Monday, September 10, 2012

Switzerland - Sep 2012


Corinne on the lift at Chapel Bridge
I met Corinne kind of randomly when I responded to a question she posted on a couchsurfing forum. She’s a Swiss girl who is also in a wheelchair and happened to be in London the same time as me. We spent a day together in London and we just got along really well, like old friends. I knew that I had to go see her in Switzerland. It was really nice and special to travel with someone else who is also in a wheelchair. We have the same needs. We both need elevators, ramps, and accessible washrooms. I didn’t feel bad for having to drag someone to find an accessible route because she needs one too. 
Corinne was absolutely an amazing host. She picked me up at the Lucerne train station and immediately showed me around Lucerne. For our first dinner together she made cheese fondue – traditional swiss food. She showed me around a special hospital in Nottwil for people who have had spinal cord injuries. She even took me to her parents’ house where they made traditional Swiss Raclette. 

Since I started couchsurfing in 2009, I have always chosen the destination city first and then looked for hosts after. However, this is the first time I travelled to a place specifically to visit a couchsurfer and that’s what made this part of my trip very special. We are similar in the sense that even though we have a disability, it doesn’t stop us from doing the things we love like traveling and couchsurfing! My time with Corinne will always be one of my most memorable couchsurfing experiences ever.



Riding the private shuttle from the
terminal to the plane
I flew into Zurich International Airport and didn’t have any problems there. My plane was a small one that you board right on the tarmac and the only way to get on and off is with the staircase. In London, they used a power-assisted wheelchair that ‘climbs’ the stairs. In Zurich, I got into my own wheelchair and rolled into this tall box-shaped vehicle that drove me to the main terminal. I was the only passenger who got to ride in this contraption, so I felt pretty special.

The train station is underneath the airport and from there you can pretty much get to anywhere in Switzerland. I did notice that some of the trains have a very high step to get up. If this is the case, then you have to ask for special assistance and then they will get out a ramp or lift. The train that I took to and from Lucerne was flush with the platform, but had about a foot long gap to go over. Be sure to pop a wheelie to get on!

I never actually took a bus since Corinne had a car, but they are all accessible.


Everyone is really friendly in Switzerland. It’s very clean, the grass is bright green, but this country is pretty much the most expensive country in all of Europe.

The famous Chapel Bridge in Lucerne has several steps to go up. Now there is a lift to get up, but it barely works and is super slow. And top it off, you need a special key! Swiss residents can get a ‘universal’ key that it used all over the country like these lifts, washrooms etc. But if you’re a tourist, I have no idea what you’re supposed to do. 

On the Lake Lucerne boat tour
I hosted Sabrina in 2010 in Vancouver, and since I was traveling so close to her home town of Zug, I definitely wanted to meet up with her. She took me on the Lake Lucerne boat tour which I really enjoyed. The 1hr tour is 25 francs and your ‘attendant’ gets on for free! Only the main deck is accessible (of course), but there are nice views from the stern of the boat.

Sursee city is a really nice historical part of town, but there are cobblestones everywhere. I managed to do it, but it was a lot of work.

Hotel Montana Luzern has this really cool elevator that goes up the side of a cliff and it’s fully accessible. Once at the top, you can have drinks outside on the terrace where you can enjoy beautiful views of Lucerne.

Pilatus Luzern gondola
Piliatus Luzern is a gondola ride that I did on my last day. We were pressed for time and didn’t do the entire route, but we did do a small portion of it. I don’t think this attraction is technically wheelchair accessible, but we made it work. Each car is pretty small. The operator stopped the ride completely (everyone else on the ride was probably thinking “what’s going on?”) and helped each of us up a big step to get inside. He literally had to push, maneuver, and lift both of us. I still have no idea how we both managed to fit in with our wheelchairs, but somehow we did it. And I’m glad we did too because I got to see some amazing views!

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