After the two weeks of relaxing it is time to go home. As we can’t drive it in one go anyway, it offers a lovely opportunity to do some more sightseeing, starting in:
After a lovely drive cross country from Veszprém to Gyor we return to Slovakia to visit its capital city, Bratislava. This is the first time we cross a border where we have to wait a long time in a traffic jam due to all the HGV-traffic. It is not until the centre of the city that we cross the Danube again.
This time we had found a hotel using Tripadvisor. We wanted a hotel in the old centre of town, so we wouldn’t need the car while we were there. We chose the Radisson Blue Carlton. The hotel is right at the edge of the traffic free zone of the old town, but you can reach it by car, and the hotel has it’s own underground parking. The hotel is more expensive than the hotels we usually go for, but as Slovakia is a fairly cheap country it is not that bad. And it has it’s perks too. The whole hotel is airconditioned (lovely, as the temperature is still high) and after checking in a bell boy returns to the car with me and puts all the luggage on a trolley and accompanies us to our room. Afterwards he offers to park the car for me and they keep my car keys at reception so they can bring the car round to the front of the hotel again when we are ready to leave. The people at the reception are very helpful with information about where to go, although they have little idea about the accessibility ofplaces.
The room is on the fourth floor, but you can only use the lift with the room key. The room is quite large and overlooks a lovely garden on the back of the hotel. Although there is a lot of furniture there is still plenty of room to manoeuvre with the wheelchair, and for us both to sit down and relax. The bathroom is very spacious too, with a separate roll in shower, so you don’t have the problem of a wet floor hindering transfers after someone has had a shower. There is a connecting door to the next room, so it might be that this is useful if you bring a carer.
There is a restaurant in the hotel where breakfast is served, but we prefer to have breakfast somewhere in town. The bar with lovely historical features is useful in the afternoon during a thunderstorm.
As we are only in town for two nights, we leave for a walk around town as soon as we have settled in. There is a lovely riverside walk along the Danube but we also want to have a first taster of the old town. It is mostly pedestrianised and easy to walk around with a wheelchair, even if it is partly on a slope. The historical quarter is not very large and there is a lovely atmosphere, with a lot of people on the streets, street artists and musicians. There are many squares with lots of restaurants, bars and coffeehouses, all with a terrace outside. We find the restaurant that the receptionist recommended, but unfortunately there is a raised deck for a terrace and there are two steps to get up to it and stairs to get to the restaurant. After complaining a bit about the lack of accessibility the head waiter is willing to look for a solution. There is a table on the side walk near the entrance to the bar. This is not meant for dining guests but for people who only want to have a drink. They are willing to serve us dinner there. Weird that you have to make such a hullaballoo about it, though. Having said that, the food is very good, traditional Slovakian food.
The next day we look at all the historical buildings in more detail, following a walk described in our tourist guide. There is just one street that is cobbled that we can’t avoid. In the end we don’t see everything because of a heavy thunderstorm. We manage to get back to the hotel before it really gets wet. Again the advantage of having a hotel so close to the city centre. We have plans to visit the castle on the hill above the city centre on our way out of town, but get lost in the one way traffic system and decide to leave it for another time.
We leave Bratislava on the road to Brno. Instead of going straight on on the motorway we turn a little to the north here and west later to see more of the Czech countryside. The original idea is to stop in one of the towns in Moravia, but we get stuck in a traffic jam and decide to follow the lead of other drivers and take an alternative route. As I haven’t looked at the map but just follow the GPS I now bypass a lot of the towns I thought we would go through. The drive is lovely though, until we get caught in a horrendous thunderstorm. The disadvantage of this very warm weather we have been having. So just a quick stop for a cup of coffee at a petrol station has to do. Without any further problems we reach our next hotel.
This time we have gone for a hotel in the (to us) familiar chain of B&B hotels. The hotel is not too far from the old city centre of Prague and close to the river and has a garage under the hotel. After unloading the car we check out the room, which is on the 4th floor. As it is a budget hotel we don’t expect a large room with luxury. The room is of an adequate but odd size, as it is in the corner of the building, which isn’t square. So although there is plenty of floor space it is still a tight squeeze to get the wheelchair around the bed, which is necessary for us because my husband can only transfer to the right side of the bed. As usual there is no room under the bed for a hoist, lucky that we don’t use them. The bed is of an average height and reasonably comfortable, although not too wide.
The bathroom is fairly large for a budget hotel and has a roll-in shower with a separate shower seat, all the usual grab rails and a roll under washbasin.
In this instance, breakfast is included in the price so we take it in the hotel. The first evening we ask the receptionist for advice on restaurants near the hotel that are accessible. The first restaurant is up some stairs, so not accessible at all. The second one has an area that is accessible, and an area up some steps, but the waiter is not really willing to work with us. You feel that basically they don’t want a wheelchair in their restaurant, so we leave, to tired to fight it. In the end we find a little restaurant with some tables outside. The food is nice, but sitting on the sidewalk of a busy road less so.
Although we have been assured that public transport is accessible we decide to walk into the old centre of Prague, which is quite doable from this hotel. We start off with coffee at the very atmospheric coffee house of Municipal house, with access through the main entrance of Municipal house. We spend all day walking around the old centre, although we have to dodge showers. Of course a lot of streets are cobbled, but it is still nice to see all the old buildings from the central square to the Charles bridge and the jewish quarter. The weather is still good enough to have breaks for coffee and lunch outside, so accessibility is less of an issue. As we are only here for the day we don’t go for musea or the castle area.
On the road to Dresden
The next morning we leave Prague to the north. Just before the border with Germany we leave the motorway to follow the Elbe river and enjoy some of the countryside. We make a short stop for lunch in Königstein and drive by the castle on top of the hill. According to the information there is wheelchair access to the castle, but the weather doesn’t look too good so we decide to drive on. Not long it starts to rain, and continues to do so until we arrive at our next stop.
Again we have chosen a hotel from the B&B chain. The hotel is just outside the centre of the city. It appears to be very busy at the hotel, and the one disabled parking spot is taken by a non-disabled guest. It is by a rear entrance of the hotel that does not open from the outside, which makes loading and unloading a bit tricky. Fortunately the hotel manager is quite helpful. Most guests arriving are told to find parking elsewhere, but we are allowed to keep our car even if there is no parking available. The room is on the ground floor. It is small but adequate, with two single beds. The bathroom is also small but adequate, with a wheel in shower and grabrails all around.
The first night we try to find a restaurant not too far from the hotel, still dodging showers. When we find one I have to go inside to ask for an accessible entrance, and we have to walk all the way around the building to be able to get in. However, the food and service are excellent.
The next day we walk to the centre (rather me walking and pushing the wheelchair), which is about 10 minutes away. There is a lot to see and do. The tourist information has a very extensive guide with everything wheelchairaccessible in the area. And fortunately most in the city centre is more or less level. Good paving in most areas, although there are some cobbles around as well. It is amazing to see how a lot of the historical buildings have been rebuild, with most having good accessible features, like the little platform lift that takes you into the Frauenkirche. You just have to ring the bell and wait your turn, because they can only let one wheelchair in at a time. We also visit the Zwinger museum, and walk past the Semperoper. We pass the Residential Palace because we don’t want to do more than one museum in a day. The only place we haven’t visited is the Church next to the Palace, because no-one answers the bell at the accessible entrance. At the end of the day we are quite tired and eat somewhere close to the hotel again.
The next day we drive around in Saxony for a bit. The first place we visit is the pleasure palace of Pillnitz. Some lovely buildings and museum, with special wheelchair access, and a lovely park too, although after all the heat we have become used to it is a bit chilly. Although in Germany you technically need a special card stating you are disabled they do let us in for the special rate for the disabled (free for the carer).
Afterwards we drive past the castle at Moritzburg and then go to Meissen, the old city famous for its porcelain. The old city centre and castle are on top of a hill, but fortunately there is a free parking on the road leading up to it with a lift to the castle. The castle itself is accessible, done in a beautiful way letting you explore this historic building without it being obtrusive. You get a special key that operates a lift, which you have to return before you leave. Unfortunately all of the castle hill is cobbled and very uneven, so we walk around as little as possible but have a lovely dinner on the square in front of the castle, although we get caught in a heavy thunderstorm only protected by the parasols.
The last day we leave Dresden early in the morning to make a long stop in Leipzig for breakfast at the famous Café Kandler, after we visit the St Thomas church where Johann Sebastian Bach used to be the main musician and where he is buried. Both the café and the church are accessible, although I don’t see any accessible toilets around. But we are just on the way and don’t need them yet, and there are plenty at one of the many roadside restaurants along the motorway taking us back home. We finish this trip with dinner at the familiar shopping mall Centro at the edge of Oberhausen, which has amazing facilities.