Two years ago this week, governments around the world were scrambling around trying to stop the spread of COVID, in the UK, old Boris finally announced a nationwide lockdown on the 23rd March and then…silence! The world was able to take a breath as we all hid, nature was able to reclaim it’s habitat and cities such as Delhi were clearly visible due to the pollution levels hitting record lows…pity that we haven’t learnt from that period of tranquillity.
Anyway, as the world is very slowly emerging from the depths of the pandemic and learning to live with COVID, it seems the right time for me to travel once more and explore more of what the world has to offer. However, as the war on Ukraine seems to have no sign of stopping any time soon, the plans for this year will be in reverse in the vein hope that peace will be restored by the Winter months (we can live in hope but who knows with the horrific scenes currently playing out).
Bar the Madrid trip, you will note that I have yet to visit the entirety of southern Europe thus I will be doing exactly that this year. To begin with, I have planned a few days in Lisbon (Portugal) between the 14th and 17th June followed in July by a few days in Zagreb (Croatia). However, let’s face it, I can’t visit Europe with some kind of train excursion thus I will be taking the 2.5 hour train whilst in Zagreb to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. According to many sources, Slovenia is the only country in Central Europe that I haven’t visited but that fact seems to be a little controversial with some saying that Romania and Serbia should be included.
Regarding accessibility for Superbunny, it seems that Lisbon is pretty much there (which one would expect from a popular tourist destination) in terms of rolling around the city, just perhaps a little bumpy! Less is known about Zagreb and Ljubljana, however, from a quick scoot around on trusty Google Maps, it doesn’t look too bad but we will see…(and hopefully Superbunny won’t leak this year!)
Amidst the chaos that the Coronavirus is bringing to the world i.e. a quarter of the Earths population is now in isolation, there are some positive aspects that are being missed by many. One that is of particular interest to me is how the impact of isolation is affecting our environment. Besides the reduction of emissions in our cities, wildlife is having a rare chance to thrive, for example, the clearer waters of Venice is allowing hundreds of fish to enter, even dolphins can be seen at Italian ports! It’s such a shame that this glimpse of what the world could be will most likely be short lived when daily life returns to normal…
Anyway, travelling this year, yes, well that has completely gone out the window hasn’t it? I had booked a 2 week excursion to the USA at the end of May to Seattle and San Francisco (with day trips to Vancouver and Sacramento) but, let’s face it, that isn’t going to happen! Even if the travel restrictions are lifted by then, I don’t know how I would feel about spending 8+ hours on a plane with the same people spreading their illnesses around (Although, airplane cabins are thought to be the safest containment areas currently…fun fact for you!).
So what is the plan now you may ask? Well, first we have to ‘send this virus packing’ (in the words of good old Boris!) and then wait for the travel restrictions to be lifted which is unknown at the moment. Once lifted and a few months have passed, the plan for this year and next is to remain in Europe (or the crossroads between it and Asia) mainly because you know where you stand with your own continent plus I need time to rebuild Dynamic Play after all of this!
I was in the process of planning Turkmenistan for September before Corona hit the UK. Of course, that plan has now changed and I now plan to explore even more of Europe for the next two years hence it seems fitting to begin by finishing up northern Europe and the remaining Baltic states namely Latvia and Norway before I start on the south and the rest of the east. Now the two countries have completely opposite views on accessibility. As with other Scandinavian countries i.e. Denmark and Sweden, Norway seems to be ‘up there’ with catering for the disabled so doesn’t require much forward planning. Now, you would of thought with Latvia, especially Riga being a tourist hotspot coupled with being a ‘stag’ destination, it would have some kind of accessibility, it appears not! The only publicly known ‘accessible’ taxi company only caters for manual wheelchairs. All is not lost though as the majority of buses (especially to and from the airport) are wheelchair friendly, good news for Superbunny!
The plan for next year is to see how Superbunny fairs with both some of Europes more accessible countries i.e. Portugal and Croatia and perhaps some of the more ‘out there’ countries i.e. Georgia and Azerbaijan!
Nonetheless, let’s focus upon Riga and Oslo for now…
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.
Will I ever get over my obsession with visiting weird and wonderful countries? The answer is probably not, however, next years itinerary may well do me for a little while when I explore a few unusual landlocked countries!
Next year, three trips are planned with the first one being in April and visiting Prague and Bratislava (Slovakia). You may be thinking what’s weird about that, not much really! As you may know, in 1993, these two countries became independent of one another after the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia and it is this that is of interest to me (and the fact that I was meant to go to Prague in 2017 before Easyjet cancelled the flight at the last minute!). Now, we will be travelling between the two by train, I just have flashbacks to the Polish experience we encountered in 2015 where we seemed to board one which must have dated back to the 1950s, surely it can’t be as bad as that (he says!).
Following on from that trip, the former United Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) comes in to focus. I better be prudent as to what I write on here but, if you don’t know, the USSR was formally known as northern Eurasia which was once the worlds largest country separated into several republics until it’s slow demise in 1991! In June, I plan to visit Vilnius (Lithuania) and then head down to Minsk (Belarus), both of which became independent very close to the overall dissolution. Since then, both cities have made their own way towards independence with Vilnius being “rapidly transformed” into a modern European city with skyscrapers (of course that’s a pull also for me to visit) and Minsk following the same path, however, it’s hard to ignore the Sovereign architecture that is still present.
Finally, in October, I plan to visit Uzbekistan with Exodus Travels (similar to Trailfinders here in the UK), staying in its capital, Tashkent with day tours down to Samarkand (via bullet train) and then being privately driven across the Kazak border to tour Shymkent (Kazakhstan’s third most populous city). Why Uzbekistan? Uzbekistan, in particular, Samarkand sits along the ancient Silk Road which was once used as a major trade route connecting China to Europe leading to the magnificent blue tiled architecture being created
You may be wondering how the hell Superbunny is going to cope in these countries? Well Prague and Bratislava are quite conventional European cities so should be quite straightforward (well nothing is straightforward with me…haven’t combated the Czech train booking/assistance system yet…although my PAs did an excellent job booking my 2015 interrailing trip involving speaking many languages!!). As I stated above, Vilnius has undergone a rapid transformation including the construction of a business district which, as demonstrated in both Reykjavik and Tallinn can be mostly used as a backup plan in terms of accessible. To my surprise, Minsk is currently experiencing a disability movement resulting in improvements across the city accessibility wise, however, this movement is quite recent so I anticipate it will either be a manual wheelchair outing or a good old takeaway back at the hotel! Finally, Uzbekistan, well Superbunny has completely no hope meaning that I think it may be best for it to stay in the bunny hutch and manual wheelchair it for a week?
Can you believe that it’s been nearly a year since Miami and that Caribbean cruise…time flies when your having fun (or in my case setting up a new party business!).
Anyway, this years travels begin on Sunday when we catch an Easyjet flight from Bristol (got to love Bristol Airport…they do know what they are doing really!) to Prague in the Czech Republic for a few days (well…until Thursday night). Earlier in the year, I was torn between visiting Tirana (in Albania), Bucharest (in Romania) or Prague, however, let’s just say that the accessibility in Albania and Romania isn’t the best (hence would require some more planning than usual) so I opted for the easy option this time! The time will come for Albania and Romania, those will definitely be fun adventures for sure.
By now, you have probably gather that I can’t go a year without visiting somewhere out of the ordinary so this year it’s…wait for it…CHINA!!!!! The best part, however, is that I spend my birthday at my favourite place and also the epicentre of the UK….London Heathrow airport (actually spending a few days there beforehand on a training course, an irrelevant fact for you). Of course, I’m joking, we are flying to Beijing for a few days visiting The Great Wall of China (on my bucket list!) and The Forbidden City. From there, we catch the Bullet Train (another one on the list) to Xian to visit the Terracotta Warriors before flying to the bright lights and TOWERS!!!! For this trip, it’s solely me and the parents, just so you know who will be helping me to type this sarcastic blog. Anyway that adventure begins on the 28th August.
Back to Prague, on the agenda are all the usual’s, TOWERS and TRAIN STATIONS and, of course, marvelling at the Gothic architecture. A fun fact for you, Lasgo filmed her music video to ‘Something’ (watch it here) at one of Prague’s train stations…exciting!!!! Oh and the hotel has a spa, don’t you know 🙂
It seems that the last post on here which was upon my return from Iceland is now a distant memory with all the exciting things that has happened over the past few months!
First off was the Education Show at the NEC (or as I was calling it by the last day, the cattle shed) back in March which we are still reaping the success of. I never in my life imagined that I would be looking at the exact same view for three days straight, luckily there was some eye candy on the stand next to us which kept me occupied (that sounds really pervy, definitely not the intention…promise!!). To try to prevent all of us going stir crazy we also kept a stash of Krispy Kreme under our stand – definitely needed them by the last day!
Just 2 weeks after the show, it was time return to Brum to talk to some year 8s, one word of advice, if your car looks like a van like mine and your travelling on the M6 Toll, be prepared to pay the van rate of £10, never doing that again!
Next up, after 4 years of VEUcans existence, the time felt right for it to step up and become a Limited company (VEUcan Ltd still sounds so posh!) which coincided with employing dedicated presenters (well translators and general helpers) for our talks and workshops. We also have some awesome ideas for the future including ingenious ideas to get VEUcans message across.
So your probably wondering where the hell am I going to find time to go on holiday, god knows!!!! I joke, I’m taking 2 weeks out in July to travel once more around Europe but this time by my favourite mode of transportation, TRAINS (Oh and a PLANE)!! Also, drastically deviating from the original plan, we are visiting the following places, each for a few days; Marseille, Geneva, Vienna, Budapest and Katowice (a place in Poland where we will stay to visit Auschwitz), flying back from Warsaw to Heathrow.
Of course I visited France and Switzerland back in 2013 so know that they have great accessibility but after that, we are stepping into the unknown, the place that I think will be interesting is Budapest, see how Eastern Europe accessibility holds up!
Before all of this though, guess where we have work to do…..Birmingham yet again!!!! We are visiting two schools on two consecutive days, swear that I should just do a road tour 🙂
Anyway, start following our antics on the evening of the 8th July on Twitter and on here, by now it’s obvious that something won’t go to plan no matter what we do!
So with 2015 only a day away and the Education Show at the NEC slowly creeping ever closer, I have given my Wheelchair Traveller blog a well-deserved facelift. Apart from being more reliable (which is always a bonus when your halfway across the world with just an iPad!), it can now be updated through an App which also let’s you upload photos to make it look even more prettier!!
My first trip away of 2015 is to Iceland on the 5th-8th February where Superbunny will be making a return appearance all fixed from it’s traumatic experience in America in the summer (Hopefully Easyjet will be more gentle than United…….hmm……we will see!!!!) plus it gets to probably play in the snow which should be hilarious.
However, we have work to do before that in Chipping Sodbury and Nottingham (I seem to be spending more and more of my life in hotels nowadays!). See you February 😀