, it is another 2001 Vekoma product, but it is much less accessible than the wooden coaster. And that is because Cobra, another shuttle coaster, elicits sensations that only true adrenaline lovers would appreciate. When you first get on the train you think you are immediately surprised since, contrary to your expectations, you go backwards instead of forwards. The train keeps rising and rising until it stops at a height of 38 metres. And there you know you are going to do down which does nothing to reassure you: the descent is at 80 km/h you pass the spot where you got on without stopping and a series of spirals and loopings follow one after another. After all that, Cobra takes you back up to 38 meters on a ramp that is symmetrical to the first. Once at the top you hurtle down, but this time you're going backwards! And all the looping and spirals described above are done backwards as well. This is the most testing moment of the whole much for the heart as for your zygomaticss.
Well, you can now unfasten your seatbelts.



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