For this year’s summer holiday we decided to go somewhere different. I must say that it already took me out of my comfort zone during the preparations. Even when booking I couldn’t rely on my favourite foreign languages: French and English. And a lot went wrong beforehand this time. First I found out after mailing with a Spa resort for months that after all that I couldn’t bring my husband along, because although they had accessible rooms, actually having someone in a wheelchair coming to the hotel was a problem. After that, the holiday cottage I had booked for a week in the middle of our trip was sold, so our booking was cancelled just a few months before we were due to leave. To top all that off, my husband was admitted to hospital a week before the holiday.
In the end we set off as intended mid June. Stop for petrol fairly soon after crossing the border into Germany, and then again shortly after that for a lunch in a roadside restaurant. Most reststops in Germany have plenty of disabled parking and disabled toilets. If you don’t have your own Eurokey for the toilet there is usually an attendant close by to open the door for you.
As we don’t have too far to go this first day, we have plenty of time for a little detour, although I hadn’t planned one for this day. So when I see the name Dillenburg on the Road signs I decide to get off the Motorway to visit this castle where the ancestor of the Dutch Royal family was born. Not planned, so no idea if it was accessible or not. The castle was situated on a hill above the town. I find a parking not too far from the castle but decide to explore on my own. I see there are parking places closer to the castle but don’t manage to get there in the car, so my husband decides that seeing my pictures will be enough for him.
After this little interlude we drive on to Frankfurt where I had booked a room in a B&B hotel, a chain of budget hotels we know well from our travels to France. I had booked it in March, so you can image my surprise when I found out when checking in that there was a problem: the room I had booked for two was actually a single room! Apparently it is quite usual in Germany to only have a single room being made wheelchair accessible. Don’t know how others solve that when they need a carer’s help. Fortunately the manager behind the desk manages to find me another room in one of the other B&B hotels in Frankfurt that is a double, and still available. After all that I miss the exit on the Motorway and have to drive a lot further, so in the end it is still fairly late when we finally get to our hotelroom. As expected from a budget hotel, the room is not extremely large and luxurious, but perfectly acceptable. On the ground floor (but parking is in the basement with a lift to all floors), with two single beds, which makes access with a wheelchair easier. Bathroom with roll in shower, and grabrails everywhere with enough room to manoeuvre with the wheelchair.
Next morning we don’t take breakfast in the hotel, but set off immediately and get some coffee and croissants at the petrol station nearby. The first bit of Motorway, between Frankfurt and Würzburg is quite busy, and there are a lot of road works making traffic even more busy. But the weather is nice and we enjoy the countryside. Today we have planned a stop around lunchtime, in the historical town of Regensburg. The disabled parking spots I locate in the town centre are all occupied so we find a parking spot in a garage.
Regensburg is a historical town, so loads of cobblestones. Accessibility is not helped by the fact that there are a lot of road works in the city centre. However, we have a nice walk around the centre, visit the cathedral, have some coffee and cake in the sun and then walk to the Danube where there is an old stone bridge which stood model for the famous Charles Bridge in Prague.
After this short break we continue our trip. We stay off the Motorway and take a more scenic route into the Bavarian Woods area to our first destination: a village called Bodenmais. We are staying in a B&B called Landhaus Meine Auszeit. What a place it is! Large room, large bathroom, very flexible in the furnishings so you can move everything according to your needs. Extremely friendly and helpful hosts, gorgeous breakfast, great views. The downside of the views is that the road leading to the guesthouse and up to the parking lot is quite steep. This means you always have to take the car if you want to go somewhere, although I have heard some people in powerchairs manage to get up and down the slope. From the parking lot to the entrance of the guesthouse there is a platform lift and you get your own manual and remote control for the lift.
The lift brings you to the terrace just outside the accessible room, which has double doors out to the terrace. There is also a ramp to the front door around the corner. Weather permitting it is possible to eat breakfast on the terrace with the added bonus of the great views over the valley and the village. Otherwise there is a large breakfast room which is right next door to the accessible room. When you enter the room from the hallway you get to a small ante room with a coat rack and space to store things.There also are plugs to recharge powerchairs or mobility scooters. From this ante room there is a sliding door to the rather luxurious bathroom with plenty of space. There is a roll in shower with grabrails on either side of the corner and a small fold-up seat which can be moved to another position, although a shower chair could be provided. The shower curtain can be moved completely out of the way to help acarer. The wash basin is nice and flat with grabrails on either side, and a good mirror and lighting. The toilet has room on either side for a wheelchair and fold-up grabrails on either side. The toilet is at a nice height too, and you can comfortably lean back (without setting off the flushing system) if sitting longer is a problem. The other door leads to the bedroom, which is normally furnished with two beds which are at a comfortable height for us (I manually transfer my husband from his chair to the bed), but which might be a bit high for people with smaller wheelchairs. The beds are very comfortable and we are provided with plenty of pillows. It is possible to have one of the beds replaced by a profiling bed, when mentioned at time of booking. Hoists can similarly be provided on previous request. There is plenty of room for a wheelchair on either side of the bed, but yet again the set up is very flexible and the hosts will gladly move anything. On the other side of the room enough cupboards to put away clothing so you can sit comfortably.
Although the village is a popular tourist attraction and quite busy during the day it wasvery quiet at night so both of us slept like a log the first night. But not before we had a lovely dinner. After driving a long way, walking around Regensburg and moving all the luggage up on the lift I didn’t really fancy getting hubby back on the lift, in the car to drive to a restaurant, eat and drive back and again on the lift. The hosts come up with a great solution. A restaurant nearby has their menu on the website. We choose something from that menu, our order is phoned in to the restaurant. Half an hour later I drive down to the restaurant with some plates, and back to the B&B with the full plates where we enjoy a great dinner on the terrace.
Every morning breakfast is a feast. Great choice of breads, fruits, meats, cheeses, yoghurts, cereals, and always a freshly homebaked bit of pastry. A table close to the buffet with room enough to get the wheelchair close by is reserved for us, and if we choose to have breakfast outside, everything is moved to a table of our choice. During breakfast one of the hosts drops by, always full of suggestions of things you can do that day, including information about the accessibility, disabled parking etc.
For the first few days of our holiday we were really looking for some peace and quiet, to relax and recharge. This really was a perfect place to do just that. We do go out and see some of the surrounding area and the attractions, but also spend quite some time at the guesthouse, either inside or out. Free coffee and tea are available all day in the breakfast room, other drinks are available in a little kitchenette area by the front door which is available to guests with an honesty system payable when you check out. There are no cooking facilities, but a table to sit down, cupboards full with cups, glasses and plates, a fridge to keep some personal things and a wash basin to wash up.
Of course we visit the town where we are staying. There are disabled parking spots dotted all over town. However, some planning is necessary. The town centre is on top of a hill, and one side of that hill is too steep for wheelchairs. In the centre are some nice bars and restaurants and the local church. Most shops are further down the hill towards the train station. The pavement is fairly flat, but the roads around the central square are all cobbled. Another thing not to miss when visiting this area is all the glass-producers. There are countless larger and smaller shops selling the local glass. Some of the larger shops also have demonstrations of how the glass is made, or workshops where you can make something yourself, or a museum.
But a bigger attraction around here is nature. On a sunny and warm afternoon we drive to Bayerisch Eisenstein where we take the Gondola lift to the top of the Grosser Arber mountain. Accessibility is reasonably well provided, although not very well signposted. There is a lift from the parking area to the gondola. At the gondola there is a separate entrance for disabled people and people with pushchairs. You ring the bell, someone opens the gate and then helps you with the gondola. One of the gondolas is stopped, the seating benches folded up, a ramp put in the entrance and the wheelchair is pushed inside. After that there is a little room left for a second person, especially if the wheelchair is quite big as my husband’s is. Once you get to the top of the mountain the same happens automatically in reverse order. Outside the views over the surrounding area is magnificent. There is a walkway to a viewing platform, and from there you can take a lift down to a plateau where the restaurant is. Because the weather was so nice there were so many walkers that the terrace was quite full, and we could only find a place at a table on the outside in the full sun. Not all terraces were accessible either, but we had a great time. There are disabled toilets in the station of the Gondola lift.
Another day we went into the Bavarian Woods National Park for a treetop walk. Again very accessible and very enjoyable, up to a point (that was the point where my vertigo flared up!). Loads to see and do. You could easily spend a whole day here. The only thing I found puzzling was why the disabled parking bays where situated furthest from the entrance. However, parking was free with a blue badge.