Sindelfingen’s Unexpected Medieval Centre

We were looking for the museum and rathaus (same building), standing on a street surrounded by concrete brutalist architecture of the square boxes variety. The city centre was very “modern” in the sense that it looked to all be built after the 1940s. Concrete – with bits of pebble stuck to it – seemed to be the last word in architecture. What did we expect from the town whose only claim to fame is that, being quite close to Stuttgart, it’s within driving distance of the Porsche Museum? I’d seen a list on some trip advising website (I forget the name) of “5 things to do in Sindelfingen.” By comparison, there were over 300 things to do in York, where I live, and I regularly can’t find anything to do here.

The concrete architecture.
The concrete architecture.

Why were we even here? After the hectic drive to Salzburg and the overstimulation from everything that amazing place had to offer, and a complete repeat of hectic drive and overstim combo courtesy of Rome, we had decided to find a town that had absolutely nothing of interest – but still had a hotel with a swimming pool. We’d both felt that, on our honeymoon, we hadn’t spent enough time in our swimwear. The next three days was supposed to fix that.

Sindelfingen had been our destination because we were looking for somewhere with no big tourism distractions. Somewhere where we didn’t feel bad for staying in. Where we didn’t feel compelled to get out and look around and take photos.

I think I have more photos of Sindelfingen than I do of Salzburg. It was awesome; a complete hidden find.

So, the morning after our first night in the delightful Hotel Berlin, another nod to “modern” (1950s) architecture, with genuine 1950s decor such as a wall to wall mirror with teak fitted nightstands, we had gone out in search of some of the things to do in Sindelfingen, mostly because it was ironic, in the unique sense of the word that brings humour to an otherwise dull situation.

The Hotel Berlin in Sindelfingen
The Hotel Berlin in Sindelfingen.  That’s my car camper!!!

The things to do in Sindelfingen had included: The “friendship fountain,” made with articulated creatures; the rathaus, the Porsche Museum, the Mercedes Factory (both of which are in Stuttgart), Breuningerland, the shopping centre, the museum, and a zebra crossing (zebrastreifen). We found the Friendship Fountain pretty much straight away.

This is the "Friendship Fountain" in Sindelfingen
This is the “Friendship Fountain” in Sindelfingen

The fountain was awesome and had these tiny little articulated (jointed) models around it:

A wolf, one of the articulated models that were part of the Friendship Fountain.
A wolf, one of the articulated models that were part of the Friendship Fountain.
A two headed dragon
A two headed dragon

Next, we looked for the Rathaus. It turned out to be tourist information, but we went in anyway and talked to the lady behind the counter, I asked “Wahre ist der Altes Rathaus, bitte?” and she gave me a very lengthy answer, and I don’t know if she even realised I didn’t actually speak German, we had a good long conversation, albeit a little one-sided. I did know what she roughly said – this was the rathaus, the internet kept getting it confused with the museum, the museum was in the old town and then something about opening hours. We thanked her and left. I would have liked to get a photo of one of the things in the gift shop – Monopoly: Sindelfingen Edition, but I didn’t want to offend the information lady and didn’t know how to ask in German.  The third thing to do was to see the museum. We wandered off in search of it, the picture on the internet had been spectacular and I wanted to see the building – timber framed, late medieval, couldn’t wait.

We got a bit lost at this point. Basically I saw a timber framed building and thought “that must be the museum!” and walked towards it. Then we saw this:

timber framed Sindelfingen haus

Mind. Blown.

So it turns out that Sindelfingen has this huge old town full of timber framed houses and they’re all really really pretty and you can walk around them and imagine you live there.

We wasted about an hour doing this. Not one singe mention of this on the internet on the trip advice website we’d looked at when we were in Rome deciding where to go next. Apparently Sindelfingeners think the town’s zebra crossing is of more interest.  We didn’t find the zebrastreifen though so who knows maybe it’s really special.

sindelfingen timber framed houses

As we were about to give up on the museum, we rounded a corner and saw a building with a bell tower. Guess what it was? The Old Rathaus – A.K.A the museum. So it used to be the rathaus and now it wasn’t so everyone in Sindelfingen and all the signposts kept pointing us away from it towards the current Rathaus.

The museum from the direction we approached in.
The museum from the direction we approached in.

It was closed. I couldn’t actually make sense of the opening hours because there were three different sets posted on the door (in German – nobody in Sindelfingen spoke English except our hotel receptionists) so I decided that since the lights were off and the door was locked, we were out of luck. That was fine, I had really wanted to see the building itself, not the stuff inside it, that would have just been icing on the cake.

The statue outside the Sindelfingen museum near Stuttgart Germany
The statue outside the Sindelfingen museum near Stuttgart Germany
An interesting doorway around the side of the museum.
An interesting doorway around the side of the museum.

We continued to wander around Sindelfingen to take in more of the timber framed houses, stopping off at the shopping centre for some more Balea silver shampoo for me to bring home (and lunch – schnitzels and chips), then we went back to our hotel, happy that we had found the very best and unexpected thing to do in Sindelfingen, that hadn’t been mentioned anywhere, and that the museum had been pretty spectacular from the outside.

The museum from another direction, looking even more spectacular.
The museum from another direction, looking even more spectacular.

Invoke Delight and Inspire

Sindelfingen, Germany: Looking for the museum

We were looking for the museum, surrounded by concrete brutalist architecture of the square boxes variety. The city centre was very “modern” in the sense that it looked to all be built after the 1940s. Concrete – with bits of pebble stuck to it – seemed to be the last word in architecture. What did we expect from the town whose only claim to fame is that, being quite close to Stuttgart, it’s within driving distance of the Porsche Museum? I’d seen a list on some trip advising website (I forget the name) of “5 things to do in Sindelfingen.” By comparison, there were over 300 things to do in York, where I live, and I regularly can’t find anything to do here.

The concrete architecture. The concrete architecture.

Why were we even here? After the hectic drive to Salzburg and the overstimulation from everything that amazing…

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Rome in A Day (and pushchair, wheelchair accessibility)

So, unless you believe it was beamed here by aliens, most people can agree that Rome wasn’t built in a day, yada yada yada.

However, it can be visited in a day (although you will miss out on loads).  Here’s the 5 things to see/do if you only have one day in Rome, I’ve included accessibility information for wheelchairs and pushchairs because I know a few people who have been put off going to Rome due to a perceived lack of accessibility:

5. The Spanish Steps – I really liked them, and I used a network of back alleys to get to the top, just as it was going dark, then climbed down, because it was actually less touristy to do it that way around and we only got harassed by two flower sellers at the top, not the zillion or so at the bottom, because I realized I couldn’t get a good shot from the bottom so I bought a postcard instead.

Spanish Steps Wheelchair Pushchair Accessibility:

It’s a monumental staircase.  The back way isn’t totally wheelchair friendly, if you’re a solo wheelchair traveller you would be disappointed, but it’s one flight of stairs after a bit of a hill (see my first picture, that’s the back way not the actual Spanish steps, which are much less accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs, particularly due to size and shape of the steps, as well as crowds), so if you’ve got a carer with you, you might be able to possibly get to the top (depending on your circumstances).  Personally, I would have flagged down a strong person to help me lift the wheelchair to get my mum up these steps if I’d taken her (if she’d wanted to see the top, and obviously at a time when I was still caring for her), but obviously it depends on how comfortable you are with doing that.  No way in hell I would have got an electric wheelchair up these steps or a scooter, unless it was a child’s.  This is also the way up that I’d recommend if you’ve got a pushchair, pram or buggy.  If you look at a map of Rome, just trace back from the top of the Spanish steps down some alleys (alleys are a bit hilly) to see how to get up here.

The back entrance to the Spanish Steps.
The back entrance to the Spanish Steps.  Note these aren’t the actual Spanish steps, this is a MUCH shorter, shallower staircase.
The only VAGUELY in focus picture of the view from the top of the Spanish Steps.  My camera does NOT cope with low lighting very well.
The only VAGUELY in focus picture of the view from the top of the Spanish Steps. My camera does NOT cope with low lighting very well.

4.  The Trevi Fountain would usually come here, but due to current renovations it’s actually empty and covered with scaffolding at the moment.

The Trevi Fountain restoration work September 2014
The Trevi Fountain restoration work September 2014

Instead, I’m going to bump up The Pantheon, which has had all its repairs completed and is fully open.  I first saw the Pantheon in 2007, when it was covered in indoor scaffolding, and I was very pleasantly surprised this time that it was restored to its stunning former glory with nary a builder in sight.  It’s well worth a visit and when you do, look up at the ceiling as well.

The Pantheon is completely wheelchair accessible.  Entry is free.
The Pantheon is completely wheelchair accessible. Entry is free.

Trevi Fountain Wheelchair Pushchair Accessibility:

It’s all flat ground to get to the Trevi Fountain, but you can’t actually get to it, usually at Easter and Summer there are huge crowds, so I’m not sure how you would get to the front to see anything, also the actual sides of the Trevi Fountain are quite high to stop people falling in, so you might need to either stand up (if you are able) or get someone to lift you to see all of it.  It’s 100% pushchair accessible, though.  With the current glass floor, if your wheelchair isn’t too wide, you could get to see the current renovations up close before they restore it to its former anarchic glory.

Pantheon Wheelchair Pushchair Accessibility:

The Pantheon is totally accessible by wheelchair and inside is nice shiny flat floorage and wide thoroughfares.

3.  Eat At A Pavement Cafe – one of my most memorable experiences each time I go to Rome is the food.  Yeah, it’s somewhat overpriced, and yes, it’s just pasta/pizza at most eateries.  But when it’s 9pm, the heat of the day is still in the air, the twinkling fairy lights are on above you, and some guy with an accordion is busking up and down the street, eating a pizza at a pavement cafe, either with someone you care about or solo, is one of the finest eating experiences of my life.  “But you have a milk allergy!” I hear you declare (or if you know me less well, “but you’re vegan!” which has only been since January)  I found this awesome place where the owner was really helpful and did me a dairy free pizza with no cheese, and the base was dairy free anyway, so that was fantastic.  I was very excited to have a vegetable pizza.  Mine cost 7 Euros, my drink (Sprite) was 4 Euros.

This place was at the bottom of the Spanish Steps round a corner, and were happy to oblige me with a dairy free pizza.  They didn't overcharge us, either.
This place was at the bottom of the Spanish Steps round a corner, and were happy to oblige me with a dairy free pizza. They didn’t overcharge us, either.

Pavement Cafe Wheelchair Pushchair Accessibility: 

Pretty much every pavement cafe is wheelchair accessible, you can just roll up and they’ll pull the chair away from the table if you don’t want it, and they will bring everything to you, like they do for everyone else, although there’s often a step or three to get inside and toilets (where they have one) are rarely wide enough for a wheelchair, baby changing stations are also non-existent.

2.  The Coliseum – Being an archaeology graduate, Rome means Ancient Rome to me.  Getting to see the Coliseum (some nations spell it Colloseum, or Coloseo) and actually stand where thousands of people stood, watching the games that used to go on, wondering what they thought and how they responded when they saw such spectacles… that’s just tremendous for me.  While here, I bought a 7 Euro guidebook for the Forum and Palatine, because you get a combined ticket (which is easier to obtain from the forum with less queueing, but I did the coliseum first).

The Coliseum from the bottom end; the wooden platform is where the floor level would have been after (I think it was Caligula) renovated from the original dirt floor.
The Coliseum from the bottom end; the wooden platform is where the floor level would have been after Domitian (the original builder Vespasian’s son) renovated from the original dirt floor and added the top layer of seating, doing both in wood, which was later fire damaged around AD217.

Coliseum Wheelchair Pushchair Accessibility:

There is a lift to get to the top stone floor where you can look at the actual arena, and the exhibition area, although once you’re up there, I don’t think the actual monument has wide enough walkways for a standard wheelchair plus hand clearance, so you’d have to go back to the lift to get back down again.  I’m not sure I’d pay full price for this, and I don’t know how wheelchair friendly the lower levels are, where only the guided tours are allowed, because I didn’t want to pay for a tour guide.  There were plenty of people with pushchairs at all levels of the coliseum.

1. The Roman Forum and palatine – There’s no decorum in the forum!  Depending which path you take from the entrance, you might be forgiven for thinking that this is just a big hill with not a lot of interesting stuff on it, without any plaques etc to tell you what’s going on.  Go back to the entrance and either go right or straight on, rather than left, and you go round the hill to it’s foot, where you will see the most awesome remains, such as these, which made me wonder if I’d wandered onto the set of Xena, Warrior Princess:

I wish my house looked like this.
I wish my house looked like this.
This copper door is still keeping this building's contents safe, two thousand years after it was all built.  I wonder whether anyone still has a key to get inside...
This copper door is still keeping this building’s contents safe, two thousand years after it was all built. I wonder whether anyone still has a key to get inside…
And the verdant plant life is another reason the Roman Forum is my number 1 favourite part of Rome.  This area was reminiscent of a Studio Ghibli anime.
And the verdant plant life is another reason the Roman Forum is my number 1 favourite part of Rome. This area was reminiscent of a Studio Ghibli anime.

Roman Forum and Palatine Wheelchair and Pushchair Accessibility:

The Forum’s accessibility is surprisingly good.  Another reason why it’s scored quite highly on this list.  There is a separate entrance for wheelchairs and pushchairs, with a lift to get to the correct level.  You can’t get to the Palatine at all as far as I can see but the Forum’s where all the best stuff is (all the above photos are of the Forum) and you can get around most of it that’s all on the same level.  If I was in a wheelchair or planning a trip for someone in a wheelchair, I’d have no worries about the Roman Forum.

Hat Tip:

And I also strongly recommend that you take a hat and plenty of water.  I had water (and there’s a hosepipe in the coliseum where you can refill although the water quality is not quite British tap water quality, something I gladly pay my water bills for back home) but I had no hat, and I still got heat exhaustion after 24 hours in Rome using factor 50 suncream because my head just got too hot during the heat of the day, from visiting so many outdoor monuments without ample breaks.

Toilet Tip:

The biggest issue facing disabled tourists in Rome will be the toilets, or lack of toilets.  I strongly recommend you find the McDonalds restaurants which are all over Rome because they have a standard design in Europe, which means EVERY McDonalds in Europe must have a ground level accessible disabled toilet.  They’re usually pretty easy to spot as well.  How do I know this?  I worked at McDonalds all over the UK for 2 years, full-time, and I always make use of their facilities when I’m on the road.  I am very conscientious and always buy something (cup of tea, large fries or even a garden salad if I’m not overly hungry, it’s part of my 5-a-day if nothing else), because some stores get really sick of tourists literally pooping on their facilities and not even buying anything, which means these people have no respect for the person who cleans those toilets (hi!), and I don’t want to see stores charging people to use the toilets or otherwise restricting access.  KFC and Burger King may also have accessible toilets, but I can’t personally recommend them since I’ve only ever had overcharged, bad food experiences at Burger King, and KFC’s food is excellent (love love LOVE their corn on the cob, fries and BBQ sauce) but I rarely use their toilets because their Drive Thrus tend to have short opening hours and they don’t have as many city locations.

Note on the Vatican:

You’ll notice that I didn’t include il Vaticano on this list.  The Vatican City is really a completely stunning experience, and very accessible, BUT you really need a full day, or at the very least, an entire half a day, to soak up everything.  I also recommend you getting an ISIC card (the European Student card) if you are possibly able to (I get mine from the amount of language courses I’m studying at my Uni – you don’t need to be a full time student to get one, just studying at a university that participates in NUS/ISIC) because it slashes prices for you at all the major sites, including the Vatican, and I wish I’d had it when I went to Italy last year because it’s accepted pretty much everywhere in Rome.