Marburg – a stunning town this was, from the architecture to the accessibility to the people. I didn’t want to leave and I’ll forever want to go back. Marburg is known as a “blindenstadt” which is a town built to make life as easy as possible for those with vision loss. It truly lives up to this name, and you can’t go more than 500m without finding a joyous example of excellent accessibility. The town itself is celebrating its 800th birthday this year so they have a whole calendar of celebratory events on throughout 2022.
Highlights and Lowlights
- Tactile / haptic pedestrian crossings are life changing
- The buildings and architecture in Marburg were beautiful
- We met some very cute raccoons at our campsite
- There was a lot of traffic noise at our campsite
- We had to leave Marburg!
Below, I have listed some of the extra facilities available at the campsites we’ve stayed at. Each campsite also had the basics – toilets, showers, sinks for dish washing (a god send as we don’t have running hot water), laundry facilities, bins, grey water disposal, chemical toilets and fresh water.
Campsite – Campingplatz Lahnaue
Cost – €27.50 per night for two people including electricity and Wi-Fi
Facilities – mini golf (at an extra cost)
Accessibility score – 4 / 5
See here for further detail on my accessibility scoring system.
This was the only campsite in Marburg and it was a lovely spot for a few days stay. Its only a 10minute walk outside of the town, which has restaurants, bars, cafes and supermarkets. I LOVED the large print map at reception and the large print pitch signs. They were so easy to read and so easy to implement by business owners.
We were working for two of the days we were here, so we didn’t get up to much. I took myself into Marburg twice to wander around and just enjoy the town. As part of their 800th birthday celebrations, they had many different themed walking trails around the town and the surrounding countryside. I did the Marburg 800 Discovery Trail one day which covered all of the key historical sites of the town. It was a beautiful walk and easy way to see the whole town in a short space of time.
This town takes the top spot for the most accessible spot we have visited. If I could give it a 10 out of 5, I would. I suppose I can actually as it’s my scale so 10 out of 5 it is!
What really struck me was how this place made me feel. I felt cared for, looked after, normal, thought about and almost like the town was proud to have people like me there. It was an incredible feeling! I think I had Goosebumps for the whole time I was there. I’ve never been somewhere that had such an affect on me – including my hometown of Dublin. I have always been told that I am all of those things, but I have never really felt it before.
Examples of Accessibility in Marburg
A lot of what has been built and implemented in Marburg, is actually relatively simple and can easily be retrofitted to any existing infrastructure.
Talking Bus Stops
These were fantastic and something that really would be a huge game changer for me at home. Reading the bus information on upcoming buses is a constant struggle, and I have stopped and gotten on the wrong bus many times. If they can make the buses speak out the next stop while on board, they can make bus stops do the same.
Each bus stop has a square of tactile paving underneath the real time information screen. There is also a yellow box that emits a sound that alerts you to the fact that you are at a bus stop. The second box on the pole has a button that you press to get the audio information.
WORKING audio and tactile pedestrian crossings
I emphasise the working because more often than not, the audio or tactile element of pedestrian crossings does not work, which means I have to rely on the lights to see if it is safe to cross. Often times I cannot see the lights due to my light sensitivity so I heavily rely on the audio or tactile elements to help. Every one of the crossings I used in Marburg worked and had a strong vibrating plate which was easy to use. This hugely contributed to my feeling of safety and independence while walking around the town alone.
Tactile Signs and Paving
The tactile signs around the university were just the icing on the cake for me while exploring Marburg. Again, so easy to do, and can be easily retrofitted to any existing sign. Another simple thing that can make a huge difference to the accessibility of a place. As well as that, the signs were in a large font so they were easy to read from afar. Magical! The tactile paving stretched as far as the eye could see, especially around the university.
These can (and were) enjoyed by fully and partially sighted children and adults alike. Essentially they are miniature versions of historical buildings (or the entire town!) with braille labels to enable those who are blind or vision impaired to experience and appreciate that which they cannot see. They were incredibly detailed, with a raised gold point indicating where you are standing, and a tactile and braille description of the building. They were like little works of art dotted around the town. The tourist information office also had a small model of the whole town with lights and audio descriptions of the key locations around the town.
As I said, I just didn’t want to leave! It was so nice being somewhere that saw a vision impairment as just a normal part of life, and took the initiative to put things in place to even the playing field for those who needed it. As amazing as it was to visit, it was also frustrating as the simplicity of their solutions make them so easy to implement elsewhere. It’s also easy to put Marburg up on a pedestal for their brilliance (which they deserve), but in reality, they have just gotten some key basics right, and have demonstrated the basic standard that every town or city should have. To me, it seems like they have created a great platform, a starting point, a model for other places to use and build upon. There is no reason why every other town or city can’t be as accessible as Marburg.
To find out more, here is a great article about how the school in the town paved the way for the creation of a really accessible town.
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All of the views in this post are my own and there are no sponsorship or advertising deals in place with any of the businesses listed above.