Hamburg for blind people
Hamburg, our wonderful home on the Elbe, is one of the most beautiful places to be in the world and has a lot to offer people who are blind or partially sighted. We joined Heiko Kunert as he spent a day exploring the Hanseatic city. He showed us just how much Hamburg is worth experiencing for blind people and explained all the things he likes to do while here.
A trip to the port or the Elbe always feels like a holiday to me. I usually start off at Landungsbrücken. As soon as I leave the underground or rapid transit station, I hear the cries of seagulls, an accordion plays sea shanties and harbour boat tours are announced. A boat trip crossing the Elbe and Alster should be part of everyone’s visit to Hamburg, as you can learn all sorts of things about the city. History buffs could find the alternative harbour boat tours pretty exciting. There's one about the colonial times, for instance.
Travelling along the Elbe
I take harbour ferry number 62 on the Elbe, which is part of Hamburg Transport Association transport network. Blind people with a German disabled pass and their companions can travel free of charge. On deck, I really enjoy the wind on my face. I travel to the harbour museum (stop: Neumühlen) which is an ideal starting point for a walk along the Elbe, with the river flowing past me on the left.
At the beginning it is extremely busy but the route quietens down as you progress, especially as cars are not allowed on this street. As a blind pedestrian, its rarely possible to wander off and get lost. My wife and I like to stop off at Teufelsbrück to visit the wonderful, spacious Jenischpark. Our route leads us right up to the beautiful botanic garden in Klein Flottbek which is home to exotic plants from all over the world. Here, there are also special guided tours for blind and visually impaired visitors, as well as a scent and tactile garden.
Discovering the UNESCO Speicherstadt
There’s something very special about the atmosphere in the UNESCO Speicherstadtand so much can be found in the old buildings. One such place is Spicy’s Gewürzmuseum (spice museum) where the spices on display can all be touched, smelled and tasted. The entire treatment process, which uses traditional antique equipment and machinery, can be observed – from cultivation right through to the finished product.
The (Dialogue in the Dark) exhibition is also located in the Speicherstadt. I find it fascinating the way the concept is professionally implemented by the guides, who are blind themselves. And, for people such as friends and relatives who are not visually impaired, the fact that the exhibition is in total darkness makes it an absolute must as well. Not far from the Speicherstadt is Hamburg’s newest district, the HafenCity. In terms of accessibility, there were some initial difficulties here but, thankfully, things have improved considerably since then. Taking a walk around the area, accompanied by a sighted person, is definitely worthwhile.
About: Heiko Kunert
Born in 1976, Heiko Kunert, Managing Director of the Hamburg Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, has lived in Hamburg since 1990. He blogs on Heikos.blog on the topics of inclusion, accessibility and his everyday life as a blind person. In his free time, he enjoys going to the theatre, taking walks in and around Hamburg, and going to the seaside.
Special services for Hamburg residents and visitors who are visually impaired
Dedicated guided tours for blind and visually impaired visitors are offered at St. Michaelis (St. Michael's church, also known as "the Michel") allowing visitors to experience many aspects of the Michel through touch. Such tours convey the vast sense of space in this remarkably tall and wide building and make the pulpit and alter visible to the inner eye.
An extraordinary, true-to-scale tactile model of downtown Hamburg also features St. Michael’s church. Made of bronze and measuring 2.65 x 1.60 m, this representation of the city uses braille and black-print to indicate streets and buildings. The shape of buildings and their position in relation to each other, along with the course of roads and waterways, can all be felt. The model is located next to the town hall, in front of the Bucerius Kunst Forum.
What goes on in Hamburg in the evenings? Music, theatre and culinary delights!
There is also an impressive variety of venues that hold with rock, pop, indie and folk concerts in our city, such as Uebel & Gefährlich in the former bunker on Feldstraße or the small-scale Prinzenbar on the Kiez, to name but a few. There is decent music here almost every night.
Hamburg is a city of theatre and home to some great stages. Since 2013, Hamburg Cultural Authority has been facilitating the use of audio description at theatres so that, for specific performances, blind and visually impaired visitors can access a description of scenes via headphones. The Hamburg Society for Blind and Visually Impaired People uploads any new dates to their website as soon as they are released.