Living with ALS and the logistics of disabled travel — Swiss style
CHARLOTTE, NC: As an avid lifelong traveler I have become a huge devotee of travel logistics. On the surface, the subject might sound boring, but once you understand the rationale behind it, not only can it be fascinating, it may also be time and cost-efficient in ways that will maximize your travel experiences.
It should be said upfront that the homework and research may be time-consuming at first, but the rewards at the other end will be well worth the effort. Not only that, your pocketbook will thank you, because spinning your wheels is expensive.
Traveling with disabilities
For travelers with ALS and other disabilities, and even for the healthiest among us for that matter, Switzerland is at the top of the list for ease and comfort. The Swiss Travel System has made transportation an art form.
Using the Swiss model, here are some examples of how understanding the logistics of travel can improve your journeys regardless of whether you are disabled or not.
The Swiss Travel System, anchored by its synchronized national rail network is second to none.
When I say synchronized, the entire country operates like some elaborate precision Swiss timepiece. First-time travelers are often amazed that they are literally able to set their watches by the departure and arrival times of the trains.
Travelers using a Swiss Travel Pass benefit from free admission to over 500 museums throughout the country. Even the most ardent museum haters enjoy the Olympic Museum in Lausanne and the Castle of Chillon in Montreux.
In addition to the museums, a Swiss Travel Pass allows unlimited travel on the Swiss national rail network as well as hundreds of private rail lines, lake steamers, cable cars, funiculars, postal buses and local transportation in most cities.
There are even significant reductions on many of the most popular mountaintop destinations such as Jungfrau which is home to the highest railway station in Europe.
For disabled travelers, most trains are equipped with lifts and/or ramps for relatively easy access. Wheelchairs are also available with rail personnel standing by to assist.
The key is simply to inform the local staff of your needs in advance.
In some of the larger cities, it may be possible to arrange disabled services through the conductor on your train, but that can be a hit or miss situation so it is always better to make arrangements in advance.
Knowing where you are going is as important as how
Logistically, knowing the best direction to travel, for example, can make a huge difference in the overall enjoyment of your trip. It isn’t always possible to manage such details, depending upon your itinerary, however it never hurts to know in advance.
The Glacier Express is arguably the best-known rail excursion in Switzerland. At seven hours, it is also the longest. Operating between St Moritz and Zermatt, the Glacier Express is one of Switzerland’s five classic rail journeys.
That being the case, why should it matter which direction you go?
The reason is simple. St Moritz is a beautiful upscale village overlooking three lakes, but it is also a haven for the rich and famous.
Zermatt, on the other hand, is home to the Matterhorn and nestled in a traffic-free village filled with traditional Swiss chalets. For most Americans, Zermatt is the quintessential Swiss town.
As a traveler, my preference is to begin in St Moritz and arrive in Zermatt rather than the reverse.
Another of Switzerland’s classic rail journeys is the Bernina Express. Given the choice, I would opt for this excursion over the Glacier Express every time.
Why? First, the ride is several hours shorter on the Bernina. Second, if you embark from St Moritz or Chur, much of the scenery is the same as that of the Glacier Express.
Finally, the Bernina Express travels high into the Alps where it crosses the Continental Divide before descending into a breathtaking valley before passing through villages where cars and trains run so close to each other that you can almost shake hands.
The Bernina Express tiptoes into Italy where it stops in Tirano. From there, you can either choose to take a rail journey in reverse or hop aboard a Swiss postal bus (included with pass) to return through more gorgeous Swiss scenery.
One side note, be sure to take your passport since you do travel into another country.
Swiss travel option three
A third example involves a third classic rail outing called the Panoramic Express between Zweisimmen and Montreux. The full journey, known as the Golden Pass (also included with a Swiss Travel Pass), begins in Lucerne traveling to Interlaken and on to Zweisimmen and the Lake Geneva region.
While the rail journey to Montreux from Zweisimmen only takes an hour and a half through rolling Swiss countryside, it’s the final third of the trip that makes it so memorable and the reason for heading toward Montreux rather than away from it.
Traveling into Lake Geneva, the train zigs and zags along serpentine tracks through seemingly endless vineyards with the famed Castle of Chillon in the distance.
By taking the train in the opposite direction, riders are merely discarding scenery without getting its fullest advantage.
By the way, Swiss wines are excellent, even though most of the world does not know about them. That’s because Switzerland does not export its wines, choosing instead to wisely drink it themselves.
This sample size is small. However, the important thing to remember is that by doing a little research in advance, ALS patients and others with disabilities can still savor the wonderful world of travel.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up