On the road

For the second leg of our tour we travel on from Germany to Austria, crossing the border near Passau. The old centre of Passau is located on an island in the Danube. As the roads into the centre are quite steep and cobbled, we just make a quick stop on the Danube quai. After that we drive on to a restaurant just outside the town with lovely views over Passau and the Danube. It is lovely sunny and quite warm so we can sit outside, but have to share our table with other guests.
Although the restaurant claims to be barrierfree, the toilets may not have too many barriers, but are still not wheelchair accessible. When I finally manage to get the wheelchair to the toilet, the door isn’t wide enough and the wheelchair would have to stay out in the hall if I could have managed to transfer my husband to the toilet through this narrow doorway, where kitchen staff are continuously running backwards and forwards. Fortunately I have my own solution for just such problems…….

We continu our trip through the lovely countryside towards the first of two cities we want to visit:

Salzburg

A few years ago I read an article somewhere on the internet about accessible travel to Salzburg, which was the basis of this tour. Unfortunately, I can’t find the article anymore, but there is a nice website. From the links in the article I chose a hotel with accessible rooms, which seemed to be not too far from the old city centre.

Accommodation

Hotel Zur Post is a very friendly place on a busy road into the city centre. There is a small parking lot next to the hotel, but there are no designated disabled parking spots. Our room is on the ground floor at the rear of the hotel. The room is spacious enough, but I have to move some furniture around to create enough room around the bed for the wheelchair. Fortunately we don’t need a hoist, because there is no room under the bed, as seems to be happening a lot in hotels. The room is not on the sunny side of the hotel, which is fortunate because it starts to get quite hot while we are in Salzburg.

The bathroom is quite adequate with a toilet with grabrails, a roll in shower, and an accessible washbasin. However, the mirror above the washbasin is too high for someone in a wheelchair. And to be quite honest, after the bathroom we had in Germany I guess every bathroom was going to be a disappointment. The biggest problem we have with the bathroom is that the door opens towards the bedroom. So I have to open the door completely before I can push the wheelchair in.

We only have breakfast in the hotel once, but that is also because we prefer to just have a cup of coffee with a croissant or something small somewhere in a café, rather than take the more expensive hotel option. Having said that, the breakfast in this hotel was excellent with an extensive buffet, but of course I always have to walk twice to get my husband’s breakfast too.

The hotel reception have a brochure with all information about accessible places in and around Salzburg. We choose some restaurants from this brochure. One of them is a bit outside the city, which means less parking problems. The food is simple, Austrian style, not very expensive and very nice. We enjoy our meals outside there. It should have an accessible toilet inside, but we never needed it, so didn’t try it. The other restaurant is on top of the rock overlooking the old city centre. It can be reached with a lift from one of the parking garages. People in wheelchairs and their carers get a free ticket for the lift. The restaurant was more expensive, and we had to pay for the parking, but the views were absolutely worth it! There definitely is a disabled toilet, but haven’t seen inside.

Excursions

The city centre of Salzburg is basically cut in two by the river running through it. On one side of the river you have the old city centre, the Altstadt, with the cathedral and the castle, and the house where Mozart was born, on the other side of the river the slightly more modern centre, with the Mirabell Palace and  the main shopping streets, and a house where Mozart lived (so not so very modern). Most traffic is excluded from the Altstadt, but with a Eurokey and a Blue Badge, you can get through and try to find one of the disabled parking spots. However I found most were occupied by white vans belonging to shops. Because it was going to be quite hot we had decided not to drive into the city but to park the car in one of the Parking Garages built into the rocks of the Mönchsberg-mountain. Granted, it was not cheap, but at least the car was not boiling hot at the end of the day. Of course we could have tried public transport, but again, not something we fancied in this heat.

Walking around the Altstadt is quite doable, as it is almost flat, but of course as expected there are a lot of cobblestones, making some parts a bit unfriendly on the behind of someone in a wheelchair. There is a steep little ramp to get into the Cathedral, but if you need more room to get inside they are quite willing to help. In the heat we decide against trying to get up to the Castle as most of it is not accessible anyway. We just enjoy the atmosphere of the old squares and streets, and sit down with a drink on one of the terraces.

On the whole, accessibility is well organized, but not so well signposted. This is very obvious our second day in Salzburg when we go across the river to the Mirabell gardens. We find the disabled parking spot easily enough, but finding an accessible entrance to the garden is another story. In the end it is quite close to where we have parked the car, just not signposted. In the summer heat it is lovely to walk around in the gardens and to have a coffee under the trees. However, it was obvious that it is going to be too warm to walk around the city for a second day. So we go to another garden instead, the gardens of Schloss Hellbrunn, just a few miles outside Salzburg, with plenty of parking. Although it is surrounded by hills and mountains, the park is quite flat, with fairly wide paths. This pleasure palace is famous for its trick fountains, but in the heat of the day we don’t fancy walking around in a group. So we only walk around the rest of the park, find the gazebo from the Sound of Music and sit down in the courtyard for another drink and a late lunch. There are disabled toilets in the coachhouse, but we haven’t seen them.

One of the most enjoyable things to do in the heat is driving around in the countryside around Salzburg with the airconditioning on in the car. First we drive up one of the mountains on the eastern side to enjoy the views over Salzburg. Seeing the green fields makes you want to burst out into song: The hills are alive….. After that we drive around three lakes in the Salzkammergut: the Fuschlsee, the Wolfgangsee and the Mondsee. Gorgeous turquoise lakes between the beautiful mountains. One lovely viewpoint after another, no worries about accessibility. We stop for lunch in Sankt Wolfgang, where we have to stay in the centre as the roads towards the lake are a bit too steep.

Moving on, along the Danube

After a few days we move on, further east. We first go towards Linz, where we join the Danube again. We stop for a quick walk around the city centre and a cup of coffee and then continue along the Danube. It might not be very blue, but the views are quite often breathtaking. It is just a bit hard to find places where you can safely stop and take pictures (and not lose too much time). There is a main road which basically follows the river and brings us right to the centre of the next city we want to visit:

 

Vienna

Of course we had to come to Vienna, once we had decided to travel around Central Europe. During preparations I found several blogposts of people visiting Vienna in a wheelchair, so I was confident we would have a good time.

Accommodation

In this case I found a hotel using the search possibility for wheelchair access on Tripadvisor. I wanted to be reasonably close to the Belvedere Palace and not dependant on public transport. From all the possibilities I chose the Hotel Beim Theresianum, which is close to the main train station.

It is around 38 degrees when we arrive at the hotel, so once I have unloaded my husband and all the luggage I am exhausted. Our room is on the ground floor, but on the other side of a courtyard garden, so it is quite a long walk from the entrance of the hotel. There are no luggage trolleys, so I have to carry all the luggage myself. I park the car in the hotel parking which is not easy so I don’t want to have to get the car out again. But the best news: the hotel is completely airconditioned! Even the bedroom. So it is very comfortable in the room, which is a nice size, with plenty of room around the bed. There is even a fridge we can use. There are sliding doors to the courtyard garden, but we are happier in the room than outside. The bathroom is comfortable, with a roll in shower with a glass door, a good size washbasin and toilet with grabrails. The only thing is that the toilet has an automatic flushing system which is set off every time I have to walk around the wheelchair, or when I transfer my husband from the wheelchair to the toilet.

There are several nice little restaurants within walking distance of the hotel, although not all of them are wheelchair accessible, as there is more than one step to get in. We eat near the hotel twice, and once in the city centre.

Excursions

There is so much to see and do in Vienna, but as we only have two days here we start with a walk around the city centre. To get here we walk down the hill from our hotel. Nice wide sidewalks and plenty of dropped curbs at the street corners. At the bottom of the hill is Karlsplatz, so that gets us right in the centre of things to see. We just walk around the sights which is quite enough for a first day. Walking around the Hofburg Palace we suddenly get caught in a tropical thunderstorm. I guess that was to be expected with the temperatures they are. Sun one minute, heavy rain the next. Fortunately some nice tourists hold a big umbrella over us while I dig up our ponchos and make sure we are covered. Five minutes later the sun is out again. We stop for a cup of coffee and then visit the butterfly house in the gardens of the Hofburg. They ask for proof of handicap to be eligible for the discounted entry. Apparently just being in a wheelchair is not enough. Unfortunately the card that counts as proof is only available to Austrian and German disabled people, and I don’t have a photocopy of our blue badge. After the Hofburg we just wander the streets, trying to avoid the more cobbled streets. We visit the famous Demel bakery and the Stephansdom. Here we can use the tip from one of the blogs I read and go into the metrostation to use the disabled toilets. We have our own Eurokey, but otherwise it is available in the main toilets. The toilet is not terribly big, but useful. We finish our walk in the Stadtpark, enjoying the cool of being under trees and enjoying all the statues. After dinner we continue back to the Karlsplatz where we have planned to try the metro out to get back to the hotel. Across the street from the Musikverein is a lift which says it is the disabled access point to the metrostation. However, it only gets you into the park. There is a metro entrance as well, but no lifts. So we walk through the park to the next metro-entrance. There is more than one line stopping in this station, and as it turns out we need the line right at the other end of the station. We take the lift to the platform, where there is a sign where the disabled access point to the train is. We take the train to the Central Station, which is close to our hotel. It is quite a bumpy ride and no possility of attaching the wheelchair to anything. And then once we arrive at the station, we have to walk to the other end of the platform to find the lift to go up again. So our experiences with public transport were not that positive. However, it got us back to the hotel without me having to push the wheelchair back up the hill.

The next day we want to visit the Belvedere Palace. I have read it is very accessible and of course it is full of nice paintings. We walk to the Palace but again, the signposting is not very good. So after walking down a bit of a hill to get to the entrance I find I have to go back up to get a ticket. And the ticketoffice is not wheelchairaccessible. We buy a wheelchairticket to the Upper and the Lower Belvedere Palace, but no-one mentions that you cannot get to the Lower Belvedere Palace through the gardens with a wheelchair……..But I get ahead of myself. After having seen the Palace from the gardens we get inside and find it is very useful on such a warm day, as it is nice and cool inside the Palace. There is a lift in each of the two wings of the Palace, but it does not always stop at the same level, so sometimes you have to go down to the ground floor, and change to the other lift to get where you want to go. Both the architecture of the Palace and the paintings are very enjoyable, and so are the views from the windows, so we spend quite some time here. And then we want to go to the second Palace. A nice walk through the park with lovely views over Vienna you might think. And then suddenly you get to stairs. I don’t think the bit in the middle qualifies as a ramp…… Not signposts how to get around it. So when we get back to the top of the garden we decide to leave the rest and find somewhere to eat.

Before we set off on the road again we drive through the Vienna Woods to Kahlenberg for another lovely view over the city. Big parking lot, but no disabled parking bays, and no dropped curbs around.

Anyway, it all depends on your expectations, but for us this was a very nice citytrip.