Germany is wonderfully accessible in terms of transportation. Whether you arrive in your own car, by plane or train, its urban centres and regions are supremely well connected.
The long distance coach network, for example, is a popular way of travelling between German towns, and much of the country's public transport system, including infrastructure, communication and booking processes, is widely accessible.
A good example is the German airline Lufthansa, which helps passengers with restricted mobility to prepare for their journey with extensive check-lists, as well as providing an escort to and from the aircraft and passenger supervision when changing planes. Furthermore, the railway system's mobility initiatives cover all services; from seat reservations and travel assistance to a list of accessible destinations which is available online. German train stations include 40 travel centres equipped with optical-contact walking indicators, height-adjustable interfaces and induction loop audio systems.
Within the public transport network, most buses and trains are suitable for push- or wheelchairs, and there are usually reserved seats near entrances for visitors who find standing or walking difficult. Many car rental firms can provide vehicles with assisted steering or wheelchair loading aids and many towns contain lowered kerbs and pedestrian ramps with acoustic signals to ensure safety and comfort near traffic.
In Germany, there is a wide selection of accommodation available to suit everybody’s needs. These range from luxury five-star hotels with exceptional service to family-run guest houses, from extravagantly-designed hotels to rustic country inns, from youth hostels to simple holidays on a farm.
Many places offer guests comfortable and convenient access with level entrances and elevators. Most hotel chains also have special rooms available with wheelchair access. Some sites offer Braille signage to allow for better orientation for travellers with visual impairments.
In addition to excellent practical support, it is primarily the atmosphere that makes the stay so memorable for guests. Many hosts train their staff to meet the different needs of their guests; some hotels are geared to be all-inclusive while others develop complete offers for families with small children or provide holidays for family caregivers. Hospitality without limits does not end at the hotel door, but often also extends to assistance with directions or a variety of recreational activities in the area.
All sites offer: a competent and friendly service team that strives to meet the needs and requirements of each guest.
Germany is particularly popular with shopping tourists: vast retail areas in towns and outlet centres make browsing for fashion and designer brands a comfortable and relaxing pleasure.
Farmers' markets and farm shops offer regional and seasonal products in an authentic setting, while outstanding value for money and tax-free shopping opportunities provide additional shopping enjoyment.
Many towns, communities and tourist regions offer detailed information about accessible shopping, both on- and offline. In addition, more than 6,000 shops have earned the 'Friendly for all Ages' quality assurance award – recognisable by an orange sticker near the entrance. The qualifying criteria include wide aisles between shelves, slip-proof floors, easy to read price labels, suitable parking facilities and specially tailored customer service.
Modern shopping centres, such as the Ingolstadt Village Outlet Centre, have been designed with flat floors, while the Weimar Atrium, Anger 1 in Erfurt, the Middle Rhine Forum in Koblenz and Bremer City are all examples of retail centres that are barrier-free thanks to ramps and lifts. And accessible tourism truly meets shopping heaven at the state-owned Meissen Porcelain Manufactory and the Oldest Volkstedt Porcelain Manufactory.
The list of German fairs is long; from Christmas markets to town fairs, from the Schützenfest fair to the Erntedank parade. The number of domestic and overseas visitors to these festival sites, with their colourful mixture of mobile vendors, fairground rides, restaurants and cafés, is substantial and constantly growing.
Although each fair has its own unique heritage and character, the celebrating is always done together. The various organisers and funfair operators are working hard to make fairs more accessible and equally welcoming to visitors of all ages and disabilities.
Hence the Munich Beer Festival offers special tours of the festival site; the Free Market (Freimarkt) in Bremen organises a 'Disabled Persons' Day' in its Bavaria Tent; Hannover is creating an 'Accessible Schützenfest fair' with a shuttlebus service and wheelchair-friendly rides, while Erfurt's Christmas market contains accessible infrastructure to enable an enjoyable visit by everyone. In addition, the 'Rhine on Fire' spectacle in Koblenz caters for visitors with limited mobility, and Kiel Week has developed a range of services from shuttle buses to the accompaniment of groups by helpers.
There are regular top-class sporting events all over Germany. Nearly all stadiums and arenas are highly accessible, with sporting organisations and clubs offering all fans many opportunities to enjoy their events.
For example, partially sighted spectators can enjoy football or ice hockey matches thanks to live audio commentary in the stadium.
The Bundesliga's first guidebook for disabled fans was published in 2006 and is currently issued by the Bundesliga Foundation of Professional Football in collaboration with Deutsche Bahn (the German railway operator). The guide provides information about accessible travel and ticket sales, navigation in stadiums and seating for disabled fans and their companions. An accessible PDF version can be downloaded online.
Besides football, Germany hosts many other sporting events which warmly welcome all visitors: wheelchair users enjoy the best views of the annual Biathlon World Cup in Oberhop from reserved seats above the stand; lifts make the ski jump's viewing gantry accessible in Oberstdorf's Erdinger Arena, where the opening jumps of the Four Hills tournament take place each year.
Around 650 award-winning health and spa resorts across Germany promise relaxation, restoration and healing. These medicinal establishments are naturally well suited to visitors with either permanent or temporary mobility restrictions, or who need assistance.
Numerous hot baths, often with sauna areas, offer endless ways to relax.
The areas surrounding the spa resorts also play their part in making visitors feel fully at ease. Good examples are the themed gardens in the rose town of the north, Bad Langensalza, tours of the salt-evaporation works at Germany's oldest natural brine spa, Bad Salzelmen, and Germany's only radon tunnel in Bad Kreuznach. The many lovingly tended and designed spa gardens also offer an especially pleasurable experience.
Germany is one of the leading destinations for trade shows, conferences and conventions. The reason for this is Germany's excellent infrastructure, outstanding price-performance ratio and positioning as a location for green meetings, as well as Germany's economic and scientific expertise.
As part of a project funded by the Federal Ministry of Health, a research study was carried out on the availability of accessible venues with overnight accommodation; the results were broken down to specific target groups and published online. More than 100 offers - ranging from youth hostels to luxury hotels with accompanying conference facilities - were published as part of the project.
Choose from extensive exhibition halls, state-of-the-art convention centres and unusual event venues nationwide. Many conference and meeting venues have been refurbished in recent years. They are characterised by modern architecture and meet many structural accessibility requirements. These include the ÖVB Arena in Bremen and the six adjacent exhibition halls, the Darmstadium, the NordseeCongressCentrum in Husum and the Messe Erfurt. Even established convention and exhibition centres customize their services with the highest standards for perfect event organization, such as the Messe Frankfurt, the Rheingoldhalle in Mainz, the German Messe Hannover and many other venues.
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