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

  • Germany, Berlin + Munich w/12y-o in w/c, no ADLs

    Posted by duxinco on July 18, 2018 at 4:42 am

    Guten tag!

    In November of this year, my family of four (one teen, one pre-teen, two parents) will be going to Germany for a week — first to Berlin and then taking the train down to Munich.

    My heart outside my body (aka my 12 year-old son) is multiply, profoundly disabled, medically fragile / complex, etc. He is in an appropriately-sized stroller chair (as he is absolutely unable to participate in his mobility, trusted adults push the chair for him and arrange the tilt / supports as necessary) which I always make a point of saying “IT’S A WHEELCHAIR! He’s not a baby, he’s a young man.” (He is 4’8″, after all.) We have gotten pushback about it being a stroller … but how many strollers are carrying a big kid and have red Transit latches on it? Also, how many strollers cost more than my mortgage?

     

    I had had a wonderful back-and-forth email exchange with the Barrierefrei office within DeutscheBahn (to secure a rollstuhl and companion seat and any assistance necessary within the stations themselves) until they got weird (my opinion): they wanted me to email my credit card number, just email, not secure, so I said I would call. They emailed back that the people who answer the phone don’t speak English, so they would call me. But they didn’t call, so I called the DB office and with my pidgin German and the rep’s much better English we were able to secure the necessary tickets and reservation for assistance (evidently there are steps up which my son in his chair must be carried).

     

    But now I keep getting rude emails from the BFDB office. At least, *in English* to *this English speaker’s eyes* they read as rude. Whatever, I’ve got the tickets, so that’s good.

     

    In Berlin (three full days) we’re planning on doing a walking tour — usual suspects. Our hotel is in Mitte. We are excellent, strong walkers, both because that’s just who we are but also sometimes (often) it can be hard to find Accessible entrances to public transport, so we have to walk. So I’m hoping with our good location and maybe utilizing city buses we’ll be okay. ??? Must do more research.

     

    In Munich (early evening first day, two full days, 2/3 final day) we’ll also do a walking tour (our hotel is off the Marienplatz) and then a day trip to Dachau. I’ll need to investigate the train stations’ (both Munich and Dachau’s) Accessibility, as well as within Dachau itself. I’m wondering if I should also plan on us visiting at least one schloss (Neuschwanstein,  Nymphenburg, Herrnchiemsee)? Probably not enough time for that.

     

    (From Munich we fly down to Egypt, so this German trip is pure serendipity. Flying from where we are in the US our sole connection is through Munich, so I said: “hey, if we’re going to fly in and out of Germany, then let’s also SEE Germany,” so it’s not a comprehensive trip (plus I can’t afford that, neither in time nor $$$).

     

    What else: personal care (diapering). My husband (children’s father) and I like to work together to do a standing change on our son, and I have to say we were spoiled ROTTEN last month in Japan, which has the world’s most incredible Universal Restrooms. Holy cow were they insanely terrific.

     

    I am a strict vegetarian, my eldest a flexi-tarian (mostly veg, but will eat some white meat, no fish, no red meat), my husband is an omnivore and our youngest is a pretty good eater, just can’t eat spicy food and sometimes has Sensory issues. But of the four of us it turns out I am the biggest (food) impediment ….

     

    I am my youngest son’s nurse (I left my career to become his full-time carer and got my nursing degree because of the level of care he requires and deserves). He is one of the four most important members of our family. Many people express (negative) judgment and shock that we travel as a foursome, that he comes with us. First, we didn’t have kids so as to go off without them. Additionally, it would never occur to me to relegate one of my beloved family members to “not-so-important” status. While my son is severely I/DD (Intellectually / Developmentally Disabled), who is to say he doesn’t get a lot from our trips? It means something to him to feel different textures, either with the palm of his left hand (his dominant side) and / or with his mouth. When we visited The Alamo in Texas (USA) he loved it when I s-l-o-w-l-y pushed his w/c past the gorgeous limestone walls and he could run his left palm along it, feeling, absorbing. It means something to connect with people like us, but elsewhere. In a ramen shop in Hiroshima (Japan) a Japanese grandma came over and couldn’t get over how cute my son is, just oohing and aahing over him. She didn’t care that he couldn’t respond (global aphasia) or was in a chair: she merely saw “adorable young man.” But most of all, it just wouldn’t be a family thing if he weren’t there.

     

    If people have any tips / suggestions / recommendations for any- / every- thing Berlin and Munich, I would totally welcome those! I pick up my German classes again next month.  (I took a few months hiatus, which means so did my abilities.) I am studying mostly to learn how to talk around all-things my son (wheelchair, elevator, ramp, help, seizures, diapering), but also to be respectful to the country and culture we’re visiting.

     

    Wish us luck.

     

    TabiFolk replied 3 years, 8 months ago 6 Members · 12 Replies
  • 12 Replies
  • TabiFolk

    Organizer
    July 18, 2018 at 10:17 am

    Hello,

    There seems to be some good info on accessibility in Berlin here: https://www.visitberlin.de/en/accessible-berlin?tid=5259

    And even a list of accessible toilets in Berlin: http://www.mobidat.net/fileadmin/user_upload/Downloads/wall_city_toileten.pdf (only German?)

    Can’t seem to find as much on Munich…

    Maybe some European friends like @Kamil, @Maria, @roomchooser or @hfbnetherlands have been?

    • maria

      Member
      July 18, 2018 at 5:37 pm

      Hi 🙂

      I am afraid I cannot be of any help, as I ‘ve never been in Germany so far :p

  • TabiFolk

    Organizer
    July 18, 2018 at 10:32 am

    Here is so transportation info for Munich: https://www.muenchen.de/int/en/traffic/physically-challenged.html

    Never been, but I love looking stuff up!  So if you decide on a few places you might want to go, I can help search!

  • duxinco

    Member
    July 18, 2018 at 10:49 am

    You are incredible! What gifts you’ve given me with these links — thank you so very much. I am looking forward to reading them with a big cup of tea. And some chocolate, because that is just how I like to do things ’round here. (and by “’round here” I mean any- and everywhere)

     

    Your comment that you love looking stuff up made me think of the inside of joke of research librarians everywhere: “You cannot un-ask a research librarian a question.” I wonder if we were to unspool your DNA it might spell l-i-b-r-a-r-i-a-n ….

     

    We had a hard-ish day here (seizures and stuff), so you will just have to take my word for it that reading your helpful posts this evening has definitely made this day better.

     

    I will also post back after I’ve reached out to the walking tours (in both Berlin and Munich) to see what insight they might be able to share on Accessibility.

     

    Oh! Here is the link I found useful for German trains (DeutscheBahn):

    https://www.bahn.de/p/view/service/barrierefrei/uebersicht.shtml

    and then their page specifically for “handicapped people”:

    https://www.bahn.de/p/view/service/barrierefrei/gehbehindert.shtml

     

    Thank you again, kind ATF Admin!

  • TabiFolk

    Organizer
    July 18, 2018 at 11:03 am

    I really do enjoy it, as much as helping people.

    Finally found something for Munich (from the city) as a small link at the end of their city guide: https://www.muenchen-tourismus-barrierefrei.de/en/

    Hopefully it will be useful!

  • Kamil

    Member
    July 19, 2018 at 11:38 pm

    Hi! I have been twice in Germany but not in Berlin or Munich. I have been to Hamburg and Dusseldorf. Germany is in general a very accessible country, so you shouldn’t have any issues with the basic things. I have also used the train. It’s accessible of course, but you have to pre-notify them, so they bring the lift for the stairs.

  • weekender

    Member
    July 25, 2018 at 12:02 am

    Hi!

     

    I recently visited Berlin as a manual wheelchair user and wrote a few posts on my blog, this one on the transport options in the city may be of most use to you – https://www.weekender.blog/2018/07/03/berlin-rail-travel/

    David

  • TabiFolk

    Organizer
    July 25, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    Great info!  I’m sure it will help @duxinco

  • TabiFolk

    Organizer
    January 9, 2019 at 3:39 pm

    @duxinco How did things turn out in Germany?

    Any tips for us?

  • duxinco

    Member
    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.

  • TabiFolk

    Organizer
    January 26, 2019 at 11:02 am

    Thank you so much!  This was really eyeopening and informative!  It is amazing how different two cities in the same country can be…

    Can you please share your Egypt story in the Middle East forum?  Please!  Love your detail!

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