By Jan Chait | October 7, 2008 4:57 pm
There are so many serious and/or meaningful issues I tell myself I should be writing about, but all I have on my mind is my trip next month. As a 60th birthday gift to myself, I’m heading to Germany to visit my best friend, whose Army officer husband is stationed in Heidelberg. While I’m there, we plan to hop over to Prague for a couple of days or so.
For the first time, I will be taking a mobility scooter with me. The last time I was there, I managed to make it from one end of the “shopping street” to the other. Since then, however, my knees have had two years to continue deteriorating, so that isn’t going to work any more.
It’s not just the shopping, it’s getting from a parking spot to a restaurant that is two blocks away, through a store to get needed items, or to accompany my friend through the commissary or post exchange. (I can’t buy anything, but I can say, “That’s a good brand of soup.”)
Besides, I want to go to market. I love market. Usually set up on the town square on certain days of the week, the place is full of foods—including freshly baked breads (I love the breads in Europe!), flowers, odds and ends, strolling musicians, and all kinds of neat stuff. I still remember with fondness a market day in December, with rosy-cheeked people all bundled up as fat snowflakes drifted down on us all.
However, never having taken a scooter to Europe, I’m wondering how accessible things will be. Other countries aren’t always as accommodating as the United States. Besides, the ancient buildings in the old parts of town—mostly inaccessible except by foot—are beautiful as is.
I’ve not paid attention to accessibility in the past, since it’s never been an issue before. Are there steps up to the store where I usually buy Birkenstocks? Were the steps to the train platforms in Hanau or Heidelberg? Both? Was there an elevator? An escalator? Can I hang onto a 100-pound scooter up and down an escalator? (Nope. Not even gonna try.)
Will there be somebody to help get the scooter up the steps onto the train (and back down) if my friend says she will meet me at the bahnhof (train station, I think) in Heidelberg rather than at the flughafen (airport) in Frankfurt? (Since my plane arrives at 7 AM, I wouldn’t blame her!)
Then there’s the luggage. Whether my friend meets me at the flughafen or not, I have to get me, my scooter, and my luggage from customs to the meeting area. So what do I take? I usually take my rolling carry-on on the plane and check a large bag. In customs, you get a luggage cart to put the bags on and wheel them out on that. If you’re walking, that is. I can’t do a scooter and a luggage cart. Will my backpack be large enough for food, medical supplies, and an emergency change of clothes and a nightshirt (in case my luggage goes to Denver like it did the last time I flew to Germany)? How many people will I send to the krankenhaus (hospital) if I drive the scooter with one hand while rolling a large suitcase along with the other?
Normally, I’m not one to obsess this way. However, the scooter has given me so much freedom in mobility here, I’m loathe to give it up in Europe. There is a cathedral in Mainz, Germany, with stained glass windows by Marc Chagall that I want to see. I want to bum around the Jewish Quarter in Prague.
I suppose I’ll have to do as I usually do—rush headlong into the world and take things as they are. There’s nothing you can do about some of the obstacles put in your path anyway, except to try and find a way around them. And if you can’t, at least you tried.
Now, is it too early to start packing?
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