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Disabled in Hanover

Hi! My partner is accompanying me to Hanover while I go to a conference. They have me 12+ hours a day, and I want to help him get out of the hotel room! He is a paraplegic and in a manual wheelchair. Any tips? How hilly is it? Any good recs for places he can manoeuvre?

Rick doesn't seem to have much of anything about Hanover that I can find. Am I missing something? Other good resources? Can I expect help on what to do from the hotel? Is it ok to ask?

Thanks for any help! New to this and lost. Fully vaccinated from US travel 9/21-9/25

ETA- conference org has no clue. Main organizer is from Estonia... Thanks for info about checking with the hotel! I have checked about accessibility within the hotel, so will just follow up with info re what to do while visiting, etc

Posted by
16743 posts

First, I would contact the conference organization and see if they have anything. Second, I would contact your hotel and see if they have any options.

Posted by
8606 posts

I would definitely ask the hotel ( now, before arrival) about the local topography and what accommodation local transit choices offer for those who are wheelchair bound. I suspect they could also offer suggestions about the local points of interest.
If it is the type of place that hosts international meetings you are unlikely to be the first to have a travel companion who is not part of the conference and has to occupy themselves during the day

Photos I see give the impression it is fairly flat --- not like San Francisco or Seattle

Posted by
203 posts

Hi, my sister uses a manual wheelchair and lives in Germany, so I have some second-hand experience with Germany in this way, although absolutely none with Hamburg.

I just searched online using the German term that is common for access for people with disabilities (Barrierefrei), and found that the city tourism website has a particular section dealing with Barrierefrei access. Unfortunately, most of it is only available in German, but you can use GoogleTranslate to get a sense, I think--they have a section about wheelchair access, but I didn't look at it in depth. These city websites tend to be fairly promotional, but it may direct you to some useful things.

You can also use the term "Barrierefrei" to search for other things, like maps of accessible public transit stops and so on. Also, I would think that your hotel would be able to provide some directions.

Let me know if there is anything specific that your partner and you are interested in, I'm happy to try to help you find information on the German-speaking internet!

Posted by
203 posts

Oh, hahah! That is what I get for trying to reply to a post in the middle of the night. Thanks for pointing that out.

Ok: Hannover (not Hamburg) information:
- Here is the Barrierefrei part of the city tourism website.
- Here is a website from a private group that publishes travel information for people with disabilities in Germany. I had forgotten about this last night, but they're usually quite good. You will also have to GoogleTranslate this, though--they have almost nothing on the English version of their website. Also, from what I skimmed, they have not updated in Corona-pandemie times, so it would be worth double-checking their information.

Beyond that--Hannover is, like many cities here, built on river plains, and so the central part is fairly level but not totally flat, and there are hills real around the edges. There is also, for example, Lindener Berg in the city, which has some significant elevation change around it.

Posted by
27710 posts

most newer hotels have a few disabled rooms with various helpful features.

When you speak to the hotel it may be worth double checking that they have you in one, and that there are no steps to the lift (elevator, aufzug). Many many German hotels have a step or two up to the lift.

Posted by
8766 posts

My aunt lives in Hannover and I have been there a few times. The areas I’ve been in are pretty flat to the best of my recollection. If you can tell me where the hotel is I can see if I’m familiar with that area.

Posted by
5 posts

You guys are so awesome!! I'm mostly looking to help with the somewhat daunting task of exploring a city alone as a wheelchair user since I will be at the conference 12ish hours per day. I can see him waiting for me in the room. His response - "well I'll have to leave to eat". All this info helps with that anxiety!!

The hotel is the Grand Hotel Mussmann, and there's no choice there. The conference organizers and the VW Foundation that's funding everything have that locked in. Our room isn't "disabled accessible" but they did send measurements. He wont be able to get in the bathroom, but that's frequently our experience in hotels. He will be able to get in the room, around the bed, etc. But steps to the elevator??? I will ask. They did say they have an elevator and have had guests in wheelchairs before.

My conference is at Schloss Herrenhausen.

I saw where there's this Euro disabled key thing? Do we need to mess with this? A day of vacay in government offices wasnt my plan... but hey, if it will make our lives easier! Restrooms arent much of an issue because he has a Foley catheter in for the trip, so it would only be for other things.

Did I hit everything?

Posted by
8766 posts

I’m not really familiar with that area. You might consider emailing the hotel and asking them about possible barriers in the hotel, such as steps up the the elevator, and ask about the surrounding area to determine how level it is. I can ask my aunt to check that area out if she’s feeling up to it.

Posted by
8766 posts

Shloss Herrnhausen is really nice. You’re lucky to have your conference there. If you have time be sure to check out the gardens. Another place you might want to explore if you have time is the Maschsee. I think that area is fairly level.

Posted by
16743 posts

Google satellite shows the Grand Hotel Mussmann adjacent to the large (and level) pedestrian shopping district. There is a lower level open air arcade with elevator access. Broad paved walkways extending out at least to and along the Maschsee.

Posted by
27710 posts

I've just been to the hotel webpage. That shows the difference between Germany and England. They don't make a single mention of accessibility, disability, or special requirements. Surprisingly they do seem to have adopted the US/cruise model of including a "tip" automatically on the bill.

As the husband of a disabled wife I hope all goes well for both of you...

Posted by
8766 posts

I sent my aunt an email saying a person I knew of wanted to know about how accessible the area around the hotel was for her partner in a wheelchair.

This was her reply:

“Hi, Andrea,
well Grand Hotel Mussmann is located directly opposite from the main station. More central is not possible.
They were doing some major street repairs in the area between the hotel and the station
but I think that will be done by the time your friends arrive and your friend’s partner can move around with the wheelchair on level ground. Generally Hannover -and most places in Germany - are well equipped and prepared for handicapped people to move around independently.”

I hope this helps.

Posted by
12880 posts

Since the conference is taking place at Schloss Herrenhausen, you have the opportunity to see something historical depending on your level and area of interest. If you're interested in esoteric Prussian history check out the cemetery at the Herrenhäuser Gärten. I saw this place once. That was in 1987.

I've been to Hannover numerous times, always at the train station to change trains or to connect with the airport to fly out, don't like staying in Hannover, only did that once.

Posted by
203 posts

Hi, ok: some comments responding to your second note.

First, I would not bother with the disabled key. Its biggest use is for un-attended WC facilities, which sounds largely irrelevant for your partner.

Second, that hotel is very centrally located, which should open up a lot of opportunities for your partner to explore the central areas of the city rather straightforwardly. I would double-check explicitly with the hotel about steps either at the entrance or leading to the elevator/room, although I would rate that as rather unlikely. Oh, and you probably already thought of this, but you may want to check into the shower type at the hotel--it is not uncommon in DE to have only a rather small and in no way accessible stand-up shower, but this is a pretty fancy hotel, so the facilities are probably better.

The main conceptual thing to be aware of when navigating in DE with a wheelchair is that there is nothing like Title III of ADA here, so there is really no 'guarantee' that public accommodations are accessible. That said, there are many spaces that are accessible (and a growing number--I remember when my sister was a child, how much more limited access was). And, that said, a lot of the public transportation infrastructure here (to name one example) is really new, and is therefore more easily accessible than what one finds in the US. But in general, one needs to expect many more barriers to mobility in public accommodations here, alongside both public and private efforts to improve the situation.

About urban centres: curb cuts are pretty universal, but sadly really brutal rough cobblestones are pretty common too (though in no way universal). But, that's something to watch out for, if your partner is not accustomed to them-- front wheels can get caught easily. Also, because of the lack of public accommodations rules, it is really quite common for businesses etc to have raised thresholds or un-ramped steps or so on. One fairly good resource to use is wheelmap.org. It is not perfect by any means (crowdsourced data for the most part), but should give a bit of a sense. Be careful with using Google StreetView for up-to-date information, though: Because of privacy rights concerns, Google has not been allowed to take new streetview images for over 10 years in DE, so any that you happen to find will be quite dated at this point.

Finally, is there a type of thing that your partner is interested in seeing (i.e., museums, nature, streetlife, whatever)? I actually think that, given the central location of the hotel, there's a really reasonable opportunity to access a fair number of things, and not be stuck with the one or two places nearby that happen to be accessible...

Posted by
6869 posts

Maybe the hotel knows of personal city guides that may can take the gentleman on a day tour of the area. Team City Tours may can help, and they can be reached at +49 511 12345333

Posted by
1117 posts

Hannover is part of the Norddeutsche Tiefebene which basically means everything is flat! Having said that, of course there are bridges or small hills, but we certainly don't have the seven hills of Rome.

I find that hotel information irritating. Most hotels have wheelchair accessible rooms, and I would expect the Mussmann to have one. It's unimaginable to me that they should give your partner a room where he cannot even access the bathroom. Have you called them up to find out if they can put you in a different room?

The Euro key will unlock all public wheelchair restrooms for you, so it can come in handy. If there is an attendant, they will do that for you of course (they do expect a small tip though). I am not sure if you will be able to get the key on short notice.

It's not surprising that you did not find much on Hannover in Rick's information. Hannover is totally off the American tourist radar. :-)

Since you are going to be staying near the main station, your partner will be able to access the whole downtown shopping area. It's mostly pedestrian zone, so he should be able to get around well. What is he interested in?

Hannover was badly destroyed in the war and only has a very small old town left (near the Marktkirche / Kramerstraße). The Aegidienkirche has been left as a war memorial.

There is a notable museum for modern art, the Sprengelmuseum, and the "Nanas", big outdoor sculptures by artist Niki de Saint Phalle are also worth a look.

There is quite a large zoo for those who enjoy animals.

You should definitely visit Herrenhausen together on one day and take time for the Baroque gardens. They have special illumination at night on some evenings.

Here is some more English language information on Hannover. Seems like they have this brochure for disabled tourists in German only.

Will you have any days to spend together before or after your conference?

Posted by
27710 posts

time getting close, Amanda - I hope everything works out well for your partner and you...

Posted by
12880 posts

Hi,

If you have the time and want to do a day trip outside of Hannover instead, I would suggest going to Minden, visited that town a couple of times. I find Minden much more interesting culturally and, especially, historically revealing than Hannover.

Posted by
1117 posts

Minden is a great destination for technology buffs. :-)

Other ideas for day trips: Hildesheim, , only half an hour by train or by car: two UNESCO world heritage sites (St Michael and the Cathedral), the old town part (confusingly by the name of "Neustadt") with half-timbered houses, and a world class Egyptian museum.

Celle, lots of half-timbered houses.

Or, if you want a bit of Disney romance, take a tour to Marienburg Castle. It is actually about ten years older than Neuschwanstein, so really ancient by American standards. ;-)

Posted by
5 posts

You guys have been so awesome! We're in Paris now, where I've run into every hurdle through my own stupidity. Hoping for smoother sailing in Hanover, especially with all these tips.

I'm finishing my PhD in medieval history so all of the cultural stuff is pretty new in my scheme of things 😉 The symposium I will be in Hanover for is actually about Justinian's Plague (500s-700s CE). We both love history, he's big into sports and writes on baseball history. Book addicts with little to no German.

We unfortunately dont have time for a day trip, and wont even have much time together (after 19:30 Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, after 16:00 Friday, but with a Covid test to get, and then train back to Charles de Gaulle leaving at 03:40)

Posted by
1117 posts

Whew, what a bummer you can't extend your stay by a few more days! The Hildesheim museum mentioned above is opening an exhibition on Plagues and Pandemics on October 2, in collaboration with the MHH, the Hannover University Hospital (Website in German only).

If you want to forget about all the hurdles you ran into and finish off your stressful week with a romantic evening, you might consider enjoying the illumination of the Herrenhausen Gardens on Friday evening. They have two hot dog/ snack stands near the gardens (should be open until 8 p.m.) if you want more of a rustic dinner, or a very good but pricey restaurant ("Grauwinkels Schlossküche"). Since you will be around there anyway, you might want to check the lay of the land beforehand (and possibly make reservations); I do remember they have a couple of steps, but I would expect them to have an accessible entrance.

I am certainly not "big into sports", but I do know that Hannover has a soccer stadium and a soccer club "Hannover 96". Ice hockey is also pretty big here. Not sure what there is to see during your stay, especially during Covid. And forget about baseball in Germany. :-)

Posted by
5 posts

Oh my god the international European train system is horrid if you are disabled and dont know the system! And the Deutsche Bahn disability line only has people who speak German. We may end up stranded in Paris or Brussels today, depending on if we get on the next train...

Posted by
1117 posts

Hi Amanda,

I can totally understand your frustration over difficulties on your way!

However, in all fairness, please do take a moment and think: You are in a foreign country. Is it fair to expect everyone to speak your language? How many foreign languages do the disability support people of Amtrak usually speak? And is the European train system really that much worse than the US train system?

Posted by
5 posts

Oh not at all. America's train system is in 1952. Most stops arent even handicapped accessible at all.

The horrid is for the rules about who to contact and when that are hard or impossible to find even when you are looking for them! On top of that we had issues that seem like they could have been very simply avoided with minimum effort. We spoke to one person with the train at CDG, bought a new ticket, and waited 5 hours just to learn that we didnt tell the right person 30 minutes in advance, and therefore we physically could not board the train. The person we spoke to did not tell us that we needed to do this, and nothing in my booking information or the "faq" had anything about it. This is me specifically asking when they were preparing the tickets about my disabled partner and him sitting there paralyzed in his wheelchair.

And that was multiple attempts at contacting online customer service asking what we needed to do and being referred back to the faq. Also, one set of plans had less than 30 minutes layover, so would have resulted in a missed train anyway. We finally had one very good customer service person at the station help us, which got me to the decision to book the hotel. There was a language barrier, but he took the time to communicate with me. Had that happened with the rebooking, we would have known to tell the people 30 mins ahead, etc. He straightened out more in 3 minutes than the hours we went in circles with many people.

I in no way expect everyone to speak my language. I wish my language skills were better, but medieval history requires a lot of languages and I have issues with them mixing together. I can pretty well understand everyone in French, Spanish, and if Italian is spoken slowly. My German was what I call a "Flowers for Algernon" experience - intensive one month for reading only. I do expect a call center to have options, and to not just be hung up on (not even an I'm sorry please call back with someone who speaks German - I understand that much German lol). I've worked at a few, and we always had translation lines that we called for people who didn't speak English. I've used them to communicate in dozens of languages. In person, we could overcome the language barrier with online tools.

Or how there isn't an option for help across carriers from the place where I book if I booked all the tickets together (raileurope was what I kept getting referred to, and who sent me in circles with faqs.) Priceline and such even does this, interacting themselves with each carrier / provider when necessary.

Overall though, I had been up since 5am, eaten one croissant, and had a very frustrating experience. I was not rude or mean or upset with any of the employees. This just seemed the safest and least stressful option to me. Cancelling the train and booking the hotel for four nights leaves me with an additional 150€ minimum than I would have if I booked another train, even with no issues on the way back.

Posted by
1117 posts

I can't speak for France or Belgium, but in Germany, they have been putting great efforts into making railroad travel accessible. In the last ten or twenty years, practically all major train stations have had elevators built in for every single platform. Also, there is free support for changing trains, but you do have to book it in advance.

The difficulty comes in when you are dealing with more than one country's system. With everyone talking about the climate crisis and wanting to get to different countries by train instead of by plane, they will have to work on making systems more compatible.

Here is one tip for you if you really do get stranded or need some help: Most larger train stations have a Bahnhofsmission which is an ecumenical Christian volunteer organisation which serves travelers who are stranded, or disabled people trying to get to a train, or school children waiting for their train, or homeless people trying to get somewhere. The only thing they will not do is carry your suitcase. :-)

Posted by
355 posts

I am in Hanover today and walked all over town. There are quite a few pedestrian only streets that are very flat. I think a manual wheelchair would have plenty of room to maneuver. I did not encounter any large hills.