Balázs worked in many countries before he became a Segway tour guide in Budapest. He used to translate for the European Union from Hungarian to English and French. It’s a fact that his English is perfect. His colleagues offer tours in German.
The American company Segway Inc. has been selling its vehicles since 2001 and has been represented in Hungary since 2004. Ever since, offers for two-wheeled sightseeing have been sprouting like mushrooms. “But we are the original ones,” Balázs says self-confidently. “Before you start, you have to sign a contract according to which in case of your death our company inherits all that you’ve got,” he jokes.
Balázs introduces the machine, which is equipped with several sensors, to a tourist group: the driver uses his body weight to steer the Segway forward or backward, or to make it stop. The more you incline your body in a certain direction, the faster the machine will go that way. The steering is controlled by a rod. It does not flip over when you come to a stop.
That’s the theory, so now let’s practice. Forwards, back, left, right; in the beginning you feel strange, since this is quite an unusual way to get around. However, it usually takes only a few minutes to feel as if you were born using a Segway.
The fact that the tours are suitable for children and seniors is proof enough: almost everyone is able to learn how to drive one.
Maximum speed, watch the bumps
You can book a route according to preference. Among others you can choose from tours through the city centre, to the Buda Castle and by night; for advanced drivers there is even an off-road tour though the Buda hills. Balázs makes the trips interesting, imparting his knowledge about the capital.
In the city centre you have to drive slowly due to the many pedestrians. Around Parliament and at Freedom Square you can go faster again, the Segway zipping up to 20 km/h. Travelling at such a speed can make you feel uncomfortable – there are some dangers, such as bumps and holes on the road.
The story of Segway Inc.’s former owner is dampening: he had a fatal accident, driving over a cliff into a river. However, according to Balázs, serious injuries are rare on his tours. “Some broken elbows, some broken teeth, that’s all,” he says.
Balázs makes an effort to conjure up stories that are not in the guidebooks, such as his surprising anecdote about Freedom Square: “A treaty obliges Hungary to preserve every monument that reminds us about the liberation from the Nazis by the Soviet Union. At the end of the communist period the colour of the star on the monument was changed from red to gold, since using red stars of all kinds is forbidden since then,” he explains.
One hour of tour is available from EUR 29.90, two hours from EUR 49.90. It seems like a shockingly high price but you have to take into account that one Segway costs around EUR 8000.
If you are looking for exhaustive background information about the attractions or get cold sweats just from cycling in the capital, you should rather keep both feet on the ground. But for lovers of technology or thrill-seekers, such a two-wheel tour is just right.