Last time we talked about the wonders of Amsterdam, a vibrant city to which I fully hope to return. The city, the entire country in fact, proved to be sorely un-wheelchair friendly. First came the cobbles. I’d negotiated the cobbles of Covent Garden in London, but this was beyond my worst fears. I had not realized much of the country was built before the 18th century.
Cobbles abound. The streets, the sidewalks, the plazas. Cobbles cobbles everywhere with nary a smooth spot to roll. Now add curbs. We think I must have popped a thousand wheelies over the two weeks!
What would make cobbles more fun? Let’s try trolley tracks. There is a wonderful system of trolleys. Clean and safe. Trolleys run on tracks. So now we are getting up some speed on the cobbles and doing wheelies across the tracks. One track, two tracks, quick turn toward the left, one track, two tracks. Straight a few feet and one track… One street had eight tracks to cross.
A commuter’s dream, just not great for a pedestrian on wheels!
Then there are the trains. I’ve long heard about Europe’s amazing train service. Long distance trains run every 30 minutes, locals more often. Just hop on one and go? Hardly. The cars are not accessible, but there are attendants with spiffy, portable ramps. Simply call ahead at least 24 hours (not 23) and specify exactly which train you will be on.
You’ve bought your tickets at the station, called ahead, and have arrived at the station again. Two very courteous people help you onto the train. What’s wrong with this picture? It is marked with the appropriate symbol, you have been provided a ramp, but what do you see but stairs?!? Seven steps up or five steps down. I chose down. How a paraplegic does five steps on the train might be a topic for another time. It wasn’t pretty.
This was First Class. We were told Coach has flat cars. Bingo! Flat for less money! Have you ever wondered how your suitcase feels while you are riding in your seat? For the long trip from Maastricht in the south to Amsterdam, we were escorted into a small section separated from the rest of the passengers at the back of the car. This is where travelers put their bicycles. Four seats have been added. Air conditioning had not been added. It was a time of record hot weather. Complete misery, not to mention how my MS reacted.
After a long train ride to Amsterdam there was the matter of nature. “Do you have an accessible restroom?” I asked the friendly policeman. “Maybe. If there is one it would be upstairs straight above us, but to get to the lift you will need to go all the way to the other end of the station and come back.” I assumed the trip back down would be a reverse of said route. I waited until the hotel.
I’m writing about the trip and smiling. Friendly, safe cities make forgetting the hardships easy. So maybe I won’t toss the brickbat after all. If you get the chance, by all means go!
Here are some pictures to entice you. And the next entry will be about a wonderful college town.