Travel: cruising up the Danube

Were we crazy?! Less than a year after the amputation, we went on a river cruise up the Danube from Budapest to Passau, then travelled by minivan across country to Prague, where we spent another four days sight-seeing before flying back to Canada. We went with my sister-in-law, her husband and a family friend, so I had lots of helping hands.

There’s a lot to be said for travelling through airports in a wheelchair. We were treated like royalty, being first onto the plane, then whisked through passport control and customs. The less said about the 8-hour flight the better… airline seats are notorious  for their lack of leg room, so I was up and down like a yo-yo trying to keep Beluga (my stump) from stiffening up!

Even the transfer from one terminal to another in Paris went really smoothly, although it was a challenge getting to and from the washroom during the 4-hour wait for the next flight because they took away the transfer wheelchair and the next one didn’t arrive until we were due to board. Lesson learned? Always book a direct flight if possible (it wasn’t in this case).

Arriving at the ship brought more challenges – the gangway was treacherously steep on a downward slope, so it was literally one tiny step at a time with the rollator, the purser walking ahead and my husband bringing up the rear. Getting down the stairs to our cabin on the lower deck (no elevator!) required using the fore-arm crutch on one side and the railing on the other, while my husband took the folding rollator down to the bottom.

Finally reaching the cabin, we discovered to our dismay that there was a six-inch step up  into the bathroom. Not a problem as long as I was wearing Pegasus (my bionic leg), but once I took it off at night it was dangerous to hop up on my one good leg, as the rollator couldn’t go through the doorway. Undaunted, my husband improvised a ‘transfer bench’ with the dressing-table stool. Since we could hardly swing a cat in the cabin anyway, sitting on the bed posed no problem. Fortunately we brought our own tool-free assembly shower stool and detachable grab bar, or I would have been hard-pressed to have a shower.

Apart from climbing up and down the stairs to get to the rest of the ship, it was reassuringly easy to navigate around it. Our waiter in the restaurant was a bit of a comedian: he greeted me and my rollator each meal with “May I park your Ferrari, madam?” as he seated me at the table. Except one day when the leg was hurting and I had to borrow the ship’s wheelchair, he didn’t miss a beat, saying “Ah, I see you’re in the Rolls Royce today.”

Yes, there were a few obstacles but nothing insurmountable. I had to skip a few tours that involved a lot of walking and/or climbing, but managed most of the short ones walking with the rollator. This took its toll on poor Beluga to the point where I was bleeding at the groin where the socket chafed against the top of my leg. A long bandage did the trick and got me going again, but I learned my lesson and rented a wheelchair when we got to Prague.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! In fact, we’re heading for Ireland next month to celebrate my 70th birthday with family and friends – more about that when I get back…

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