Berlin was Surprisingly Wheelchair Accessible

In 2004, my friend Nicole and I decided to go to Berlin, Germany for 10 days during our spring break.  She proposed the idea to me because she had always wanted to travel there. At that time I had only been to Greece and Turkey and was itching to go back to Europe. Italy and Spain were high on my list and honestly never thought about Germany. Being that Nicole was very petite and unable to assist me physically to any extent, I was very concerned about Berlin’s wheelchair accessibility.  Nicole is an incredibly throughout researcher and assured me that Berlin and our hotel would be accessible enough, so we booked our flights and soon enough were on a plane to Berlin.

Our spring break fell in April which is a month in Germany when the sun does not come out much and is on the chillier side.  I still was optimistic that the sun would peak through since I am a California Leo, but it didn’t. Nonetheless, the cooler weather ended up adding to the uniqueness of the memory and Nicole and I rolled with it, often stopping for Chi Tea.  When we arrived at our adorable Domicil Hotel we were greeted by a warm and welcoming staff that showed us to our room. I held my breath in anticipation of seeing the bathroom that was supposedly accessible. I have encountered many disappointing setups despite what the reservationist tells me. However, it was not the case this time. The bathroom was magnificent and truly made my stay ever so comfortable. It was exceptionally large with a small pull-down wooden bench and a hand-held shower nozzle that I could roll right up to. An accessible roll-in shower is always my top concern. If a hotel has that then everything else is will work out.  The staff was lovely all around and helpful in every way. The hotel also offered a continental German breakfast which was a convenient and healthy way to start our day.

Berlin was a marvelous city and in 10 days we could not do and see all we desired, but we tried. Nicole had a general itinerary that I was happy to follow and so each morning we would wake up fairly early, had a little breakfast and eagerly headed out to explore the city. We walked a lot and I enjoyed the overall flat terrain and newly paved sidewalks. The Domicil Hotel was about a 10 minute walk to the train station called the S and U Bahn, which allowed us to explore more of Berlin. Not every station was wheelchair accessible but most were; maps at the stations indicated these stops. Sometimes we walked quite a bit to get to our planned destination but it didn’t matter because we were here to be in the city and feel her unique energy. Plus, it’s a joy to see and experience something you were not expecting, like an outdoor flea market with all kinds of treasures.  The name of the station we often started at was called Zoological Garden and we later found out there was a zoo right there in the middle of the city but it was one of the most depressing zoos I have ever been too.

For the most part our daily activities centered around the arts. We saw Roman artifacts at the Pergamon Museum, a well-rounded collection of fine art at the Zu Gast In Der Neuen National Gallery including many Picasso pieces, and modern art the Deutsche Guggenheim. Late one afternoon we enjoyed the soothing sounds of a world class pianist at the Berlin Philharmonic. We were also pleased to stumble upon a small jazz club with a local live band and had a chill night listening with a drink and flavored clove.  Not too far from our hotel was the Komische Opera, hosting many modern plays, operas, ballets and more. Nicole and I saw a modern dance/ballet called baRock.  All around Berlin were incredible displays of architecture. Living in California where earthquakes require buildings codes, I had never seen such limitless imagination in architecture design.  Even the historical Reichstag Building had a dome and roof terrace added where you can get a 360 view of Berlin via the spiraling internal ramp, which had resting points along the way for manual wheelchairs.

Berlin is also a city with a lot of history and it was my desire to see a little bit of it and so we walk alongside the Berlin Wall, or what’s left of it, and felt its profound significance. The Berlin Cathedral, built in 1451, was also a sight to see with its ceiling-high stained glass windows even if you are not of that religion. We choose to not plan on visiting sites dealing with the Nazis and holocaust but did stop at a couple of places while we were out walking. A movie theater that served beer and wine, a new concept for me, was showing “Good-Bye Lennon,” and so we bought tickets to add to our historical experience.

Besides spending one night’s immersed in the music and arts Berlin has to offer, one can easily get swept up in the hip nightlife scene. There’s everything from pubs to funky beach bars to fetish clubs, many with live bands playing standard rock, alternative and techno.  In light of this, Nicole and I decided to dedicated one night to heaving drinking and partying and can honestly say it was one of the craziest nights I’ve ever had and will leave it at that. Berlin lives up to nightlife expectations just be sure you are careful.

Due to the cooler weather, there were few beer gardens alive and serving. One afternoon we did run into one and stopped for a tall stout German beer though we were basically drinking alone. We didn’t dive full into German cuisine but one day did enjoy a tasty spicy German bockwurst hotdog.  Surprisingly, Berlin had many Asian inspired restaurants that were incredibly tasty and authentic. Our favorite was a charming place called Jules Verne with delicious Thai food.

I had no idea what to expect of Berlin. I knew it was a modern city but still could not help but picture a countryside village in Germany with lots of lederhosen. Though I am sure the more isolated places of Germany are lush with beauty, they are likely far less accessible than the world city of Berlin. For a little over a week Berlin captivated me like a mystery novel, never knowing what was around the corner and what adventure us two characters would experience.  We could have stayed at least another week in Berlin but doubt that we could have covered everything that makes this city great. Regardless, the small window of time exploring Berlin was an accessible adventure never to be forgotten and a destination I recommended to any world traveler.

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