I’m not the most coordinated person in the world, I never have been and I have long since given up hope at being an athlete. I did though have high hopes for a Segway tour I joined while in Zagreb, Croatia. These remarkable people movers are billed as idiot-proof modes of transportation that even the chronically uncoordinated can handle. They apparently had never met me.
The capital of Croatia, Zagreb is a very walkable town with an easy-to-understand central core and broad, pedestrian-only zones. Still, it’s a large city and sometimes you can’t see everything you want to while on foot. That’s ultimately why the Zagreb Segway City Tour started, not just to give visitors a chance to ride these strange machines but to see more of this beautiful city in less time.
We met the guide at the appointed hour; he was already busy prepping the machines for departure. I was nervous, I know it’s silly but I was. I don’t like machines like these, I freak out on motorcycles and jet skis alike. I don’t know why I do, there is no logical reason but it’s just how I am. I didn’t want to embarrass myself though so I made a promise to do everything in my power to make the experience as much fun as possible.
As it turns out, Segway machines are pretty easy to use. If you’re not familiar, Segways are two-wheeled, self-balancing electric vehicles that use gyroscopic sensors to detect movements by the rider. You’ve probably seen law enforcement use them in malls and airports. They look cool, no doubt, but I wasn’t sure if I could actually use it without falling off.
“You can’t fall off,” was the first thing our guide told us, promptly taking away any argument I had for skipping the activity altogether. The Segway machines are very sensitive however to even the slightest movement by the rider, which is after all how they function. After gingerly stepping onto the vehicle, I soon learned that a slight lean to the left resulted in a left hand turn and a slight forward lean had me racing off. We experimented with the Segways for a while before it was time to hit the streets and see the sights.
I quickly learned that on flat ground with no barriers I’m great at Segwaying (not a word), all I had to do was stand on it and lean slightly forward in order to join the rest of the group. The guide took us around the historic areas of Zagreb, sharing with us examples of its beautiful architecture while schooling us in the complex history of the capital. The highlight though was a visit to the famous Mirogoj Cemetery, a beautiful complex known as much for its parklands as it is for the famous Croatians buried within its borders.
The scariest part of the adventure was in front of me though, literally. I had no problem using the Segway on flat ground or even going uphill, but going downhill was another matter. As the other riders soared down the steep hill I held back, not comfortable with the awkward angle at which I had to position my body in order to make the vehicle go forward. Then it happened, I nearly fell backwards and mentally freaked out. I hopped off the Segway, which is actually the most dangerous thing you can do, and walked the large machine downhill. I looked like an idiot but in all honesty, I was surprised it hadn’t happened earlier.
It was a momentary failure on my part though, and after some counseling by our guide I was back on the Segway, racing towards the finish line. The experience was an interesting one and even with the hill-disaster, I had a great time. It really was a lot of fun to speed along the sidewalks of Zagreb and to cover so much ground in so little time is valuable to me as a traveler.
Would I try a Segway tour again though? Eh, I’m not sure. I think it might be best if I keep my feet on the ground next time.