I don’t like trains.
I think train travel must be important, because I hear lots of trains whistling and screaming past my house from early morning to late at night.
Clearly lots of people travel on trains. Which means that some guide dogs must also go on them with their humans. But I don’t think I’d like to take Mom on a train unless I had no other choice.
I see trains often when Mom and I are walking on the road that is next to the trainline. To me, trains look like giant snake monsters that want to gobble me up. And they make a dreadful rumbling and moaning sound. They shake and shudder as they go from one place to another and their wheels scream and shriek as they go by. And their horrible unearthly whistles try to shatter my poor eardrums. Sometimes their doors whoosh open and sometimes they don’t, which is also intimidating. Is it any wonder trains make me a little nervous?
Admittedly I’ve only travelled by train once, back when I first met Mom and had to help teach her how to work with me. All of us guide dogs took our new humans to the train station and caught a train to Fish Hoek beach. While I loved having the chance to run, wrestle and play with my guide dog friends on the beach, while the trainers made sure our humans didn’t misbehave, I honestly would have preferred to travel there by car.
I know my guide dog sister-aunts Leila and Eccles used to take Mom to work on the train before I was her guide dog, so I know it must be possible for us to go on a train and not get gobbled up by the nasty snake monster-type thing. I’m sure I would probably also get used to it if I had no other choice. But I honestly think it would be far better to go by car or by Uber. Or simply to walk there, provided it’s not too far. But since Mom now works from home, it’s all hypothetical anyway.
So, while I know trains are good and are important to help humans and some guide dogs get to where they need to go, I’m just as happy that I don’t have to use them. Unless it’s the only way to travel to the beach. In which case I might be willing to consider taking Mom on a train again.
Spending more than a week in Paris, travelling round extensively on the Metro and train service, I got the feeling that a traveller using a wheelchair might encounter some problems using the Metro. Luckily, I was travelling with my sighted husband, so didn’t have to find my way around unfamiliar Metro stations on my own, especially as not all trains had audio announcements to let me know which station we were approaching.
Physical access is seldom a problem for a traveller with a visual impairment, but I was very aware there appeared to be few elevators, that many of the trains had steps up from the station platform into the carriage and that there was often a gap between the platform and the carriage. The only Metro line that seemed to have a good level of wheelchair accessibility was the 14th, which is a newer line – it even has a barrier to stop people falling onto the tracks, either by accident or design.
When I got back to Cape Town I wanted to discover if my observations were true. And, if they were, I wanted to learn how those using wheelchairs are able to navigate their way around Paris. So, as almost anyone would do, I turned to Google.
In my exploration, I found this fantastic article on the accessibility of Paris, and not just the rail services. I think it’s a great article for someone with a disability to read before heading off to Paris for a visit.
I know most of the Metro and rail infrastructure in Paris was built before the needs of persons with disabilities were really considered, but I was startled to find that so little accommodation has yet been done.
Still, it’s good to know that persons with disabilities who do visit Paris are able to get out and see this beautiful and historic city.
I’d planned to write an article about some of the wonderful restaurants we visited in Gorlitz, but somehow this was the article that landed up writing itself instead…
My first impressions of our next destination weren’t great. We were exhausted by the time we climbed off the train in Wroclaw, Poland. , Somehow, despite numerous hiccups we eventually found the place we were going to stay– hiccups which included a total absence of taxis, and following what seemed to be a pirate’s highly convoluted treasure map where X marked the location of our apartment.
And it just got worse from there…
Have you ever wished you could take back time and change your actions? I know it wouldn’t have made any difference to the outcome – in fact, it would only have made the situation worse. But still, if I could go back in time I wouldn’t have accessed the wi-fi when we got to the apartment. Because that was when we got the news that my beautiful retired guide dog, Eccles, was seriously ill and that we needed to contact the vet to discuss our options. Sadly, there weren’t really any options at all and we tearfully said goodbye to Eccles via a long-distance voice call and let her ease gently into an eternal sleep.
All things considered, perhaps I can be forgiven my less than favourable first impressions of Wroclaw.
Having said that, neither of those were the fault of Wroclaw itself, and there is much to recommend this charming city- the weather was beautiful and we took full advantage of the warm days to walk around and see what the city had to offer.
We spent time browsing through the large permanent daytime market and sampled a few of the restaurants on the main pedestrian square where we enjoyed several local delicacies. We also went on a tour of the city via river boat with a very knowledgeable guide who shared a little of the city’s history with us.
And, of course, there were the Wroclaw dwarves, which I personally felt were the single most endearing aspect of the city.
I’ll probably still have a chance to tell you about our culinary experiences, but perhaps not just yet…
In my next few articles I’ll share a little more about our experiences in Wroclaw and how the city managed to redeem itself from that admittedly rocky start.