Everyone who has travelled from Zurich towards Chur has also seen the mountain Chäserrugg. You may, however, not have perceived it knowingly. Coming from Zurich, it is the last of the seven Churfirsten. They form the impressive mountain range along the north shore of the Lake Walensee. The railway and freeway are located on the opposite side along the lake’s south shore.
Each mountain of the Churfirsten mountain range can be accessed via a trail but only the Chäserrugg with an elevation of 2262 meters can be reached by cable car. It brings you to the mountain station. The star architects Herzog & de Meuron from the city of Basel re-built this station in 2015. The station, as all the other buildings designed by them, features something special that you would not normally find in other buildings. Its shape and functionality are perfectly synchronized and thus provide the timber-paneled functional building with a distinctive identity that integrates itself perfectly into the mountain scenery.
The trip starts in the holiday resort of Unterwasser which is part of the picturesque town of Toggenburg. First you take the romantic funicular railway to Iltios, a beautiful alp located midway and then continue by cable car to the Chäserrugg. During this whole trip there is not one step to overcome. Once you reach the top, a panoramic view awaits you: To the North past the mountain Säntis far into Germany, to the South the Glarus Alps and to the Southeast you can see the all the way to the Grison Alps. Deep down in dizzying depths lies the Walensee.
It is most likely this view and the seemingly endless width that most visitors are looking for on top of the impressive Chäserrugg. The distinctive architecture is experienced as a pleasant bonus, however, as you know, all good things go by three: The food at the restaurant is way better than we would usually expect at a mountain cabin. Charming staff serves you amazingly prepared food and exquisite drinks at very reasonable prices.
A trip to the Chäserrugg is a sensual experience in every respect. However, especially in the fall since the air cools down and the view becomes even clearer.
Travelling can be a better experience for wheelchair users with the support of a mobile phone app that displays where and what the accessible locations are. The following list provides a description of websites and mobile phone apps which display and categorize accessible spots around the world.
Momentarily, the website and app AXS map is available in English only. Nevertheless, compared with other maps it is probably the most detailed one. The main website has a video tutorial that explains how to use and contribute to the service.
In the map there is the possibility to narrow the research using a filter on 15 different categories. The categories are: everything, restaurants, nightlife, shopping, beauty and spas, arts and entertainment, hotels and travel, health and medical, public service, education, fitness, financial services, mass media, religious organization, and museums.
Users can contribute to the evaluation of the spots assigning stars (from one to five) to them and providing information in relation to location's bathroom, number of steps, parking, inside space, guide dog acceptance, and so on.
If a location receives many positive feedbacks it will be signed on the map with a green color. The other colors are orange, which means "poor", red means "not accessible" and grey means "evaluation unknown".
The creator of the map is Jason DaSilva who is a wheelchair user himself. His goal is to provide a service that covers the entire world even if at the moment it is spread mostly in the U.S. For this reason, he proposed the concept of mapathon, a funny way to incentivize people to test the accessibility of public spaces and bring feedback.
At the moment, wheelmap is the most famous and widespread service in regard to wheelchair accessibility information worldwide. The website and app is translated in 22 languages. It permits to identify the accessibility of POI classified in twelve categories: accommodation, bank/post office, education, food, government, health, leisure, miscellaneous, public transport, shopping, sport, and tourism.
Again, users can contribute to the description of the places with photos and comments. In addition, people can rate the toilet status of each location they visited.
Also wheelmap differentiates the accessibility of the places using three different colors (green, orange and red). The grey spots are the ones where no evaluation has been provided yet.
In contrast to the two previous maps, wheelmate focuses on the accessibility of toilets and parking places only. Users can add their contributions through pictures and comments. The accessibility of the places is not signalized with different colors but people can rate them with the option "like". A video tutorial explains very clearly how to use the service.
The website and the app are available in seven languages.
As for the other maps, the goal of the app turismo accesible is to improve the travel experience of people with reduced mobility. Since the apphas been created in Spain it covers this country in a very detailed manner. Other countries included by the map are: Germany, Andorra, The Netherlands, Italy, France, Belgium and Argentina.
The service, which unfortunately is available only in Spanish, reviews the accessibility of hotels, museums, restaurants, public transports and tourist attractions. Each registered location is followed by a description of its accessibility and some general information.
Paramap is a website and app designed appositely for Switzerland. It provides information regarding eurokey toilets, parking, accommodations and bankomats of the entire country. People can contribute to the improvement of the map adding places which have not been included yet. An evaluation of the places by the users, however, is not possible.
Further information about travelling with spinal cord injury you can find here.
I would like to share with you an article from the Russian forum invatravel.ru devoted to a trip to Salzburg, Gosau, Hallstatt, Bad Ischl, Vorderstoder, and Linz (Austria). This article was translated from Russian to English with the permission of the author and traveller Svetlana Nigmatullina.
Perhaps every traveler has his/her own Austria. For some, Austria is "woven" from palaces and gardens, churches and extensive museum collections. Others admire the restaurants and shops. The third kind is crazy about ski resorts and mountains. The fourth, the fifth, the sixth... Every traveler has his/her own Austria.
Upon arrival in Salzburg, I was immediately struck by the smooth asphalt roads and sidewalks. Public transportation is stress-free and very punctual. All buses are adapted for the wheelchair.
Unfortunately there was almost always and everywhere a problem with access to historical buildings, though it wasn't a problem for us as we didn't have a "museum mood"and most of our tours were just sightseeing and hiking.
Surprisingly the weather was sunny but with cool wind during the day and chilly wind at night. The infrastructure of the city is modern and amenities are quite comfortable. Houses, churches and even the masters who create under the watchful eye of curious tourists — all is real!
Perhaps each of us spending time in places far from home pay our attention to not very interesting things or to something that we do not have time to notice because of our daily routine, work or something else. But on vacation, especially abroad, when you have time to walk slowly through the streets and look around, in addition to architectural masterpieces, in the field of view necessarily fall showcases, monuments and flower beds. And it is not because "they" have better and we have worse. It is a moot point and the views are always subjective. They are just different, and every country has its own unique features.
It is not necessary to write about all sights of Salzburg. About this beautiful city, full of history, souvenirs and "Mozart" chocolates were told more than once.
Speaking of "Mozart" chocolates — the popular brand turned out to be the worst chocolate I have ever tried. It is not a chocolate, rather a soybean.
Briefly about four sights we have visited in Salzburg:
Mirabell Palace and gardens are part of the Historic Centre of the City of Salzburg – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Palace of Mirabell offers beautiful views of the old town and Hohensalzburg Fortress—the largest, fully-preserved fortress in central Europe.
Mirabell Palace and views of Hohensalzburg Fortress.
Despite the large number of tourists, the Mirabell Garden struck me at first sight by its splendor, brightness, abundance of floral scrolls on lawns, fountains and sculptures depicting scenes from Greek mythology, romance and a truly royal luxury. Any superlative adjectives can be attributed to this wonderful garden!
The Mirabell Garden.
The Mirabell Garden is not just a regular garden. It is one of the finest examples of landscape art.
The Mirabell Garden.
2) Trick fountains — the world-famous fountains hidden in the shade of bushes and trees at Salzburg's Hellbrunn Palace. The trick fountains have inspired visitors for about 400 years. The name of the fountains justifies their purpose because they can switch on at any moment and drench you with cold water from head to toes. The pressure of the water, which flows down from the Alps, causes the watery surprise.
Trick fountains at Salzburg's Hellbrunn Palace.
Trick fountains at Salzburg's Hellbrunn Palace.
Hellbrunn is the former summer residence of the Salzburg Prince-Archbishop Markus Sittikus. It was related to the Medici family and was built between 1612 and 1619 based on the model of Roman villas in Italian style for hunting, recreation and entertainment.
The trick fountains at Salzburg's Hellbrunn Palace like 400 years ago is the popular spot, and their visit, for some reasons, entails a tour, whether you want it or not. Therefore, we bought the tickets for 9.5 euros per adult and for 6.5 euros for a person with a disability, and we joined the mixed multilingual group of tourists. The tour was in English and since my English skills are poor, I did not understand a lot. Though, in general, I could guess and I could gather some information from other sources. It is a beautiful place with noble fishes in the ponds, and it was my sacred duty to make photos.
The noble fish.
The Salzburg Prince-Archbishop, walking with his guests, did not only talk about the precariousness of human destiny and the ephemeral world but also showed outlandish mechanisms in his park. For example, the Mechanical Theater, built in 1750, whose imposing size and accurately detailed construction could hardly be suspected in the park, is the most recent element in the mechanical, water-operated and music-playing treasures at Hellbrunn. The water puts the figures of 256 people of different social classes and occupations in motion.
The Mechanical Theater at Hellbrunn.
There were a lot of pensioners among the visitors, and many of them took the wheelchairs to stroll through the park. The wheelchairs are provided at the ticket window for free.
The elderly tourists.
3) The Mozartplatz Square— a small patch in the heart of the old town of Salzburg, which is always very touristy but still worth visiting. The Square stands a bronze statue dedicated to the great composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 –1791). It was cast and raised in 1842.
Many people come here to listen to the world-famous Salzburg's peal, daily ringing music of Haydn and Mozart from the bell tower.
The Mozartplatz Square.
4) One of the most popular places in Salzburg is the Residenzplatz, which is the main, stately square in the heart of the historic center. In the middle of the square sits a grand baroque fountain, which is made of marble and is considered the largest baroque fountain of central Europe. On the other side of the square is the New Residence decorated with a bell tower. Three times a day: at 7:00, 11:00 and 18:00, the bells of the New Residence perform their famous sound of chimes.
The baroque fountain.
Knowing myself and my desire to look into the most secret corners of the country, I tried to see as much as possible. So, suddenly I ended up in Gosau.
Gosau is a little town near Austrian Alps. The town is without streets and houses flourish randomly in the fields. There we stayed in a small apartment hotel.
Gosau — a little town near Austrian Alps.
In the courtyard of the hotel we met the most Russian landlady Luba. Although she was a woman of a few words, she asked me how and why I ended up in a place like this. According to her, she has met Russian tourists only once in this hotel. It's not exactly easy to get here and she has never seen travelers on wheelchair around these areas, so she was very surprised as well as the local bus drivers who never operated the lift for a wheelchair before. You could see that they did not know what button to press although any transport is completely adapted for people with limited mobility.
Upon entering the hotel is a ramp. On the first floor is a two-room apartment decorated in a traditional style but without a balcony. Everything was nice but not as convenient as promised while booking. I had no complaints to the kitchen and the living room. However, the bedroom was very small with a very soft bed, so I slept on the hard couch in the living room. The toilet and the shower were in separate rooms, in which it was impossible to turn around on a wheelchair. But everything was trivial once I saw the view the next morning!
Near the apartment hotel in Gosau.
The view from the apartment hotel.
The freezing water channel is in silver color and limpid. Ecology!
The view made the greatest impression in my life. It has left me open-mouthed and I lost the power of speech. I was sitting and kept pinching myself because I could not believe in these beautiful views around me.
The Austrian Alps.
We were lucky with the weather and we decided to go to the small photogenic lake Gosausee, which is of spectacular beauty. The Russian landlady offered us a ride and it took us 13 minutes to get there. The parking place for people with limited mobility and a bus stop —they're all right!
In the background of the lake Gosausee is the Mountain Mass —Dachstein. Around the lake illuminated an equal path 1.5 meters wide. It is an ideal place for a walk on a wheelchair, though it takes more than an hour to walk on this quiet side-street.
The lake Gosausee and the view on the Mountain Mass — Dachstein.
We decided to have a snack at the restaurant by the lake. Thereafter, despite the fact that we made such a long trip, we took a chance to walk back to the hotel and we never regret it.
A walk back to the hotel from the Gosausee.
There were almost no cars and no people on the road. We have become used to the deserted places.
On the way to the hotel we stumbled on to another lake and the museum of the local history. The summer season started in two weeks and the museum was closed. However, we have managed to look into the territory of the museum.
The unknown lake, just as beautiful as the lake Gosausee!
Next day, the Russian landlady of the hotel gave us a coupon, which granted us the right to ride the bus free of charge and get discounts in the local coffee shops. The local bus stop is in front of the hotel and the bus, as always, arrived in time. With one change, we arrived at the UNESCO World Heritage village of Hallstatt within 30 minutes.
I do not remember when the first time I saw the Hallstatt's picture. But I remember my reaction very well. "It cannot be that this place exists in reality!", and the ideas about how I leisurely stroll through the fairy-tale village streets went through my head. Hallstatt is the door to the fairy-tale world.
The fairy village Hallstatt.
Many tourists, whom the travel companies offer the tour to Hallstatt, do not hide their astonishment, "what is there so interesting to see in the village whose population does not exceed a thousand people?"However, having come back home, you'd ponder for a little where to start your talk…to more accurately portray the exciting atmosphere of this beautiful historic place.
The uniqueness of the Hallstatt telling is the fact that the Chinese built a clone of this picturesque village. So great was their admiration! Interesting is the fact that the number of Chinese tourists in Austrian Hallstatt has not decreased but instead, increased. Seeing the clone of the Austrian's village, the majority has a burning desire to see the original.
Most of all, Hallstatt struck me with the feeling of the unprecedented isolation from civilization and contentment exists in this place.
Indeed, Hallstatt, surrounded by mountains on all sides, with its nestled color as if toy houses on a hillside and the blue lake with swimming swans, imparts home coziness, heavenly peace and a sense of unusual security from world's tribulations.
The lake in Hallstatt.
The lake in Hallstatt.
Against the background of the lake and Hallstatt.
In fact, the village itself has only two streets and local people can pass through by car only on one of them!
The coastline is so narrow that the highways are withdrawn in tunnels which are laid in the rocks above the village. The train station is nowhere to be seen. It is located on the opposite side of the lake. Passengers have to get to Hallstatt by boat.
Over there, on the opposite side of the lake, there is a cable railway by which I easily got to the observation deck and once again enjoyed the beauty of the region. The ticket price for the cable railway was 11 euros but pretending to be the local, I bought the ticket for 6 euros.
Speaking of disability benefits, when purchasing the transport or sightseeing tickets, the Russian certificate is invalid almost everywhere. In addition, you are not allowed to use the special parking space. In my opinion, it is one of the international stupidities.
The accessible cable railway.
Bird's-eye view of Hallstatt.
On the observation deck.
On the way deep into upper Austria, we visited Bad Ischl —the town of retro style. Over there, after a bite of more chocolates in the famous confectionery "Zauner" founded in 1832, we went to Kaiservilla, the Summer Palace of Emperor Franz Joseph in Bad Ischl. But, unfortunately, we were only able to see the first floor of the villa, with nothing there ahead of us but a gift shop. We were also unable to walk in the park. There were stairs and repairs everywhere. We did not understand for what we paid the money for and why we were not warned about the inaccessibility.
Our final refuge was a rented house of Marianne, a music and English teacher in the municipality of Vorderstoder. The mountains there are lower but the meadows are wider and the milk is sweeter. In Vorderstoder, we essentially walked on the paths, roads and even meadows, breathed crystal clear air, ate, slept, read, stared out of the window through the rain at the Alps and drank milk! How delicious Austrian milk is! Every morning, the hostess brought us the milk from the farm and the taste of the milk in Austria makes me want to cry. It is thick and sweet!
The Marianne's house in the municipality of Vorderstoder.
What do you need more for being happy?
A white donkey got a portion of croutons.
There were a lot of Austrians wearing national costumes. At first we thought that they dressed up for special holidays but it turned out that in Austria, people still wear traditional costumes in their daily lives. Marianne has more than 40 traditional costumes.
As if time had frozen.
Marianne showed us all the neighborhoods and the most beautiful views.
Abbey church, also known as cathedral at the Pyhrn.
Inside the church.
Marianne also agreed to give us a ride to Linz.
Linz is the third-largest city of Austria and Hitler's favorite city. Hitler described Linz as his "home town". He lived at Humboldtstrasse 31 in the heart of Linz when he was 16 years old.
Having arrived in Linz, suddenly it started to rain, and to prevent wasting time, we decided to ride the steamship "Linzerin"along the Danube. It was a good idea and the idea of sailing up the second largest river in Europe brought even more pleasant feelings. Without someone's assistance, I was able to climb inside the steamship. We ordered tea and "Linz"— a traditional cake of the city and looking around, hearing the story of the area and country.
Sailing on the steamship along the Danube.
Next day, with the bags full of gingerbread, chocolates and pumpkin oil, we went home.
Austria is one of the countries I am in love with and where I had easily "walked". I know, I will be coming back to the realm of candies and gingerbread houses, and of course to the Alps.
I would like to share with you an article written by a wheelchair traveler sharing his travel experience to
Port Aventura Park, Aquatic Park and Tarragona. This article was originally published on the Russian forum invatravel.ru and is translated from Russian to English with the permission of the author.
Port Aventura is the 6th largest theme park in Europe. It attracts around 4 million visitors per year making it the most visited theme park in Spain.
We bought the two-day tickets for the Port Aventura Park directly at the Port Aventura Hotel. Retirees, children and people with disabilities are provided with a substantial discount. Since there are always long queues for the rides in the Park (around 40 minutes or more), it is recommended to buy a so-called «Express Pass» which gives you the right to wait in a separate queue. Having an «Express Pass» doesn't always guarantee a shorter queue. However, in our case, it was easier because the entrance to the ride for people with disabilities is at the exit door of the ride! Thus, you don't have to wait your turn for 40 minutes. You only wait until the next round and your accompanying family members or friends would enjoy this privilege too. This allows you to catch a ride of almost all attractions, and even more than once.
Every time I finished a ride and rejoiced the fact that I could go on a ride twice without waiting in a long queue, I caught myself wishing I were healthy and could stand along with other people in the queue. It is a complicated feeling and I always tried to pull myself out of this surge of mixed emotions. ;-)
How to get there: On a regular taxi for 8 euros from the hotel and for 10 euros back. I must say that to walk uphill from the hotel to the park for 2 km is difficult and unrealistic.
Attention: attractions require guests to transfer from their wheelchairs to the ride by themselves. The employees are unlikely to offer to help. Thus, you must have strong arms or count on the assistance from your accompanying family members or friends.
There are accessible restrooms in every themed area:
Mediterrania, Polynesia, SesamoAventura, China, Mexico and Far West. The restrooms are perfectly clean, despite the huge number of visitors.
The Tutuki Splash Ride is a great attraction and is suitable for people of all ages. It is quite easy to transfer from a wheelchair to the ride.
My nephew and I were totally soaked after
the Tutuki Splash Ride.
The Kon-Tiki Wave Ride is the only attraction that I don't advise you to go. The hour after the ride I felt heavily sick. This, obviously, spoiled my mood and I didn't want to go on other rides anymore.
Being exhausted to walk in the heat, we decided to take a ride on an old locomotive, which runs through all the themed areas. I climbed inside and for some reasons, I decided to leave my wheelchair on the platform. The locomotive was traveling so slowly and made lengthy stops, so our journey took about 40 minutes to return to the same platform. Otherwise, we could get off elsewhere. I must admit that it is not a convenient form of transport. It is easier to walk to your destination than to ride the locomotive.
Besides the old locomotive, there also runs a boat, which is not designed for wheelchair users. However, with some help, I was able to climb inside and take my wheelchair with me on the boat. The boat trip takes around half an hour. However, there is nothing beautiful to see except the vegetation. Thus, it could be also a waste of time.
The view on the themed area "China" from the old locomotive.
The two steepest roller coasters:
Dragon Khan - the smaller one, and Shambala - the steepest and the highest roller coaster in the Port Aventura Park. The Shambala is for the elite troops - the craziest and most desperate tourists. The official website states that these rides are accessible for disabled guests. I do not know which people with a disability they have in mind, but I have decided not to go, because it is not clear to me how they secure my paralyzed legs for the ride.
The Huracane Condor Ride slowly lifts you to the top of the tower and stops completely at 100 meters high and when you least expect it, the sharp fall starts. This is the steepest ride I dared to go.
At the very moment when the fall begins from the highest point and you have already reached just two meters away from the ground BUT your spirit is still hovering in the sky, the camera makes a shot. If you like, you can buy the photo with your skewed face of fear at the ride exit. ;-)
I was frightened when it began to fall. But I became even more frightened when I noticed that my legs strongly lifted up due to the acceleration of a free fall. Firstly, I was thinking how to prevent my legs from dislocation and secondly, how to prevent my shoe from falling on somebody's head. I did not want to overshadow someone's holiday with a shoe fell from the sky. While I was overcoming these fears — we've landed. Undaunted by the rapid descent, I simply rushed to the exit. It is amazing how many thoughts can shoot in your head just in a few seconds of falling, and while in a normal state, thinking about these takes much more time.
The evening show while waiting for the fireworks.
The parade of all artists and representatives of different themed areas begins at around 23:15, and at 23:45 begin the fireworks.
On the first day, we arrived at the park quite early in the morning and we were already very tired at 16:00, so we returned to the hotel. On the second day, we decided to go there by 16:00. The weather at this time was not so infernally hot and the park had only a few visitors. Perhaps, most people were as tired as we were on the first day, and have returned to their hotels. Therefore, I advise visitors to arrive at the park in the afternoon, not earlier than 15:00, in order to have the energy to watch the fireworks at late night.
The water show and the fireworks.
After the fireworks, we took a taxi back to the hotel without any problems.
Conclusion: Even if you are not a fan of rides, or you do not have strength to transfer from a wheelchair yourself, the park is still worth a visit for various shows and musical performances in every thematic area. Shows are held several times a day and last about half an hour each.
The Aquatic Park belongs to the Port Aventura Park and is located close to it. The Aquatic Park is quite small although I think this is a plus, because you do not have to run around the acres of parkland from one attraction to another. You can still leisurely get around, and thereafter relax tanning on the loungers.
The entrance to the Aquatic Park is located near the entrance to the Port Aventura Park.
The toilet with a shower is accessible for guests with limited mobility.
"Throne" for the entry into the swimming pool. I must say that it is not a very comfortable chair.
With the help of lifeguards, you can go to the pool, transfer to the rubber ring and swim on the "river" El Rio Loco, which goes around the aqua park.
Kids Corner -
La Laguna Woody.
I really liked the Aquatic Park primarily because of its small size and the number of visitors, most of whom perhaps were in the Port Aventura Park, sightseeing or sunbathing on the excellent beaches of Salou.
How to get there: From the Port Aventura Hotel you can take a taxi for about 30 euros each way or a city bus 'Bus Plana'. We decided to take a bus with a pass for 10 trips for 12 euros. All buses are fully accessible for wheelchairs, including the electric wheelchairs. They have a folding ramp and a special area in the middle of the cabin. In fact, it is the only available transport for those who are in electric wheelchairs and who cannot use the services of a conventional taxi. I must say that I have not seen a special accessible taxi during the trip. From Salou to Tarragona takes about 40 minutes and buses run every half hour.
The bus arrives at the bus station, located at the center of Tarragona. In a circular area of Imperial Tarraco, there are 8 streets which lead you to different attractions. The important thing is to get on the pedestrian boulevard, called the Rambla Nova. It leads to the pearl of the city - the "Balcony of the Mediterranean".
On the Rambla Nova street is a monument of Castels - a human pyramid, and Casteleros - people who form the pyramid.
The Roman Amphitheatre built in the second century AD, with a capacity of 12,000 spectators.
I am against the background of the Roman Amphitheatre.
The elevator to descend to the Amphitheatre.
The park and the alley. The public executions were once carried out here, including the first public execution of Christians.
Moreover, walking along the Rambla Nova, we saw an information kiosk. There we decided to take a city map and find out more about the accessibility for wheelchairs around the city. It was very nice to meet an employee who spoke good Russian with such a great pleasure, and particularly without an accent. He told us that the so-called "Old Town" is not accessible for wheelchairs. However, I did not believe that and decided to check it out... Well, the employee was right - the Old Town is not accessible for wheelchairs and we just wasted time.
After an unsuccessful assault of the Old Town, we decided to take a small locomotive that runs around Tarragona.
The locomotive is not accessible for wheelchairs, so I had to climb on board with extra help and put the wheelchair next to me. The ride is accompanied by an audio guide on 7 languages and it costs 7 euros per person. It runs along the beach, through the port into a modern city, passes through the Old Town and returns to the point of origin - to the Roman circus and Amphitheatre.
The streets of the Old Town.
Placa de la Font - the central square of the Old Town.
Ajuntament de Tarragona - City Hall.
I fell in love with this amazing and beautiful city!
Summing up, I must say that I was quite upset with the poorly adapted bathroom in the hotel, the accessible beach that had no changing rooms for people with a disability, and the lack of shower for rinsing after swimming in the sea. However, I really liked the mild climate in Salou, the wheelchair accessible Port Aventura Park, and I fell in love with the beautiful city - Tarragona, its ancient streets and the view of the emerald sea from the "Balcony of the Mediterranean".
To begin with, I am native Russian and I have a big interest to share with you an article recently posted on the Russian forum and devoted to the visit of the Moscow Kremlin by a group of people with disabilities. This article was translated from Russian to English with permission from the author.
How could you visit the capital of Russia without visiting the Moscow Kremlin?
One may absolutely say that even for locals of Moscow a visit to the Kremlin is an intriguing and memorable event. Yet, in combination with an interesting and informative tour, one may have a story to tell friends and acquaintances afterwards.
The author of the article himself has checked the site of Moscow Kremlin for accessibility and inclusion.
The construction of the Kremlin was started under Ivan Kalita on Borovitsky Hill on the left bank of Moscow River in the early 14th century. Today, the Kremlin serves as the largest ancient fortress in Russia and Europe.
The overall length of the existing Kremlin walls is 2'235 m, which forms an irregular triangle. Along the walls there are 20 towers, the highest one of which is Troitskaya tower that has a height of 80 m including the star on top.
The Kremlin walls were originally made from white stones and even when the walls were replaced by red bricks, they were painted white for nearly four centuries. The reasons behind the white Kremlin were not only the fashion and the tradition to paint walls white for important events, but also the security of the bricks and camouflage during the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945).
During the tour you can also see the Tsar cannon - the mortar of the biggest calibre of 890 mm is included in the Guinness Book of Records.
You can also see the Tsar Bell with height and diameter of more than 6 meters cast in 1735.
These and many other interesting sights and historical facts you learn from the tour of the Moscow Kremlin.
Today all temples and other buildings that are in the territory of the Kremlin are conditionally available for visitors with limited mobility.
Physically challenged visitors are able to get inside with the help of friends or volunteers that can be found at the website http://invatravel.ru/ .
Doubtless, you will have an unforgettable few hours of walking to the Kremlin and the Alexander Garden.
The duration of the tour is around 2 hours. And, the tour for the stronger ones can continue with a walk around the Red Square.
Reasons to go to see an opera, ballet, play or symphony:
To experience something different. No matter what year it was written, most storylines are relatable, whether the story be about revenge, love, loss, betrayal, joy or triumph. Even if it is not your first time, ballet and opera stories are all different.
To listen to something unlike what you hear every other day of the year. While the opera may not be in your mother tongue, there are subtitles above the screen to help provide deeper insight of what is being sung about. The power that an opera singer has to produce such clear sound for the auditorium (without a microphone to boot!) is really incredible.
To watch someone do something that they absolutely love doing. It sounds simple, right? But so much of the news and other bits that we hear and see everyday are negative. I don’t know about everyone else, but sometimes it really affects me and my happiness. I think for the most part, when you watch the dancers, singers or musicians, you can see that it comes directly from their heart. And even if there are no words spoken in a ballet, you understand them all the same.
To try something new. Although some attendees will be well versed in ballet or opera, there is nothing to be ashamed of if you have never been before. If you are nervous, look up the storyline ahead of time and make sure you get there with enough time to get yourself situated.
To dress up for an evening, or not! Do not worry about what to wear. I will also admit that while getting ready for my first opera, I searched on Google for “opera attire” and wow, the amount of fur coats and ball gowns was nearly enough to scare me away, but do not feel intimidated! There will be people dressed a number of different ways. The Zurich Opera says on their website that there is no dress code, to come as you feel comfortable.
To prove yourself wrong. If you think that you would find these performances boring, the Geneva Opera says that it only takes one evening in the opera to realize how wrong you are, and what a fan you have become. I will admit that it is not everyone’s cup of tea. You are bound to have an opinion, just as you would on a new film or album, but at least give it a chance. After all, how do we know if we like something or not if we do not try?
Because they are accessible! All of the mentioned theaters are wheelchair accessible, I have provided as much detail as I could. Remember that sometimes the staff need to rearrange some seats in order to accommodate you, so when you make the reservation always let them know that the ticket is for a wheelchair user and companion if that also applies. They will be happy to help you and reduce your ticket cost as well, which I have specified below. Sometimes attending a show can be quite expensive, however, all of these theaters provide a discount to help with the costs and when you compare it to the price of a meal at a restaurant, it is very reasonable!
So go with your mom, partner, best friend, whomever and have fun while opening your eyes to the delightful world of performing arts!
The Zurich Opera house as we know it today, has been around since 1984, however, the site has a long history of theater dating back to 1834. The Zurich Opera is one of the best in the world, and in 2014 it was awarded the Best Opera Company of the Year at the International Opera Awards. The opera house also hosts Switzerland’s largest professional ballet company, who are known to be one of Europe’s leading ballet ensembles. The building has four available spots for wheelchair users. They are separate from one another, however next to each spot is a seat reserved for a companion, if that applies to you. There are lifts and wheelchair accessible restrooms. Also the ticket office is accessible for wheelchairs and they provide a discount for those with disabilities as well as their companions. For wheelchair users opera tickets cost 95 CHF and ballet tickets 56 CHF. The companion discount is between 115-160 CHF for opera and 85 CHF for ballet. The Parkhaus Opéra has three designated wheelchair accessible parking spots on each floor. You can reach the Zurich Opera also by public transportation. It is located a few hundred meters from Bahnhof Stadelhofen and only a couple minutes from the tram and bus stop “Bellevue”. There is a tram stop directly next to the opera house, called “Opernhaus”, which can be reached by trams number 2 & 4.
At the Theater St. Gallen, the curtain rises around 400 times each year. They offer a variety of theater, opera, symphony and dance in the current building designed by Swiss architect, Claude Paillard. St. Gallen also hosts the St. Galler Festspiele every Summer during June and July. It is held outside and truly something one should not miss if they are in the area! The theater provides six wheelchair places for every performance. The places are together in groups of two, making it a perfect opportunity when two wheelchair users would like to attend and sit together. The ticket office is wheelchair accessible, as well as the restrooms. The price per ticket varies a little bit, because with an IV you are entitled to a 25 % reduction on performances from Monday to Friday, and a 40 % on Sundays. Wheelchair users and their companions also receive a 50 % reduction at all times. Although they have only one parking spot for wheelchair users, there are dozens of transportation opportunities with buses and the stop is “St. Gallen, Theater”.
The Bern City Theater offers about 300 performances every year, in opera, symphony, dance, and musical theater. Established in 1903, they are in need of a renovation and will leave their main building in March to hold their performances in other buildings across the city. The auditorium has five wheelchair places, three are together and the other two are also together. There are companion spots as well. The ticket office and restrooms are wheelchair accessible. They provide a 50 % price reduction for tickets of wheelchair users, as well as for a companion. The theater is accessible with public transportation: tram numbers 6, 7, 8 & 9 from the train station with the stop “Zytglogge”. There are also three wheelchair parking spots in the Parkhaus on Waisenhausplatz.
The Grand Théâtre de Genève opened in 1879 and houses the country’s largest stage for opera and ballet. They have since renovated the auditorium into a typical German shape, which allows the 1,488 seats all to have a clear view of the stage and French & English subtitles. Half an hour before each show, they offer an expert to explain to you the key aspects of the piece. There are four wheelchair places per show which are situated together in pairs. Also companion seats are available. The ticket office and restrooms are wheelchair accessible. A free seating category upgrade for wheelchair users and companions is provided. The theater has many park houses around that are handicap accessible and it can be reached with public transportation as well: bus numbers 3, 5 & 36 and trams 12 & 18 with stop named “Pl. de Neuve”, buses 2, 19 & 23, stop “Bus Stop Théâtre”, as well as buses 1, 2, 19 & 23 and tram 15 at stop “Cirque”.
The Lausanne Opera was built in 1871 and its latest rennovation, including the modern looking attachment, cost over 30 million Swiss Francs. It hosts about 40,000 visitors every year in its 1,000 seat auditorium. Four wheelchair places are available, in sets of two together, although without a companion spot. The price varies a bit per show, costing 65-95 CHF. The ticket office is wheelchair accessible as well as the restrooms. You can reach the opera by public transportation with bus numbers 1, 2, 4, 8, 9 & 17, stop “Georgette”. Parking is available at park house Bellefontaine.
The Theater Basel has a rich history (including being destroyed by fire) dating back to 1834, and it has made many changes in structure and what it offers. The choir was awarded Best Choir of the Year in 2013. They have also added English speaking plays, nice for visitors and expats! They ensure that all of their facilities are barrier-free and fully accesible for wheelchair users. There are four wheelchair places available. All tickets are reduced by 50 % for wheelchair users and a companion. You can park in park houses Theater and Elisabethen or use public transportation: trams number 2, 8 & 11 with stop “Bankverein” and tram 10 to “Theater”.
The Luzern Theater has been around since the 1800s and is the only theater in Central Switzerland that offers such a variety of perfomances, including around 200 performances of plays, dance and opera every year. Although Luzern is a popular tourist attraction, around two thirds of the performance attendees are residents from the Canton of Luzern, The Luzern Theater has an incredible eight places available for wheelchair users! They are grouped together in pairs on either the right or left side of the theater, and with one pair in front of the other. There is not a distinguished companion seat, however you can request to buy a ticket for a seat next to the wheelchair place. Wheelchair users receive a 50 % discount on all tickets. There is public transportation options with buses, however the theater is less than 300 meters from the train station, along the Reuss river and with a view of the famous Kapellbrücke.
Fresh winter air in your face, that feeling as if you were flying, people all around you laughing and having a good time, Christmas-time music in your ears… All that on a sparkling winter day, on a smooth ice surface and wearing ice-skates on your feet… or a wheelchair ice glider under your wheels.
Years ago in my hometown Ulbroka, Latvia, where a frozen lake and frost covered reeds around is phenomena, that occurs every Winter, I once saw a boy from my school skating together with his girlfriend. Nothing unusual about this unless the fact, that his girlfriend was being rolled over the ice in a wheelchair. Fifteen years ago, skating in a wheelchair was not possible for her, but today it is, and in quite an amazing way.
In January 2014 at a skating rink in Weyermannshaus, Switzerland, an ice glider was introduced to its potential users. The ice glider consists of a steel frame and a pair of blades attached to it. The wheels of most wheelchairs can be fixed on the one metre long frame. To get onto the frame, one needs to use a special ramp that is available together with the ice glider.
Getting on the ice glider. Source: www.cerebral.ch
Visiting a skating rink is a great fun if you do it together with your friends. However, the ice glider gives you an opportunity to skate on your own as well, namely, using a pair of sticks with an ice pick attached. This makes the skater truly independent. Some people say, one can even get a positive addiction to the crunching sound of blades cutting into the ice…
Moving around on the ice with the help of sticks. Source: http://www.rinnrutschen.de/Sportgeraete/Eisgleiter
Whom else would one expect behind this luge-alike tool if not a past luge sport legend? Hans Rinn, former German athlete, two time Olympic Gold medallist in doubles and Bronze medallist in singles, is now working as a luging judge and building different gliding and sliding tools. Apart from the luge-alike wheelchair glider, he is also building sliding pipes for swimming pools. He produced the ice glider together with his colleagues Karin Schorbach and Gerhard Kirchner.
Starting from this skating season, ice gliders are ready for use in skating rinks in Zürich, Bern, Gstaad, Davos… More Swiss skating rinks in other cities are expected to have ice gliders during the season 2014/2015. The author of this initiative is the Foundation Cerebral. Their goal is to hand out ice gliders for free use in around 20 skating rinks all over Switzerland, to open a brand new activity window for wheelchair users together with their families. Rather high costs of 2’000 CHF (approximately 1’600 EUR) apiece are covered by donations.
Now, there is a pair of steel wings given to the wheelchair users to make them able to fly over the ice. Let us hope, that soon more and more countries will provide free flight access to their citizens. And who knows, maybe soon there will be masses standing behind the boards of a skating rink and admiring pirouettes of wheelchair users as their (ice glider using) techniques advance?