Friday, September 25, 2009

I Survived Gardaland !

Boris has willingly gone along with Bill’s and my compulsion to visit every church and intriguing little courtyard in Bologna. He has been patient in restaurants and hasn’t complained too much about living in a country without ranch dressing. I kept all this in the forefront of my mind when we visited Italy’s answer to Busch Gardens: Gardaland. Yes, Gardaland. Not Terra di Garda. We stayed in the town of Peschiera del Garda, a two-hour train ride from Bologna. It is not the most beautiful part of Lake Garda but has a wonderful historical area where our hotel, the Hotel Bell'Arrivo was located. We were given a corner room with the best view we have probably ever had from a hotel, looking out onto the lake and the canal.

On our second day we took the Free Bus to Gardaland, just five minutes drive from the station. Once inside the park, we encountered a very large castle and several strolling “characters” dressed in medieval style. One of these was playing trumpet, and believe me, it really added to the sensation of stepping back into the Middle Ages when he played his rendition of “YMCA.”

The park mascot is Prezzemolo, (parsley in Italian), a multi-colored Barney-like dinosaur. (In fact now that I've seen multi-colored Prezzemelo in celluloid and plush, Barney, by comparison embodies the cool of James Dean.) Prezzemolo is EVERYWHERE. If you want to bring one of him home with you, you can go into the gift shop and buy a small, medium or large one. There are about ten thousand of them on the shelves, which is actually kind of scary. Perhaps you would rather have a tee-shirt. Well, you can have Prezzemolo on a tee-shirt. Looking for a tee-shirt with something a little different ? How about Prezzemolo on a beaded tee-shirt ? It's pretty much Prezzi (if I may be so bold as to give him a nickname) or nothing in the apparel department. I would say that the teen and preteen demographic is underserved. Unfortunately for Boris, there were no articles of clothing with rollercoaster imagery so he wound up with a Prezzemolo hat, and you know what? …once you get it away from the other 9,999 Prezzemoli it isn’t bad-looking.

Because it was so late in the season and everyone is back in school, there were absolutely no lines. Boris was able to go on every rollercoaster, inverting and looping to his heart’s content. As far as differences between this park and an American one, I would have to say that the environment, the sculpted set-pieces were amazing in their detail and workmanship. You’d have to think that if Bernini were alive today he wouldn’t be designing fountains in Rome, he’d be the head sculptor at Gardaland, creating the Atlantis environment as shown here. I really loved this. It made me feel like I was in one of those epics with Victor Mature. I kept saying things to Bill like, “Hercules, you may have the strength of 1000 men but I will vanquish you with a flutter of my eyelashes.” Fortunately everyone around us was speaking German and hopefully didn’t understand me. Or if they did, I’ll never see them again anyway.

Everywhere there were these wonderful environments that framed various rollercoaster and spinning apparati. One resembled a Cambodian temple, another was vaguely Turkish (or maybe that was the snack bar) and a huge Space Station commanded a few of the whole park. Because Gardaland isn’t divided into “lands” a la Disney and Busch, you’d get these improbable juxtapositions: the Space Station looking down on Atlantis, for instance. It all made me think of the original Star Trek, the ones where they’d land on a planet ruled by women resembling the Bond Girls.

We spent six hours there and then successfully persuaded Boris that it was time to leave. I hope when he looks back on Gardaland, the major event of his life, he’ll stop a moment to remember the little things: the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Grand Canal.

No comments: