There’s no avoiding it – cruising around the UNESCO protected medieval streets of Salzburg on a Segway will make you look like an invading robot army platoon. This juxtaposition of old meets new is probably why you’ll get a few angry and disgusted looks from locals as you sail past them. Don’t worry though, as neither of these things actually matter. You’ll be having far too much fun to care, safe in the knowledge that seeing Salzburg by Segway is easily the best way of introducing yourself to this incredibly pretty city.
At the time of writing, Segway Salzburg is the only company brave enough to offer Segway tours of Salzburg. Brave, because on the face of things, hoping aboard a Segway anywhere in the world is an extremely foreign concept to most people. Also though, offering such an option in a city that prides itself in its heritage is a ballsy move. Staff could only offer resigned sighs and apologetic smiles whenever they mentioned just how much Salzburg residents hate Segways.
Segway Salzburg offer a range of tours, from a short hour long tour of the city centre, to a huge 2 hour scoot through the centre, out to the suburbs and around. We decided upon the longer tour. We had only arrived in the city the day before and we wanted to get a feel for the place before we dived in deeper. Our guide was Jonathan, a Swede who had set himself up in Salzburg a few years before. During the winter months, he would swap his Segway for a snowboard and head into the nearby mountains to coach tourists. For now though, he was our tour guide aboard a Segway.
Jade and I had been on a Segway taster session a few months before, so we were already well aware of just how easy riding a Segway is. To the initiated, a Segway with its two parallel wheels looks difficult to control and as if it could topple at any moment. But failing to topple is a Segway’s primary feature. After a couple of minutes of tuition, most find that they can trust the Segway to keep them upright, and providing they don’t also trust it to steer them away from walls, curbs or people, you’ll find riding one is not only very intuitive, but tremendously good fun.
The Big Tour of Salzburg
Once we’d had a quick practice, we set off to explore. Within seconds, we were riding through the historic centre, surrounded by beautifully restored buildings housing shops and restaurants. Tourists and locals gazed curiously at us as we rode across Staatsbrücke, the city centre bridge spanning the fast-flowing blue-grey waters of the Salzach. Our first calling point would be Mozartplatz, named after the famous Salzburg-born composer. A statue of the man himself stood proudly in the centre of the square surrounded by tourists taking selfies. The most important landmarks were pointed out to us by Jonathan, including Dom zu Salzburg, an impressive seventeenth century cathedral and Residenz Fountain, a large ornate fountain around which Maria sang “I have confidence in me” in The Sound of Music. As we progressed around the city centre, Jonathan was keen to point out as many Sound of Music filming locations as possible as the area is absolutely overflowing with them.
Our next stop put our Segways to the test as we climbed Festungsberg, a 542 metre high mountain, one of five in the city and on top of which Hohensalzburg Castle sits, one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. Despite the steep ascent, our nimble Segways ascended the mountain with ease. We enjoyed the truly breathtaking panoramic views of the city below, but could have probably done without being stared at by a clearly furious local, angry at our sheer presence. Within moments, we were well away from his vicinity, so it’s really difficult to understand why he and so many other residents of Salzburg are so annoyed by Segways in Salzburg. We smiled back at him, half to appease his disgust, half because we were just too happy aboard our Segways to care.
Next, we headed out to the suburbs and into the countryside. From here, we caught a first glimpse of Untersberg, a mountain we would later climb (a post on this coming soon). For now though, we simply admired it’s craggy dominance over the neighbouring farmland. Our tour continued around lake Leopoldskroner Weiher and the grounds of Schloss Leopoldskron, a rococo palace that provided the exterior shots of the Von Trapp mansion.
Finally, Jade, Jonathan and I wound our way through narrow cobbled alleyways up to the top of Mönchsberg, another of the city’s mountains. On top, we found more spectacular views of both the city and surrounding green fields and mountains.
From the start of our tour to the finish, we were convinced this was easily the best way of seeing Salzburg. Our battery-powered scooters effortlessly and silently scaled mountains, navigated busy cobbled streets and shot across wide open squares. Without them, seeing so much of Salzburg in the same length of time would have been completely impossible.
The Future of Tourism?
Segways were first seen in 2001, yet it’s only now that entrepreneurial types are seeing the massive potential they possess for the tourism industry. Clean, quiet and reasonably discrete transportation that doesn’t require the riders to have prior experience, nor a license. For medium sized cities like Salzburg, it’s almost as if Segways were made to been ridden by tourists. Now is definitely the time to drop any preconceptions you have about Segways and put them at the back of your mind the next time you’re planning a trip. Does your destination have a Segway tour company? If so, get yourself booked in.
If Salzburg is your destination, we can only hope our glowing review of Salzburg by Segway will encourage you to book yourself onto one of their tours. Despite them being nearly 15 years old, Segways are an important part of the future of the tourism industry, whether the residents of Salzburg like it or not.
More Information on Segway Salzburg
Tours by Segway Salzburg run daily from 13 March to 31 October. During winter months, tours can be run on request providing the weather is good and there are a minimum of five participants. We were taken on the ‘Big Segway Tour’, but you can choose from a selection of smaller tours should you wish to. For the most up-to-date information, head to the Segway Salzburg website.
Disclaimer: Segway Salzburg generously offered us a complimentary tour of Salzburg. This has in no way affected what has been written in this article. All opinions are those of the author.
Have you been on a Segway? If not, are you now tempted to have a go on your next trip? Let us know in the comments section below.