My husband and I took his 84 year old mother on a 9 day trip last December to Munich, Salzburg, Vienna and Bratislava. She’s wheelchair-bound except for small steps using a walker (or rollator as they call it in Europe). She’s also overweight and suffers from painful arthritic spinal degeneration. But her family heritage is Slovakian and she wanted to see Slovakia, at least the capital Bratislava, before she dies. So we took her. We learned a lot about disability traveling in Germany, Austria and Slovakia, and the bottom line is that it can be done. Not only that, it is fun and totally worthwhile.
The key, of course, is preparation. And, no surprise, the web is crammed with valuable information—both Vienna and Salzburg, for instance have online city guides listing accessibility data for hundreds of public places. Once on the ground, we found the cobblestones not as bad as expected, and even without formal ADA curbcuts, the curbs were so worn down by centuries of use that we had no trouble piloting the wheelchair wherever we wanted to go. We were able to attend holiday musical events and trolled the wonderful outdoor Christmas markets with ease.
Everyone was helpful. Tiny restaurants were eager to find places to stash the wheelchair while we indulged in whipped-cream laden pastries, chocolates and coffee. In Salzburg, we wanted to go to an ancient pub that was down a long, steep flight of stairs. Seeing our situation, the staff cheerfully led us around to the kitchen elevator and we enjoyed a wonderfully atmospheric meal, thanks to their helpfulness. (That evening, we truly lived Rick Steve’s motto: Europe Through The Back Door!)
For the full story, and a list of tips, see my blog at www.kitbakke.com. Submitted by Kit in Seattle