Germany is now open to everyone to enjoy by Richard Davies.
The Germans have a word for it, Gemütlichkeit. Roughly translated it means cosy and warm hospitality. And just recently, the German Tourist Board have been making sure they get the message across to everybody that Germany offers a hearty welcome to all visitors, including those with limited mobility. Barrier Free Travel Germany says “Willkommen”.
Under the heading “Barrier Free Travel Germany” the German Tourist Board are out to show that Germany is open to everyone to enjoy, with ease and without barriers. There are a wide number of cities and attractions that are providing barriers free access, as well as facilities for the hearing and visually impaired. For example, did you know that Berlin was awarded the title of “European Access City of the Year” by the European Commission. Berlin! The German capital, home to 4 million people and one of the busiest cities in the world!
The Barrier Free Travel Germany offerings don’t just stop there. Many sports stadia, in particular those of the top Bundesliga football clubs, also offer barrier free access. Museums, tourist spots, public transport, public toilets, motorway services, and a host of as well as Berlin, such as Düsseldorf and Frankfurt have been making sure they can open their doors to everyone, barrier free.
BarrierFree Germany says:
With a little preparation and knowledge, Germany is probably one of the most accessible tourist destinations in Europe. From the moment you arrive in Germany, you will receive a warm welcome across a network of cities, towns and regions which have pledged to provide an all-access and BarrierFree environment. When travelling to and around Germany you can be assured of a similar promise from our airports, motorway service stations and local transport companies.
Driving in Germany
Driving in Germany can be a real pleasure and it’s certainly a great option for anyone needing to take along a wheelchair. Germany has the longest and one of the best motorway networks in Europe. You won’t find any tolls, but you will find plenty of open road, with traffic jams few and far between, certainly away from the major cities. Better still, almost all of Germany’s 390 service stations are BarrierFree, and offer disabled parking, and are open 24/7. As for other “services” in general, Germany has a scheme similar to the UK’s Radar Key, where there is a network of around 12,000 toilets available. The scheme is called the “Euro Key” from an organisation called CBF, and costs are from €18. See the CBF website for more details.
When it comes to parking your car, you can use your Blue Badge in Germany much the same as in UK or most other European countries. Disabled parking spaces are clearly marked with a wheelchair symbol, and is usually free of charge, even in private car parks.
And better still, when it comes to a driving tour of Germany, the tourist board has put together around 150 “Scenic Routes” to give you some ideas of where to go and what to see. There’s something for everyone, from wine tours to porcelain tours, forest or mountain, even museum tours or Fairy Tale tours.
Getting to Germany by Ferry
So, with Germany offering great facilities for disabled drivers (and drivers generally), plus so many tourist destinations and cities in Germany offering BarrierFree access, what is the best way to get there by car?
Sadly, there is no longer a direct ferry from UK to Germany. Until 2006, there was a ferry from Harwich to Cuxhaven (and before that, Hamburg), operated by DFDS. This route has since been changed and now runs from Harwich to Esbjerg in Denmark. Still, this could be a good option if you are thinking of driving around that northern are of Germany. And there’s plenty to see there, including the historical city of Lubeck, or the exciting city of Hamburg. Plus there’s the North Sea coast, and the island of Sylt, which is hugely popular with many German tourists.
An alternative route would be to take a ferry to one of the Dutch ports. Ferries from UK go from Hull to Rotterdam, Newcastle to Amsterdam, and Harwich to Hook of Holland. All of these will get you within easy reach of Germany. Hook of Holland to the German border is just a 1.5 hour drive and a 3 hour drive to Cologne, for example.
However, a surprisingly good option for getting to Germany (at least some parts of Germany) is to take a ferry to France. Dunkirk, for example, is roughly a 3.5 hour drive to Cologne – just 30 minutes longer than from the ferry port at Hook of Holland.
One big advantage of taking the ferry to Calais or Dunkirk in France is the choice – 3 operators running this route mean there’s a ferry leaving Dover to either Calais or Dunkirk every few minutes during peak times. Plus, for many people travelling from south east England, Dover may well prove the best ferry route to Germany since it is within fairly easy reach.
Barrier Free Travel Germany – Before You Go
A bit of planning and research will certainly pay off. Have a good idea of your route and if possible your accommodation. Familiarize yourself with a few important details, such as the German health system, emergency numbers (“122” in Germany is the UK’s “999”). Also, Make sure you have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and up to date travel insurance.
See Germany Travel’s official website for more information about Barrier Free Travel Germany.
About the author: Richard Davies is a freelance writer based in Germany. He writes on all aspects of travel, in particular ferry travel, city breaks and camping in Europe.