Hyde Park Winter Wonderland review
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland pops up every year in the eastern half of the park. It always reminds me of a big prison camp, all bordered off behind big metal fences with gates and checkpoints and security searches. When you walk up to it you can see giant candy canes poking over the top, like guard towers, and huge Ferris wheels and fluttering flags and funfair rides jutting up above the wall. (I think I probably watch too many World War II movies.)
The stalls are very nicely done. It certainly looks Christmassy inside. We're not talking garden sheds from B&Q here, all tarted up with tinsel and bows -- these are proper Swiss-style chalets with nutcracker soldiers and reindeer guarding the gates. They've got grey slate roofs and smokey chimney pipes on top (cooking the sausages underneath). And everywhere you go is the sound of Bing Crosby and Perry Como.
They've got every kind of ride imaginable... Christmas coasters, carousels, waltzers and dodgems. They've got a Fun House which is four storeys tall! The Haunted Mansion is actually a mansion: a three storey house with spiders and flies and Satan out the front. I can hear some horrifying wails and blood-curdling screams coming out of the windows, but I'm hoping that's just a soundtrack.
Another zone is dressed up like the arctic, with a swinging ship and ice rink. It's all pale blues, silver and white. They've got a huge ride called the Ice Mountain with polar bears and penguins perched upon the sides, and a real live waterfall cascading down the front.
I forgot how loud a funfair can be... it's just blaring music and a background track of chatter and screams. So many lights all over the place -- it's giving me sparkles in my eyes just looking around. They've never heard of eco bulbs in this place, that is for sure. They don't care about saving the planet in here -- good! They'll have to open up Battersea Power Station again to keep it going. It's all golden lights and streaks of neon green and blue. Silver icicles with white lights everywhere you look. Lasers, jets, flashing alarm bells, spinning heads and fire across the tops. In the dodgems it's a disco, in the ice rink it's all raindrops and snowflakes. I can see some kind of barbecue smoke or frosty mist lifting above the rides. It looks like fairy lights in the fog.
I've decided that I'm going to have a go on at least one ride tonight, but I don't know which one. But as I walk around I'm starting to wonder whether that is really such a good idea because they all look totally terrifying. Some of them are going round and round at the speed of sound -- you can see people's mouths gaping open like they're ripping out a scream, but no noise is coming out. Santa's not going to save you they break, is he? He doesn't care if you die -- because that's one more present he doesn't have to make. One more house that he doesn't have to visit.
There's plenty of food and drink as well (I like going up to these places just for the warm smoke and aromas). You can smell wood-burning fires and see piles of chopping logs out the back. They're warming up the seating areas with those big metal builder's bins -- what are they called? -- the ones with a dustbin lid and a chimney in it. I remember them from miners' strikes when they kept the striking miners warm. We're all sitting here drinking beer and it's making a crackling sound like cub camp when you were a kid. I've got the smell of vinegar and chips now... burnt burgers... it's real fairground food like corn on the cob. Jacket potatoes wrapped up in yesterday's newspapers. Doughnuts dipped in hot toffee. Hot buttered popcorn. Pancakes and maple syrup. Meat pies and gravy in a tin foil boat. Hot dogs with proper sausages -- not those silly frankfurter things. I mean proper sausages, burnt till they're blistered and black.
They've also got a big Bavarian village playing oompa music like they do in Munich beer halls: rows and rows of wooden tables and a stage up the front for all the thigh-slapping Germans in pigtails and braces.
A word of warning: the queues on Friday and Saturday nights can be horrendous. I walked past at about 4 PM on a Saturday and there were probably about a thousand people lining up for the bag search -- and that's not an exaggeration. It probably took them half-an-hour just to get through the front door.
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