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Planes, Trains, & Automobiles: Travel Challenges with MS - Pt. 2

Having made it through the airport and managing to get to the commuter train terminal, I was now in unfamiliar territory, having never used ANY mobility devices on the scant few trains I have been on. But of course I had researched wheelchair accessibility on the Deutsche Bahn trains ad nauseam, so was fairly confident I kind of, sort of, knew what to do/expect??


Here's what I knew: train cars with a wheelchair symbol on them meant that there were spaces set aside for wheelchairs.


Here is what I thought I knew: those same train cars also had ramps that somehow were used to bridge the gap between train and platform.


Here is what I didn't know: only the first car in the front of the train has a ramp, which does not miraculously come out at the push of a button, but rather is placed there by the train conductor, who has to come out of his cab to do it. (I found this out a bit later on)


So of course, we attempted to embark around the middle of the train onto a car that had the wheelchair symbol. Of course, there was no button you could push to make a ramp come out! Where the heck was the ramp? And how the heck do people in wheelchairs get on a train car that is clearly marked as wheelchair friendly with no ramp?? I was perplexed.


We needed to get on the train so we did the only thing we could do...hubby tilted the chair back and wheelied me across the gap into the train, while my brother and niece brought all our luggage.


We spent the next 45 minutes trying to figure out the ramp/non-ramp situation, even going to other cars to see if there were ramps!! I'm sure people were wondering what the heck we were doing!? I'm also pretty sure they didn't know how to help ether?...why would they?..they didn't need a bloody ramp!


Needless to say, when we arrived at the main train station in Munich, we were no further enlightened as to how to disembark the train with a ramp as we were when we embarked. But at least we knew we could get off the train, albeit not gracefully. And if that's all I had to contend with, I was OK with that. But as things would have it, this was not the only thing I was going to have to contend with.


I can laugh about it now; but in the moment, it was a highly charged situation. Because, unknowingly, we had arrived, literally, on the wrong side of the tracks! An able-bodied person could have easily taken the stairs to reach the correct platform, but that was not really an option for someone in a wheelchair. All I knew, was that we needed to be on the opposite side of the track, where the elevator was!


With trains coming every 10 minutes, but only stopping for, maybe 3 minutes?, we knew we couldn't just get on and then quickly get off on the other side in one fell swoop...not with all the luggage, my rollator, and me in a wheelchair. Because, of course, there was the whole 'gap between the platform and the train, and where the heck was the ramp?!' thing. So someone was going to have to help me 'wheelie' the chair to get onto the train and then off it, which meant there was one less person to help with the luggage.


Kudos to my brother and niece, who handedly managed, in one trip, to move 3 pieces of large luggage and a rollator, allowing hubby to help me get safely across the train car without getting stuck between the gaps (which was a real fear of mine). I'm sure someone on the platform caught the entire fiasco on video.


Thankfully, the rest of the train trip was uneventful. One of the platform attendants kindly directed us to the front of the platform..which is when I learned that you need to be at the front of the train...where they will put out a ramp for you!


I'm hoping that all the trains in Europe follow this protocol. Will let you know if I discover any different.


On a side note: If you're like me and need to have a toilet nearby, the washrooms on the trains (in Germany, at least) are round and wheelchair friendly. But maybe that's for another post? LOL


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