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Changed plans

We originally planned to go to Germany but we are now going to Belgium and The Netherlands.

First, my restriction: While I can easily walk two or three miles unassisted on flat land, I have great difficulty with up and down (stairs or ramps). I walk with one or two canes depending on the terrain and can be a little “tippy.” I can do about two flights of stairs carefully but then must have a break. I do not have too much trouble with boarding trains as this is a spinal injury and my arm strength is good.
We prefer train travel but would rent a car if absolutely necessary.
Does anyone see any huge problems with this itinerary?
Arrive Brussels - train to Ghent (2 nights)
Bruges (3 nights)
Amsterdam (6 nights)
Brussels (2nights and fly out)
I appreciate your input.

Posted by
1803 posts

Normally, I would say no need to spend 2 nights in Ghent & 3 in Bruges as they are not very far apart and you could just base yourself in one and take day trips to the other. However, it sounds like you need a lot of rest breaks, so it's definitely sounding like it would be better for you to be close to your lodging if you need to take an extended break mid-day.

If you can manage the few steps on a train, tram or bus, then use public transit as much as possible, or take taxis. As for a rental car, I would not recommend bringing one into Amsterdam. I hope you chose lodging with an elevator. Stairs, particularly in the Netherlands, can be narrow and quite steep in a lot of the older houses and hotels. There is also quite a bit of uneven cobblestone and brick covering many streets and sidewalks, and many bridges crossing over canals that ramp up and down over the water in Amsterdam and Bruges. You mention you are "tippy" with the 2 canes, so just something to be aware of.

Posted by
12040 posts

Nothing on your proposed itinerary would be made easier with a rental car.

Posted by
1976 posts

I agree with Ceidleh's comments. The same goes in Brussels with regard to an elevator - make sure you choose a hotel with one. I stayed at the top of a 6-story walkup hotel which, believe me, was not fun for an able-bodied person with luggage.

Posted by
11613 posts

Most bridge crossings over canals are not too steep. As mentioned, stick to hotels that have working elevators - this may rule out some quaint B&Bs.

Most museums have elevators, and only a few of these need permitted access.

I spent three nights in Brugge and two in Ghent in December, both are beautiful.

Belgium is a fabulous country, have a great trip!

Posted by
1803 posts

One other thing, regarding elevators in Amsterdam, they are definitely available in the large museums (Rijks, VanGogh, Hermitage). But for part of the Anne Frank House (a major sight many visitors want to see), I do not recall any elevator access up to the Secret Annex part of the museum - just a steep staircase. There is an elevator that goes between the lower levels of the museum, but most everyone who goes wants to see where the family hid during the war and that's at the top of the house.

Posted by
58 posts

I can do stairs when unavoidable. Just takes a lot out of me. In Naples last fall, we stayed in a third floor room with breakfast in the basement. It was difficult but I survived. I do look for lower floors and elevators.

Zoe, what do you mean by elevators with permitted access?

Posted by
11613 posts

Some places have elevators only for people with disabilities, so you need to have an attendant unlock it for you. This is rare, but it happens. In order to avoid backtracking, it's probably best to ask the person who takes your ticket or someone at the info desk if the elevator is available, they will make sure you can use it.

Posted by
4701 posts

I don't have a disability, but I would comment that Gent and Bruges are both beautiful medieval town centers that have extensive bridges, cobblestones, and ramps, as well as some steps. They are both so pedestrianized that even a traveler with an unlimited budget would have little opportunity to, say, charter a golf cart for local sightseeing. So as previously noted, I would pay extra for a room right in the medieval center, so you can retreat for a rest. Another way of saying that is that walking is essential to see those two cities.

There are plenty of luxury B&Bs in Bruges and I'll bet some have ground floor rooms, I don't know about Gent. There is excellent public bus service from the train stations at Gent and Bruges, into the scenic centers. Both cities use the same transit card, sold by machines outside the rail station, even if the Lijn office isn't open for you. Brussels uses a different card.

Brussels could benefit from a tour guide with a car, but it is also much larger than the other two cities. Amsterdam also has canals, but I'd describe it as flatter than the other four cities mentioned here. Please do not underestimate the presence of cobblestones in all of the places you're going. They are wonderful places to visit, and just as nice as Germany, in their own way. You will not regret this trip, if you can keep your energy up..

Posted by
3580 posts

This discussion about limited mobility and cobblestones reminds me of what I saw in Venice. Twice on the same visit I saw people in wheelchairs. One was being helped off a vaporetto at Piazza San Marco. The other was moving about another piazza which was level; the wheelchair with passenger had arrived via vaporetto. Some hotels are probably located at that piazza. Careful planning makes the difference.

Posted by
14013 posts

My knees are a lot older than the rest of me, at least it seems that way. So I am more conscious of anything that puts a strain on them (stairs, downhill inclines). I think I climb at least 300 steps a day in Italy, but I don't recall having problems in Belgium or the Netherlands a year and a half ago. There was a castle in Ghent that had a lot of up and down, but it was not the major attraction there anyway. As I recall, all the train stations had escalators and elevators, and there were few cobblestone walkways. Trams are at street level and not hard to get on and off.

You might consider taking a couple of days from Amsterdam to stay in The Hague, where there are some interesting sights, good museums, and fewer canals. From there you can take the local tram for a 20-minute ride to Delft.