Travelling with a disability: Berlin

26th January 2020

Today’s post will be the second of a series of blog posts about my experiences of travelling to cities home and abroad. The first post where I discuss travelling in Paris you can view here.

Flying from London Gatwick, staff were great as they have always been when I have flown from there. I used my white long cane when going through security so they knew I needed assistance. They were also very patient, I have had some experiences with airport security where I have felt rushed. 

The flight was very quick and when we landed in Berlin, we noticed there were the electronic passport control gates which I struggle with. We waited in line to see a person instead, to help ease my anxiety. I was still using my cane at this point, but to avoid any stress we waited to be seen and then made our way to our hotel.

We stayed in the Alexanderplatz area of Berlin, and the hotel we stayed at was a recommendation from my brother. It was very close to a train station and tram stops, and within walking distance to local restaurants and some of the landmarks we visited. 

Each of the days we were in Berlin, we never walked very far. Due to my Cerebral Palsy, I do get tired quite easily, but most of where we walked the ground was flat and mostly even. One thing I did notice is the kerbs were never completely flat, so someone navigating in a wheelchair might’ve found it tricky.

We got around mostly by using the city’s light rail/metro system if there were landmarks we couldn’t get to on foot. Accessibility from what I noticed seemed pretty good. What I saw included:

  1.  The trams and trains were level with the platform, meaning no ramps were needed for wheelchair users. We didn’t go on any trams but from what I saw, they had dedicated spaces for people with pushchairs and those who use wheelchairs.
  2. There were lifts to and from the platforms in the stations we visited.
  3. There were no ticket barriers at any stations, just ticket machines and validators. This means everyone can move around freely.
  4. There were good signs for where to go and each board had the destination it was headed and how long the wait was.
  5. On the trains, there were audio announcements. There were maps of the network and the line you were on but very small so not very easy for me personally to see.

Overall, we had a good experience of using public transport in Berlin.

A yellow subway train next to the platform. People are stood on the platform.

Sights we visited included the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and the outdoor museum but nearby, the East Side Gallery, the Berlin Wall Museum and the Memorial for the Murdered Jews.

The Brandenburg Gate and the Jewish Memorial were close to each other, as were the East Side Gallery and Berlin wall museum, so we did them on the same days to minimise travel time.

We walked around 30 mins away (took us longer as we ended up in a few souvenir shops) to the Brandenburg Gate and Memorial, which was all flat.

There were a lot of cobbled streets in Berlin, which wasn’t ideal for using my cane, but I worked with it. 

The Brandenburg Gate. A tall stricture with pillars and a statue of horses and a chariot stand on the top. Tourists are visiting.

The Jewish Memorial had a little underground museum, and the staff there were very helpful. They asked if I wanted to use the lift or stairs to enter, allowed me extra time to go through the security (similar if you have been to the Anne Frank Museum) and even provided me with a tactile map of the museum and a Braille transcript of the exhibitions. Throughout there were places for me to sit if I needed to take a break, and we could spend as long as we liked there, as was the same for the Berlin Wall Museum.

I found the Berlin Wall Museum and the outdoor museum area near Checkpoint Charlie less accessible, however still worth a visit. The outdoor museum near Checkpoint Charlie was on gravel and had wooden platforms, so I found it tricky to use my cane and I was worried I might trip as the ground was uneven. The Berlin Wall Museum was up two flights of quite steep stairs, and I don’t remember seeing a lift. Each part of the tour was in a different room, separated by curtains which were sometimes a pain to navigate. One of the rooms was also completely dark. I struggle to see at all so I had to rely on Sam for guidance. 

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews. Grey slabs of concrete of varying data-lazy-sizes on cobbled ground.

I used my cane whenever we went out and honestly the German’s just GET IT!! Not once did I have anyone walk into me or try step over my cane, they waited for me to walk past them and politely moved out the way without any hesitation. It made my experience so much better.

Travelling home, we used public transport to get back to the airport which was pretty easy. When at the airport, I had some guidance from the staff and was able to go through a different entrance. It was relatively quick and had a couple of hours to kill before our flight. When we landed at Gatwick, I was helped again by avoiding the electronic passport gates. 

This is just a little snapshot of my experiences, but I would recommend Berlin to anyone, but particularly those with disabilities. 

If you have any other tips or recommendations for accessible travel and places to go, I would love to hear them. 

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Ella x

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Meet Ella

A girl wearing a floral dress holding a white cane stands in front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

Hello and welcome to my blog! I’m Ella. I’m 23 and decided to set up this blog to write about my experiences of Disability, as well as lifestyle posts and more.

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