Somewhere in western Germany, on an otherwise unassuming hill, sits a rollercoaster that looks nothing short of spectacular. The shining metal it’s made from, which glistens in the sun, twists, turns and loops. But despite its thrilling appearance this ride won’t terrify you, and there’s a very unusual reason why.
The structure, which consists of shiny zinc and steel, doesn’t appear to cover that much ground. But if you look closely you notice that, with its sharp veering curves and big loop-the-loop, this coaster looks like it’s made for speed.
Tiger and Turtle Magic Mountain is the name of the ride, which is located in the city of Duisburg. It opened in fall 2011 and in its first six months attracted more than a quarter of a million visitors.
The structure, which is almost 70 feet high, sits atop the tallest point inside Duisburg’s Angerpark. Those who ride it are afforded superb views of the city’s industrial heritage.
Tiger and Turtle Magic Mountain symbolizes a city that’s faced twists and turns as its steel industry has, since the 1960s, gradually declined. It’s now reinventing itself as a city of culture; a destination that’s worth visiting.
This emphasis on culture is reflected in the rollercoaster, which almost looks like a huge piece of contemporary art. And in truth it kind of is.
That’s because Tiger and Turtle Magic Mountain isn’t technically a rollercoaster. Sure, the design and structure are there for all to see – but this is a ride that you can’t, well, ride.
Rather, it’s one that you can walk. Tiger and Turtle Magic Mountain, instead of rails, has steps. This means that visitors can walk the rollercoaster at their leisure rather than hurtle around it at breakneck speed.
When the hill is taken into account the rollercoaster is almost 150 feet high. From up there it’s possible to see beyond Duisburg’s city boundaries and into the wider Western Ruhr region.
Tiger and Turtle Magic Mountain’s walkway is accessed via a ground-level opening. Here visitors begin their ascent up the winding stairs that make up the coaster’s “tracks.”
The unique walkway was designed by Ulrich Genth and Heike Mutter, artists that specialize in public artworks and sculptures. Each piece they create is designed with the immediate landscape in mind.
Genth and Mutter couldn’t, unfortunately, replicate everything from an actual rollercoaster. If visitors were to walk Tiger and Turtle Magic Mountain then they obviously couldn’t complete the loop-the-loop without falling off.
Tiger and Turtle Magic Mountain came about after the Ruhr region, inclusive of Duisburg, was named a European Capital of Culture in 2010. It was recognition of the fact that the Ruhr no longer relied on heavy industry and had instead embraced a more cultural outlook.
The fact that the rollercoaster is made from steel and zinc is no accident. Before Angerpark was turned into a public space it accommodated a facility that produced zinc. Meanwhile Krupp Mannesmann, a steel production company, is still based in Duisburg.
From the top of the rollercoaster industrial remnants like blast furnaces, steelworks and docks can be seen. These landmarks show that Duisburg is clearly proud of its past despite looking towards the future.
It’s not just Tiger and Turtle Magic Mountain’s design that represents the city’s journey; so too does its name. The tiger represents raw power and pace; the turtle a more leisurely approach to life – which is a bit like the rollercoaster, which looks exhilarating but is actually explored at walking pace.
The structure is open 24 hours a day, unless the weather’s bad. At night it’s beautifully illuminated by brilliantly white lights that run along the walkway. When seen from a distance there’s no doubt the rollercoaster is an engineering triumph.
Tiger and Turtle Magic Mountain took two months to build. At over $2 million it certainly wasn’t cheap, but such an iconic addition to the Duisburg skyline – one that can be freely explored – is surely priceless.
Genth and Mutter may not be from Duisburg – they both live in Hamburg – but they’ve certainly left their mark on a city that’s embraced their work. To realize this most unusual of sculptures they also enlisted the help of Arnold Walz, a Stuttgart-based architect.
Tiger and Turtle Magic Mountain – which has been described by the local mayor as “a strong symbol of the city and its future” – will no doubt be perched upon its Duisburg hilltop for many years to come. And while it won’t terrify visitors it will certainly thrill them.