July 2, 2012 (Day 20)
weather: beautiful day, a little cloudy and chilly at the beginning, but the sun came to warm things up.
Today we go to LEGOLAND, Billund, Denmark, the home of the LEGO invention. We are so, incredible excited. Well, I am at least. We had to leave Copenhagen very early (6am or so) in order to get out to Billund by 10am when Legoland opened, but it was definitely worth it. We are staying in a hotel nearby in case we want to visit Legoland again tomorrow, but mostly just so we don’t have to travel 4 hours by bus/train back to Copenhagen tonight.
Legoland is full of munchkins, of course. We didn’t expect anything different. We were one of just a few couples there without accompanying children. When the bus pulled up in front of Legoland, excitement was abound. We were surrounded by LEGO sculptures in the grass and of course the grand entrance beckoned to us like a time machine back to our childhood. I could feel my heart race just a little bit as I pulled out my camera to photograph the entrance and then it was all I could do not to run like a child into the park.
The absolute best part of Legoland is miniland, or the huge expanse of the park dedicated to model cities of Scandinavia and Germany build completely out of LEGOs. I took 410 photos today and the vast majority were all in miniland. Then I narrowed it down to 100 photos that I just had to share with you! Oh boy….you don’t want to look at 100 photos. But the photos will help me tell you about every new amazing thing just around the corner from the last amazing thing.
We were so so so impressed to find out that not only was miniland huge, but all the vehicles operated on their own. One of the first buildings we encountered was a model of the full Billund airport, complete with runways. And then, guess what, the planes started to move around the runway! Little LEGO people were out all over. Some were driving little baggage carts, that yes, they operated on their own and drove on the runway. There were all kinds of maintenance vehicles that moved around and were quite detailed. A passenger bus even drove around and picked up passengers from the planes out on the tarmac. Oh, and if that doesn’t impress you, when the planes drove up to the terminal, the jetway moved and extended out to the plane, the baggage carts drove by, and then drove off and the plane took off again. But, wait, there’s more! One plane drove out to the de-icing station, where the LEGO de-icing vehicles drove up and then squirted real water out onto the wings!! Oh my gosh, we are in for a real treat here in miniland!
Definitely all the buildings were amazingly detailed. We walked around “islands” of model sets each with a name and description of the actual town in Scandinavia it represented. And the details were down to the finite detail! There were different models of cars out on the street. We even found a Prius! There were buses of all shapes and sizes, oh, and the best and most impressive were the bikes. There were bikes in bike racks, bikes on the road, bikes leaning against buildings, bike being ridden by LEGO people through the road, or off-roading. We even found different types of bikes! I was so impressed to see a recumbent out there on the road! Talk about details. We saw mail trucks, cars, mini-vans, you name it the car was out there. Oh, and the LEGO people were built up from LEGOS, they were not the LEGO mini-figurines you are used to playing with.
The LEGO people were amazing. We saw people of all ages. We saw campers out pitching a tent. We saw people riding their bikes. There were people eating in street cafes. There were people waiting for a bus, waiting at a train station. There were so many photographers! Photographers were taking photos of a bride and groom in front of a church. Photographers were kneeling and taking photos of people walking on the street. Photographers were taking engagement photos. They were everywhere. LEGO people were all ages, and all shapes and sizes. Mom LEGO people were pushing buggies down the street. LEGO people were at the edge of a lake with fishing poles. LEGO kids were walking LEGO dogs. LEGO people were at work too. Two LEGO guys were unloading panes of glass from the back of their truck. LEGO members of the royal armies were dressed and outside the royal houses. LEGO musicians were playing instruments like the string bass, an accordion, a guitar, drums, trumpets, trombones, tubas! LEGO people were inside a dairy factory supervising the milk production. LEGO roofers were up on the roof of a house putting the shingles on. LEGO mailmen were out delivering mail. LEGO guys were at the edge of the lake getting ready to scuba-dive. LEGO people were inside a grocery store shopping with shopping carts and everything. LEGO people were out in a backyard square-dancing. LEGO people were in the backyard all drinking a beer, or playing in a sandbox, or sitting around chatting. I even saw a LEGO painter painting a building. There were LEGO campers sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows. LEGO people were out playing soccer, and oh so much more! Life was living in miniland.
Now I’ll talk about my favorite part of miniland – the ships. Wait, it gets better. There were all kinds of cities modeled in miniland including cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, and others with channels. So of course there were boats and ships in the channels….and they moved! They floated all around the channels in a set pattern. Oh, but the absolute best part, THE best part, were the locks. Yes, you heard me right, Scandanavia is full of locks in all their channels, so of course in miniland models, there have to be channels of different water levels that connect to rivers and lakes of other water levels and the ships have to travel through series of locks to raise and lower. I could go back right now just to watch the locks operate. Impressive. A little boat would float into one lock, the gates would close, the water level would lower, the boat would flow to another lock, the gates would close, the water level would lower, and then the boat would be released into a lake. The boat would do a circuit of the lake, then come back to the locks and get raised up in succession. Absolutely amazing. There was even a barge elevator. It is located in Scharnebeck. This boat lift raises and lowers ships 38 meters to and from the Elbe-Seiten Canal. Each container weighs nearly 6000 tons including ts contents. The average dead weight of a river cargo vessel is 1000 tons. So of course LEGO built a model of the boat lift. We watched as a boat floated in the lift, and then rose up to the water level up above. AWESOME!
Okay, and now I have to tell you about the ferry system. In one of the towns, a canal and a road intersected without a bridge because the width of the channel was too wide. So a car would drive up to the edge of the road, board a waiting ferry. The ferry would close its gate, and transport the car or bus across the channel where the gate would lower and the car would drive off. Then a car or bus would come back, board the ferry and go back to the other side! Wow. Oh, and then there are the bridges. Can you tell how excited we were about miniland? So, in these cities with canals and such, they have bridges going over the canal so that the cars can drive back and forth. For instance, a car might go over the bridge, but then a boat comes, so the bridge is lifted so the boat can pass, then lowered back down so the car can go back over. It’s really amazing.
The trains are pretty cool as well. There are models of actual trains in Germany and Scandanavia going around all of miniland. Many of the “islands” holding one town will connect to another island so the train can connect. There are train stations so passengers can board (No the LEGO people don’t actually get on in this case) and then the train moves on.
Mark’s favorite part of miniland were the models of the various energy plants. There was a huge model of a rig out in the ocean pulling natural resources up from the Earth. From there you could see three lines running off to different plans around miniland including natural gas and oil. It was fun to see where the natural gas line ended up. There was the Nybro Gas Treatment Plant that treats a daily average of 20 million m3 of natural gas from the North Sea, which is enough to supply 10,000 households in Denmark for an entire year. There was also a model of the Anholt Offshore Wind Farm that is actually in construction phase now and will be finished in 2013. The wind farm will have 111 turbines and will be Denmark’s largest offshore windfarm. A model of the Vestbirk Hydroelectric Power Plant depicted the power plat, opened in 1924, that still generates electricity as a working museum. There was an oil-rig supply vessel model that took approximately 700 hours and 250,000 LEGO bricks to build. It’s animation included 3 water cannon (one of which was interactive with the push of a button) and a helicopter on the foredeck that started and stopped.
We were most amused by the Beverly Hills and Hollywood section of miniland. They had built a movie set out of LEGOs for a movie about a Bionicle LEGO and we got to watch a whole scene of this fake movie. A facade of buildings marked the background and the movie actors were Bionicle robots and LEGO people. The animations were amazing. The cameras all moved around on booms and motorized equipment while the vehicles onset included several moving cars and even an airplane flying around. Around the set were all the personnel needed at a movie set and actor’s trailers. There were thick electrical cords everywhere and of course lights set up on tripods.
Popular places of the area all had their own model. Unfortunately most of the signs didn’t give the build information like how many LEGO bricks were in each model, but some did. Here is a list of some of the miniland sets that we encountered:
Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen, 147,000 LEGO bricks
Volkswagen car factory at Wolfsburg (the actual building is 1.5 km long)
Mann’s Chinese Theater
Lodbjerg Church, Denmark, 7,600 LEGO bricks
Copenhagen Central Fire Station
Neuschwanstein Castle, on a peak in the southern Germany Alps, 236,000 LEGO bricks
Amalienborg – four rococo mansions, property of the Copenhagen royal family since 1794, 7.5 meters in diameter, 900,000 LEGO bricks and 40,000 LEGO windows
Towns and Cities and Regions:
Mogeltonder (the prettiest village street in Denmark) 650,000 LEGO bricks
Amsterdam, full landscape 2.1 million LEGO bricks
Scotland – village of Crail north of Edinburgh, and Eilean Donan Castle
Schackenborg and manor house at Mogeltonder, 190,000 LEGO bricks
Tegernsee – an alpine landscape near Munich
The Rhine (river) is 1326km long
Mosel, with Reichsburg Castle high atop a cliff
Dusseldorf – famouns Rhine promenade
Beverly Hills, California
Lilleby (Littletown), first miniland model in LEGOLAND which is an imaginary village typical of small town Denmark, 433,000 LEGO bricks
Ribe, oldest city in Denmark, 553,000 LEGO bricks
Denmark’s west coast and Hirtshals – seaside village of Norre Vorupor, 450,000 LEGO bricks
Skagen, 310,000 LEGO bricks
Nyhavn, Copenhagen, 3.5 million LEGO bricks
The Gota Canal, Sweden, contains 58 locks in 190km, the canal rises to 91.5 meters above sea level, 483,000 LEGO bricks
Bergen, Norway, 2,347,000 LEGO bricks
Norway, Borgund stave church and surrounding landscape, 291,000 LEGO bricks
A380, worlds largest passenger aircraft, Singapore Airlines. LEGO model wingspan is 320cm, built to a scale of 1:25. 75,000 LEGO bricks
Dybbol Mill, a Danish national monument, 50,000 LEGO bricks
Nybjerg Watermill, 55,000 LEGO bricks
Oil-Rig supply vessel, Model: 410cm in length, 90cm in width, 200kg, 250,000 LEGO bricks, 700 man-hours
The Amalie Gardens, Copenhagen
Braedstrup – experiments in generating solar power on the roofs of private homes, and site of a huge solar thermal collector that produces hot water for the district
And then, I haven’t even gotten to the Star Wars section of miniland. Boy, this post could go on forever. I hope you are having as much fun as I am. There was a scene from every Star Wars Episode including all the new and old movies. It was incredibly detailed and very cool to see all the LEGO models of the movie sets and characters.
Around the corner, was also a huge model of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Wow, talk about detailed. The huge vehicle assembly building was modeled, as were the tourist areas. Rockets were modeled on exhibit for the tourists. I’m sure there was a model for each rocket at Kennedy Space Center. There was even a passenger bus and an awning over several benches for tourists to sit and wait. Even the ticket booths to get in were detailed out including the line numbers and everything. The most impressive LEGO model was that of the launch pad and space shuttle components used to launch human space missions. The animation for this exhibit included a countdown and then a lot of smoke for the blast off, though the shuttle didn’t actually leave the launch pad. This was one of those exhibits that was way more impressive in person that it is to explain in words. =)
And, I think I’ve about covered all or most of miniland. It seemed like as we walked around something more amazing would be discovered around the corner. We couldn’t get enough of it and we spent most of the day here.
We did venture into the rest of the park, though. We skipped over Duploland with it’s mini rides and games for toddlers and moved on through the rest of the park with it’s rides and rollercoasters. Of course LEGO sculptures were everywhere. Each ride had its own LEGO models, usually of LEGO mini-figurines, though they were life-sized. There were models of dragons, and dogs, and life-sized pirates. There was a rock wall and depicted in the wall was a facade of buffaloes running from Native Americans hunting on horseback. It was all very amazing and grand. Plus it’s just fun to walk through an area where life sized LEGO figures of Indian Jones is battling an enemy on a rope bridge. While we were in line for the rides, we would walk past all kinds of LEGO models of ride-related material. One of the more popular things for the kids to do while in line for a ride was to visit a Duplo big of legos in the middle of the line. The parents would wait in line and spiral around the children in the center, building to their hearts content, until it was time to get on the ride and they would call to their kids. Pretty neat idea.
We rode a few rollercoasters and I realized I haven’t been to a theme park like this in years and years. I used to be an avid rollercoaster fan and now I was standing in line for one in the first time in well over 5 years. But we can set that counter to zero again because we had fun on the thrill rides even riding multiple times since the lines were not so long. There was one ride that was fun. We jumped in moving cars and traveled around a track with a gun poised at the ready. The track took us through LEGO scenes filled with multi-colored lights. Our job was to aim and shoot at all the lights. Lights of different colors were different points, and at the end of the ride, you had your car number and it told you how many points you got. We went on many times trying to increase our score. At the exit it even told us what the high score of the day was so we knew what the goal was. =)
We stopped to watch one show. We were a little curious what language the show was going to be in, but as it turned out it didn’t matter. The whole show was done in pantomime and was a very very silly show. Very very silly. We had a lot of fun watching. Eventually, though, we had our fill and the final task was to shop in the largest LEGO store on Earth. For some reason the store was divided into two sides with the cashiers in the middle. So to change sides, you had to check out. That was odd, but it was really neat to be in a massive LEGO store. Of course it was full of the normal brick playsets you see everywhere. But what you don’t see everywhere is full aisles of bins filled with LEGO mini-figurine parts. You could build your own LEGO-guys from the face, to the hair, to the shirt, the pants, and even an accessory to hold. Neat. Also, there was a whole wall devoted to individual bins of every LEGO piece you might want. Simply grab a bag and fill it with your own choice of LEGO bricks and then pay by weight. Neat, again.
The rest of the evening was much less exciting. We went back to the hotel and checked into our room. There really isn’t much in the area to walk to other than LEGOland, and a place called Lalandia. Lalandia had a hotel and an indoor waterpark, but it also had a Las Vegas-style indoor mall with plenty of places to eat.
And that’s it for our visit to LEGOLAND. What an amazing day. I’m sure I didn’t cover it all, but I think you get the gist. Congratulations if you’ve made it down this far. I know this was a long post. Tomorrow we will head back to Copenhagen, pack up, and the next day we start the journey back home. It has been a wonderful vacation.