Reply To: Germany, Berlin + Munich w/12y-o in w/c, no ADLs

  • duxinco

    January 26, 2019 at 5:32 am

    We did it! We went this past November and Berlin was fantastic, by far our preferred city of the two.


    I am a natural nervous nellie, and it has stood me in good stead on behalf of our youngest child. But for Accessible transportation in Berlin it was so easy to find, so easy to navigate, it turns out I needed to have done no pre- research, no nervous nellie-isms. Seriously — Piece. Of. Cake.


    We flew United Air from the US (where we live) to TXL; we always roll our son up to the entrance to the plane where we get him out of his (foldable) w/c into an airline narrow aisle chair. His dad accompanies him while I fold the chair. We nearly always get his chair back right at the plane’s entrance when we land, but not this time. Instead, a lovely airport employee wanted to put our small son into one of those ubiquitous, generic airport w/cs (with no restraints, which our son requires). But we had to comply as for some reason our son’s w/c was over in baggage claim.


    Our hotel was amazing on every single front, and I would, without hesitation, recommend it to any- and everyone. We stayed at Downtown Apartments Berlin in Mitte, with a tram stop literally in front of the hotel entrance and S-Bahn Nordbahnhof (again literally) across the street; kitty korner was a bus stop. On the same street to the west (two tram stops, I think) was Hauptbahnhof (main train station), closer to the hotel (maybe two blocks) was the elevator entrance to the U-Bahn Naturkundemuseum station. On the same street but in the other direction (so to the east of the hotel) was a large, terrifically stocked grocery store, Rewe. Around the corner was the totally worth-it Berlin Wall Memorial, and right in the hotel’s backyard was a park. The location was superb. The hotel is a boutique hotel, I guess, because it’s not enormous. The entrance is w/c Accessible, all the floors are smooth and the hallways broad, and it has a good-size elevator. It also has numerous washers and (ventless) dryers in the basement, Accessible by elevator (or stair). We stayed in not their largest but maybe their medium-size suite: roll-in shower (although our kiddo has no ADLs so would be unable to bathe himself, and we prefer tub bathing for him — I think some of their rooms may offer a tub, so do ask if that’s also what you need). The front staff was exceptionally kind, and their English superb.


    Because of the hotel’s location we could only take a direct bus from TXL (no direct train), but it was kinds crowded and with all our luggage and being so tired it was an easy choice to just take a taxi.  It was 25 euro for that ride, and worth every penny.


    I had downloaded umpteen Berlin apps on my phone and pretty much used none of them: we found google maps to met our needs. Additionally, we really like walking, and Berlin is compact enough and so, so pedestrian / w/c friendly it made walking a breeze. Now, that’s not to say we didn’t also take full advantage of public transport: sure did! We only encountered one broken elevator, so we just walked a little bit to the next elevator and were able to hop on.


    When we were in the “hip” Kreuzberg area to eat (and boy did we eat in Berlin!), some of the cafes had a couple of steps to enter but they also had the universal w/c decal in their windows. Some of the cafes had portable ramps they could put out, while others would meet you around the back. My favorite place was Voner, a vegan doner restaurant. So delicious!


    Every tourist spot we hit was Accessible and accommodating. We toured the Reichstag and its beautiful glass dome houses a very reasonable ramp.


    Before leaving the US for this trip we purchased / printed the Berlin Welcome Card and used it just for transportation and it was fantastic.


    Anyway: LOVED Berlin. Loved it. Would recommend visiting it all, regardless of mobility.


    We took the ICE train down to Munich. First, I found the Barrier Free office of Deutsche Bahn to be very hit or miss (more miss) when it comes to being helpful. I’d booked our tickets well in advance (because I wanted the w/c spot for our son and I wanted the rest of us to sit right next to him). As of our trip the w/c spots could not be booked online, only over the phone, so that’s what I did. However, after being on hold for one hour and forty minutes on the Special Assistance line (I tried multiple times — this was not a one-off but the time I mention was the longest I was on hold as it was the first time I called — the subsequent calls I hung up after thirty minutes) I gave up and just called the regular number and found its staff to be helpful and expedient. I will also say the staff at Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof was very, very helpful and kind, although English was hard to find, fyi.


    Munich’s public transportation was the antithesis of Berlin. It was horrible. Its staff didn’t know where the elevators were, couldn’t locate them on the maps (and I had to ask for help as I also couldn’t locate the elevators as shown on the maps!), and 8/10 times the elevators were broken. We were there for just a few days and I was furious; thinking of the people who live there and are regularly screwed by Munich’s horrendously inAccessible transportation made me nearly apoplectic. We also found its buses to be hit-or-miss. So while as a tourist Munich the city itself was charming, I must confess that the inAccessible public transportation definitely negatively colored my husband’s and my opinions on the city. Wait: the staff in Munich’s Hauptbahnhof luggage storage were very helpful. Very. (The taxis were also horrible and refused to even allow us to lift / transfer our son into the car and fold his chair. So rude and bigoted!)


    Here’s one example: you take the elevator down and board the train. When the train arrives at the station, a recording in both German and English comes on telling you to exit to the right. So we did. Only (and this is true at multiple stations) there is no elevator on the right, only stairs: there is only an elevator on the boarding side. But the recordings don’t say that. Nowhere on the train itself / in the platforms does it state that. So you get off on the right, only to wait for the next train to arrive so you can push everybody on it aside so you can cross over. Ridiculous and so very stupid.


    Dachau, both the train to its station and then the bus to the site, was very Accessible. (The site is horribly depressing.) The disabled bathroom at the site’s visitor center was nice and big and locked: you have to request the key at the front desk.


    We drank fabulous hot chocolate in Munich, and of course its glockenspiel in Marienplatz is lovely. The Hofbrauhuas was very Accessible and vegetarian (though not vegan) friendly. We evidently got extremely lucky as we had the nicest waiter: his father is Turkish and his mother Spanish (though I may have that backward) and was raised in Germany. His English was superb, and he was just nice as could be. When we first entered we could see there were some surly waiters, but for whatever reason we just got lucky! We were told by others (locals, ex-pats, and tourists) that the Hofbrauhaus is known for its rude waiters, and those we told about our waiter expressed shock (and delight).


    We chose to take the train to the (Munich) airport, not an airport bus, and it was the right choice (easy, since by this point we knew were to find elevators in Munich’s Hauptbahnhof). not to mess around with lifting / transferring our son on and off a bus. We found Munich’s airport to not only be very easy to navigate (and HUGE), but also very, very accommodating / eager to help us. All the staff we encountered there were kind — no complaints from us. Oh, and the specialty bathrooms were large and easy for us to provide personal care. No changing tables (miss you, Japan!), though.


    We flew from Munich to Egypt, and our time in Egypt transformed our lives (for the better). I know this is not germane to this post nor to this forum, but nowhere in the world has our beautiful son (and our family) been treated with such kindness, such love, such generosity as we were in Egypt. By and large the Egyptian Muslims went out of their way to be kind to / help our son. Many of the buildings had no elevator, and never, never, never once did we have to ask for help. Not one time. People just appeared out of nowhere to grab a leg of my son’s w/c and carry him up and down. This was not just in Cairo, but all up the Nile. Heavily armed security guards, burqa-ed women, poor souvenir hawkers, all would come over to kiss my son’s head, or kiss their palm and rub my son’s head. As we have often found in Western countries (notably our own country of the USA), in Egypt our son was NEVER ignored, NEVER treated as a thing, something at whom to sneer or hold in contempt. Again, by and large the Egyptian Muslims looked at our son with love. While I speak Arabic (not perfectly, but pretty well) I have never studied Islam or the Qu’ran, so did not realize the beauty of the Muslim view of people with disabilities, particularly children. That love and kindness will stop your heart and start it again it is so beautiful.


    But that’s a different story.


    So this was our trip to Germany. I was and remain so grateful to this incredible website and this forum for allowing me to ask, and the abundance of terrific and helpful answers I received. You all are miracle workers. Thank you.

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