In December we met Vera, who is traveling around Europe. She is visiting 40 cities in 25 countries! Read our interview with Vera and let yourself be inspired by her personality.
We are following your adventures for quite some time now and love to share your story here at AccessibleTravel.Online. Please tell us some more about your extraordinary journey.
In February 2018, I was 40 years old and to celebrate such a special date I decided to take a 6-month trip around Europe. Me, my wheelchair and 2 Personal Assistants. Between June and December we have been visiting 40 cities in 25 different countries.
When I started planning this trip, back in September 2016, it soon became very clear to me that, despite it being the fruit of a personal passion, this adventure could not be a mere individual initiative. So, after hearing the opinions of a few wheelchair users, I decided to use this trip to explore what is being done best across Europe in terms of wheelchair accessibility and to meet other people using wheelchairs and learn about their way of life, their daily challenges and victories. My aim is to gain new perspectives on current European accessibility policies and practices which will certainly help me to advocate towards a more inclusive society in my home country, where a lot of
people like me are still feeling stuck at home due to poor accessibility.
The project has several social media: Facebook and Instagram and a YouTube channel Also, we have media coverage, street awareness and fundraising events.
To support Vera’s project please visit her crowdfunding campaign to help her cover the costs of 2 Personal Assistants.
The support I have been receiving has been beyond amazing! I am so grateful to all those who have decided to follow my four wheels and support such a worthy social project! It is hard to believe that it is almost finished! We are really making it happen!
What are your favorite top 3 cities you have visited in Europe? Not per se in terms of accessibility, we like to know what cities you loved visiting for their architecture, the food or maybe the excellent public transport system.
No matter what happens between now and the end of the trip, my favourite city will always be Istanbul. I have wanted to go there since I was very young, but my head was so full of misconceptions that made me think that I never could. And even when planning the itinerary for this trip I was a little afraid of not being able to see and do much there, because I was wrongly expecting it not to be at all wheelchair friendly. And the truth is I wandered around as much as in any other city I have visited so far.
The city centre is quite flat and has good pavements with good kerbs. The architecture is amazingly beautiful and hearing the prayers coming from the mosques at 1pm under a thunderstorm with heavy rain is a mystic experience I will never forget!
Visiting the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace was something beyond my wildest dreams. Although the accessibility was quite rudimentary, it was possible to do it and be in awe of their beauty. Wandering around and
shopping at the Grand Bazaar was also a very pleasant experience. Everything was so beautiful, colourful and cheap that I had to make a huge effort not to spend all my money there. And I have to admit it was in Istanbul that I saw the most good looking men! After Istanbul, my second favourite city has to be Reykjavik. Not because of the city, which indeed is very different from any other European city, but because it was during my stay there that I had the opportunity to visit the Gullfoss Waterfall. I have no words to describe it. All I can say is that you have to see it to believe it! It is such a remarkable and powerful place! Everytime I think of it and close my eyes, there it is in front of me! Tons of water, making a deafening noise, moving at an incredible speed, capable of swallowing anything in an instant … the power of nature at its best!
Third favourite city? Oh, this is so hard! But I guess I have to say Bern for its breathtaking views of the Alps!
Can you tell there was a different approach to people using a wheelchair in different cultures?
If there was, I did not notice it!
What are your top 5 tourist tips you need to share with the world?
Indeed I would like to share a few tips with all the wheelchair travellers out there!
First, always research everything (accommodation, transports, places to visit, places to eat…) in advance and try to see with your own eyes if it is really accessible!
Secondly, always try to book your transport in advance because you need time to ask for the special assistance. Third, allow a lot of time for everything!
Fourth, take it easy and be patient!
And finally, ENJOY!