…and the answer to that cliffhanger of a question regarding Superbunny is YES!! Superbunny successfully made it home to Bristol and is now at the hospital being fixed, what’s even better is the fact that it’s costing less than £200, much cheaper than anticipated!!
Anyway, where did I leave you previously? Oh yes, we were still in that lovely hotel, the one where trams were screeching outside all night long. Our last day in mainland Europe was pretty chilled for once, we had, once again pre-booked the taxi to take us from the hotel to the epicentre of Austria, Vienna Airport. Now, there is two ways of getting from Bratislava to Wien Flughafen, you can either take the toll road or the scenic route, can you hazard a guess which one our driver took? Yes, even though we paid 179 euros for the taxi, we ended up going for a jolly through the Austrian countryside, it is intriguing, however, the extent to which the landscape changes as you journey from one country into another.
I say that we went for a countryside jolly, we still arrived at the airport a mere 4 hours early. This was the moment of truth for Superbunny, would it survive the airport experience without leaking? Being a major hub for Austria and indeed Europe, you would of thought Vienna deals with electric wheelchairs on a regular basis, apparently not as check in attempted to deny passage for Superbunny. After around 20 minutes being surrounding by a hierarchy of airport staff speaking German, we were asked to wait at the information desk for further instructions. Another 10 minutes passed when the assistance guy arrived and simply said ‘we meet you at gate’ and then walked off, what was the point of that?
Vienna airport is slightly different in the sense that instead of security being front of house, each gate has its own scanners. This works well in theory until your gate enters out onto a flight of stairs! The airports answer to this problem is to take you to another gate full of passengers and prioritise you through subsequently journeying down onto the airfield where the usual chariot awaits to whisk you to the plane door concluding this European trip.
Everything is nearly set already for my return to Europe in June with the destinations being Vilnius in Lithuania and Minsk in Belarus, however, during the planning stage for this, we hit one small obstacle. The majority of flights from the UK to Vilnius are operated by Ryanair who we subsequently discovered won’t accept Superbunny due to its size (being a budget airline, space is at a premium). This has subsequently altered our plans as we have to now depart from London City airport at 9am meaning a hotel is needed for the night before (and this is London we are talking about!)
Oh the joys of flying with an electric wheelchair and stay tuned for the itinerary 🙂
Today was our last full day in Bratislava and indeed for this trip (how time flies!!). As I mentioned yesterday, the sole aim of today was to explore the UFO Tower which stands proud over a dual carriageway.
N.B. I thought I would mention that a car has just drove straight down the tramway outside the hotel window…whoopsie!
After a short walk across the River Danube, we reached the base of this majestic structure which, at the point of writing, consisted of a wooden shell with a porta cabin alongside. What was more concerning was the fact that a big step was present to enter, however, we later discovered that a wooden ramp had been constructed around the side. The temporary walkway to the elevator from said porta cabin can only be described as an entrance to a rather strange rollercoaster; walls and ceiling painted entirely black with a rather concerning whirring noise emanating from the end (the elevator!).
Once inside the ‘UFO’, you are presented with stunning panoramic views of the city including the famous Castle. If you are lucky enough to experience the restaurant also, don’t expect large servings of food, it’s one of those posh places where you are required to sample the tiniest portion and then pay a bomb for it…
There seemed to be an upstairs section, however, I’m not quite sure if it’s accessible as we didn’t venture that far.
Tomorrow, we head over the border into Austria to Vienna Airport for our flight back to good old Bristol, I’m just hoping that Superbunny makes it back without bleeding out again ready for its next adventure in June to Vilnius in Lithuania and then over the border to Minsk in Belarus (after being patched up that is!).
The capital of Slovakia, Bratislava is a city not necessarily on the conventional tourists bucket list, especially if you use a wheelchair but you may be surprised by this place! If you think of a quaint city that is a cross between Czech and Austrian styled architecture, that’s Bratislava.
Today we ventured into its historical centre, the majority of streets have been revamped from conventional cobbles (unlike Prague) to a very smooth surface whilst maintaining it’s authentic appearance thus making for a smooth ride (much to the delight of my PAs who now have to push for the next few days!)…
As we only have 2 days here before heading back to Bristol, we enlisted the help of a very handy city map marking out the location of the major sights such as St Michael’s Gate and the Man At Work statue…
The city centre itself is quite small (much to my liking!) meaning that you can see the majority of the sights in a matter of hours (it took us around 3 and a half hours including a half hour stop!).
Compared to the poshness of The Grandior Hotel in Prague, we are Ibising it here. Situated on the slopes of Bratislava Castle, it is pretty much what an Ibis stands for (much more to my norm), The only downside is that the accessible rooms contain a bath rather than a shower.
The plan for tomorrow was to trek up to Bratislava Castle, however with Superbunny out of action and the slope up being near vertical, think we will give that a miss! Instead, a well needed chill morning is the plan with a meal up the UFO Tower (essentially a UFO atop of a road bridge) to round off the trip!
Remember when I said that everything was plain sailing thus far? Of course it couldn’t last could it? The last few days have been rather hectic hence the gap in this blog, however, I will try my best to fill you in with happenings!
Let’s return to Wednesday morning when everything was still dandy. The aim of the day was to simply have a meal up the Žižkov Television Tower (or the ‘crawling babies’ tower, the reasoning I will explain shortly). The journey was doomed from the start really as construction work around the Florenc area meaning risking life and death attempting to cross 3 or 4 lanes of traffic which is no mean feat especially with Superbunny. Anyway, a few more roads and steep hills later, we reached our destination.
The Žižkov Television Tower was constructed in 1992 towards the end of the sovereign era and was subsequently dubbed the worlds second ugliest building (although I have seen many worse in my travels…it’s taste I guess). In an effort to boost it’s appearance, a Czech artist was commissioned in 2000 to design fiberglass ‘babies’ which would ‘crawl’ up the tower giving rise to its nickname…
Now, accessibility to access the building, that’s the fun part! The entrance is actually sunken down below street level with steps surroundings its perimeter. How do you access the lower level you may ask? The answer to that is practically pretending that you are a car by going through the underground car park…
It is from herein that things begin to go down the drain! Around 3/4 of the decent back to the hotel. One PA noticed that one of Superbunnys back wheels was leaking oil. After a short discussion with my engineer back in the UK, it became clear that the wheel could therefore seize up at any point which would then require lifting the chair to get anywhere! Back at the hotel, things got a little worse when a PA managed to find that the seal was wrapped around the wheel (and yes oil leaked onto the posh carpet…whoopsies!). After toying with several ideas as to how best to attempt to get Superbunny back to the UK without its wheel ceasing up, it was decided that we would taxi it down to Bratislava door to door rather than train it.
In theory this strategy would of been ideal bar the fact that it is Easter Bank Holiday and the drive down involves a long stretch of one on Czechia’s main arterial routes down south coupled with the fact that the majority of routes are 2 lanes constantly merging into one due to roadworks. We set off around 11am and arrived in Bratislava just after 5pm, a journey that should of taken 3.5 hours! As in any country, the landscape changed as we headed further south and into Slovakia from the rugged picturesque landscape in the north to wide open fields traveling over the border.
Before I start this post, I forgot to explain why I titled yesterdays post ‘Clocks’, perhaps due to the jetlag from a 100 minute flight? Anyway, the answer is that the majority of streets in the city centre have some resemblance of a clock so you are constantly reminded of the time…handy! It would be nice to have at least one of these public clocks near me in Bristol to save a trip to Bristol Parkway to check the time when out on my jollies…I don’t want much, honest?
Another happening that I omitted from the post yesterday was that, yet again, I was asked by a guy on the street if he could add me into his daily prays, this seems to be a ‘thing’ around this part of Europe as the same occurrence happened in Vienna a few years ago, either that or a guy is traveling around seeking out people to pray for?
Let’s talk about today now, as I said yesterday, the primary aim was to visit the Petrin Tower using the Prague Metro system. Luckily for us, Florenc station (which is fully accessible) is a mere 5 minute walk from the hotel! Now, Florenc sis an interchange station for both Line B (the one we wanted) and C and if you have used such transportation systems before, you will know that there is usually one lift for the overall station, not here! At interchange stations in Prague, you have different lifts for different lines, even have street signs directing you to the different lifts via an accessible route, why can’t we have a similar system in London, it’s simple yet effective. This continues all the way down onto the platform meaning that all you really need to know is the colour or letter of the line you want, if the stations are accessible and the destination. Prior to any trips that involve catching public transportation, I YouTube the actual transport whether that be a bus, metro and tram to see how accessible it is to get on and the size of the gap between said vehicle and the pavement or platform! As usual, Prague uses different rolling stock dependent upon the line, each with varying gaps between the train and the platform edge. In the case of Line B, Russian metro rolling stock are still in service after all these years (the country was previously within the Soviet Union…fun fact!) albeit a little updated with regards to technology and as such the gap is quite substantial meaning that Superbunny had to do some wheelies to get onboard (if you have a wheelchair that can’t do wheelies, you have no hope unfortunately).
An able bodied individual wanting to visit the Petrin Tower can simply hop onto the metro, get off and straight onto the Funicular Railway essentially taking you to the tower entrance, simple right? If only it was with muggins and Superbunny! Despite the popularity of the Petrin, neither the Funicular or the closest metro is accessible (even with a manual wheelchair…we did have a quick gander!). Now, the tower is on top of a decent sized hill overlooking the city…you can see where I’m going with this can’t you, much to the delight of my PAs, we had to effectively trek up the side of this thing, if it’s any consolation, the views were majestic (probably better than the tower!)…
An hours trek later, we finally reached the summit where the Petrin Tower stood in all it’s glory…
On first glance at this majestic structure, you would assume a large lift going up its core but no! Upon entering the base, we were informed that Superbunny was too wide for the lift hence they bought out a very dusty manual wheelchair for me to transfer into and the reason for this became evidently clear once the lift was presented! Words can’t describe how small this thing was, even a normal sized manual wheelchair had to be bumped and scraped to fill in! We were then informed that this box lift could only go to the second base hence these views had to suffice…
After the prospect dawned upon me that I could potentially get stuck in a lift the size of a box for eternity, we set upon finding an accessible restaurant which we know by now doesn’t tie well with Europe. Luckily, we discovered, what can only be described as Soviet styled apartment blocks with a restaurant benefits. Who knows what it was previously used for as the toilet doors seemed to be like chunky jail doors!
The plan for tomorrow was to go down to the hotel spa for the majority of the day day, however, as one PA discovered, they charge around £100 and I ain’t paying that! The only other thing remaining for us to do in Prague now is to visit the Žižkovská tower tomorrow afternoon before stocking up in preparation for the 4 hour train journey to Bratislava on Friday…hopefully this tower will have a decent lift!!!
I swear every time that I traverse Bristol International Airport, they handle Superbunny differently! This time, after a journey in the minibus out to the airfield with a Spanish driver who spoke little English was unable to distinguish between EasyJet and Ryanair, Superbunny’s joystick was disconnected (after clearly informing them not too) and then wrapped up in electrical tape, what next!
Anyway, we made it out the country this time (some of you will know that I had two failed attempts at a holiday last year!), can you believe it, I can’t! To add to this excitement, the wheelchair accessible taxi that I booked prior actually arrived on time and was a suitable size also meaning our experience thus far seems to be plain sailing (don’t hold your breath though…still have to traverse the Prague Metro system tomorrow!).
What can I say about our hotel then…perhaps a little posh for my standards? Come on, they have a bellboy, spa and even a cocktail bar…what more could one want? Perhaps it’s to make up for the budget Ibis that I have booked in Bratislava in a few days! The poshness continues upstairs into the Grandior Hotel rooms, which, I must say, is ideal when it comes to accessibility, plenty of room to maneuver plus a huge bathroom/wet room complete with a shower seat! However, this is me talking hence the room muggins is staying in has to be the one that is level with another roof full of my furry enemies (pigeons!).
Today was all about exploring the heart of Prague hence after buying new shoes (as it turns out the guy in the shop back in the UK sold me the wrong size but that’s another story!), a little route was formed taking in the famous sights such as the Prague Astronomical Clock and Old Town Square…
…and The Charles Bridge…
Now, during my numerous trips to Europe, I have come to realise that, particularally in older cities such as Bruges, indoor restaurants pose an obstacle to wheelchair users due to the building having steps. Luckily for us, a few minutes from the hotel, a shopping mall is located with every restaurant you can think of meaning our meal times are sorted for the next few days!
As I mentioned, the plan for tomorrow is to attempt to navigate the Prague metro system ultimately to visit the Petrin Tower 🙂
Every time I think of Prague now, the image of the departure board at Bristol airport informing us of the flight cancellation pops into my head, hopefully that won’t happen this time around (one can hope anyway!)!
Anyway, what is the plan for Prague? Pretty much the same as the planned trip back in 2017, exploring the Gothic city centre, elevating two towers (namely the Žižkov Television Tower and the Petřín Lookout Tower) located on opposite sides of the Vltava River) and, of course, take a ride on the Prague Metro whilst we are at it!
On the 4th day of our travels, we head over to Praha Hlavní Nádraží railway station with its stunning architecture to take a 4 hour train journey down to the Slovak capital of Bratislava. As usual, I have YouTubed the types of trains that run on that route and, let’s just say, the rolling stock could do with a little refurbishment, the carriages still have compartments, I just have flashbacks to the lovely 1950 Polish train experience we had, perhaps that is the reason the tickets are so cheap? I say that, however, it wasn’t the worst train experience in my life, I have always kept this to myself but maybe now is the right time to share it with you (Apologies for the slight deviation here!).
It was 2015 and the final day Interrailing trip around Europe, we were traveling from Katowice back to Warsaw to return to London Heathrow, me being a train lover decided to book us on, what was then, the brand new high speed railway to the capital complemented by the next generation of Pendolino trains. Being only a few months old at the time, everyone was still getting used to this new tech, I rolled up as usual, however, instead of a ramp being placed down, this train had an integrated lift which the guard was supposed to lower down. It became clear after a while that the lift wasn’t going to work so instead of using a ramp like a sensible person would do, the guard rounded up several dispatches and began to physically lift Superbunny onto the train with me in it! Shortly after, two of the guys couldn’t hold it anymore leaving the other two guys to finish the job! It was only after we reached Warsaw that we discovered that the lift had never been used before and was still on the manufacturer setting of being shut off…don’t ask why!
Anyway, where was I, oh yes, Bratislava! Bratislava is a much smaller city than Prague making it a lot easier to see the majority of the sights in the time we have. Coupled with that, we are staying at the Ibis Centrum which is literally behind the Castle (one of the main attractions) and within a 20 minute walk of essentially everything! As a result, the only real plan we have is to finish the holiday with dinner at the top of the UFO tower (basically an UFO shaped tower plonked on a road bridge!)