March 5, 2024

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Two episodes, countless G-forces and a bunch of broken vocal cords later, we were back at the station with floppy armpits.

Two episodes, countless G-forces and a bunch of broken vocal cords later, we were back at the station with floppy armpits.

Megacities provide shelter to a growing portion of the world's population. How do people maintain a livable life there? Reporters report weekly from their major city. This week: Jaron Camforst in Georgia.

Jaron Kamphorst

In the Soviet Union, almost every self-respecting city had an amusement park. Although maybe amusement park is a strong word. Previously, in most cases it was a glorified exhibition. A place with a few squeaky rides where the smell of cotton candy was constantly in the air.

What's called Garden Cooling Tour It was more or less a showcase for communist utopia: a place where the good life of the Soviet citizen was on display. Proletarian fun designed on the Bolshevik drawing board.

By far the most popular Garden Cooling Tour It is located in Moscow and opened in 1928. Visitors can spin on the Ferris wheel in Gorky Park, feel like children on a merry-go-round or float on the canopy tower. It was a welcome distraction from the dreary Soviet existence. A mirage of freedom and happiness in a self-proclaimed workers' paradise.

It didn't take long for theme parks to launch across the country. Attractions made of scrap metal were built in the most unimaginable corners of the Soviet Empire. In addition to wobbly Ferris wheels, questionable rollercoasters, and squeaky merry-go-rounds, there were often rocket-shaped installations to admire the successes of the Soviet Union's space program.

After the collapse of the power bloc, many parks fell into disrepair. Others underwent transformation after simple but much-needed reforms, transforming them from an antiquated proletarian paradise into a semi-modern proletarian paradise based on Western examples. But they have not disappeared from the public space: in countless places in Russia;

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Georgia and Armenia I've seen a theme park pop up in the most random locations.

This is also the case in Tbilisi. Where, thanks to a billionaire benefactor, a new amusement park was built on top of the city's highest mountain at the beginning of this century: Mtatsminda Park. Although the new Mtatsminda Park also exudes old Soviet fun. It still reeks of artificial happiness, and above all the attractions are of questionable quality as before.

I recently visited the exhibition with a friend. In a reckless mood, we climbed aboard the roller coaster, the paint of which was slowly peeling off like shed snakeskin, revealing rust spots. When we got to the giant, we were told that we would have to wait for four more passengers before we could board it.

We weren't told why, but the two fire trucks parked underneath the roller coaster didn't leave much to the imagination. And the shoulder supports that were supposed to protect us from gravity weren't very reassuring. The brackets are not installed automatically, but are installed between the occupants' legs with the seat belt.

Before we knew it, the trembling chain pulled our train up. At the highest point just before the free fall, we looked at each other for a moment with a look that was somewhere between excitement and pure fear. “It's a beautiful view,” I said before we landed.

After two loops, countless G-forces and a bunch of broken vocal cords, we entered the station with flailing armpits. The roller coaster employee was waiting for us with a big smile. “These fire trucks are there because we're going to draw the roller coaster,” he said, seeming to enjoy the near-death experience on our faces. “After all, we no longer live here in the Soviet Union.”

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