Sunday, 26 October 2014

Sightseeing Munich on Segway

Segway  noun, plural Segways - a motorised skateboard.
Segwayer  noun, plural Segwayers - the rider of a Segway vehicle.
Segwaying  noun - the act of riding a Segway.

By the time we got to Munich, we were nearing the end of tether and our Blue Danube trip, which lasted for more than 3 weeks. Tired is probably an understatement. We are no longer spring chickens. Those springs have been rusting away and lost all its elasticity. So seeing Munich on Segway seems to be a swell idea not the least saving our legworks. The other reason is that we had never done sightseeing on a Segway. Ok, we had never been on a Segway. Period.

There're other alternative like bicycle tours of Munich. For one thing Ada can't ride a bicycle. Even if a tandem bike is available, riding maybe more preferably than walking at this point, but Segway is even better. To us, this Segway tour is killing several birds with one stone.

Königsplatz, Munich, Germany
We were either lawn-mowing or Sedwaying in front of Königsplatz

We joined the City Segway Tours. In particular, we signed up for the Munich Grand Segway Tour (if this link leads to dead end, try here).

The 4 hour trip covered 14 destinations, and close to 20km of distance. We actually didn't cover all the destinations outlined by the above itinerary, but we did also visit places that weren't included in the itinerary.

I find this tour a bit rushed. Of course, this coverage would be impossible on foot, in fact, by any form of transport except for car practically. But even with car, there're places where cars couldn't get to or finding a car park isn't easy. Still, I would have been happier with fewer destinations (say 8) and spend more time on each one. Or same number of destinations but longer duration. The whole trip was quite busy (I know, we equate holiday with business these days).

Jewish Museum, Munich, Germany
Jewish Museum (from memory)

While we were clued in some interesting tidbits of info at various sites, because of time constraints, we had never been inside a single place in the itinerary. This was a shame. I would love to see the inside of quite a few of these places (I understand that some of these places are off-limit to the public). I supposed this grand tour is just that, a grand tour, not a in-depth tour.

I'm a shutterbug, I love to take photos while on holiday, and I'm experienced in snapping photos as quickly as a war photographer, yet I was somewhat less pleased with the number and the quality of photos I was given the time and opportunity to do so.

We made a couple of stops near the Gallery of Modern Art.

Wall that riddled with bullet holes, Munich, Germany
Wall that showing the scar of war

This wall (quite close to the University from memory) that's riddled with bullet wound are left in this state, not because of the lack of funds, but to remind us the horror of WW2.

We stopped at a park for a lunch break, and to see the river surfing on the Eisbach River. It's different from the usual traverse waves that you typically see on the oceans. It's a 1m standing waves that stays in one spot in the river.

River Surfing on the Eisbach, Munich, Germany
River Surfing on the Eisbach

After lunch, we made a stop at a Hitler's Ministry of War office at 28 Prince Regent St.

Finally, as we were on our way back to the City Segway office, only about 10 mins walk or so, we "drove" (or is it "rode"?) past Michael Jackson Shrine located in front of the 5☆ Bayerischer Hof Hotel.

So what do I think of  this Segway tour?

If you're like us with only one day in Munich and want to have a grand tour of the city instead of a detailed in-depth tour, I can't think of a better transport vehicle. Even if you know how to ride a bicycle, a 20km distance isn't easy to cover.

Would I recommend to anyone?

Well, if you aren't adventurous, you're most likely wouldn't choose Segway. Even if you're adventurous, here's something to think about.

The perceived speed of vehicle is inversely proportional to its dimension, which implies actual protection and a sense of security. So a 20km/hr Segway feels like 40km/hr bicycle ride, a 80km/hr motorbike speed, and 150 km/hr in a small sedan, or 200 km/hr in a large Mercedes Benz.

Ok, 20 km/hr is the maximum speed of the Segway. It's dangerous to do this speed all the time. Because of time constraint, we had done this speed some of the time.

I've driven/ridden all these vehicles, and this is the perceived equivalent speeds that it made me feels, the level of adrenalin that it rises in me.

Perhaps, the thrill that induced by the perceived speed was due to in no small part that it was my very 1st time on a Segway. I think you agree that riding a motorbike at 80 km/hr the 1st time is far more thrilling than the 50th times.

And what's more, the Segway wasn't being "driven" in a quiet car park or public park, but in the traffic lanes with all other cars. In a few occasions, we changed lanes and crossed streets within the normal motorist traffic. I wouldn't and hadn't drive/ridden any of the above vehicles in street with traffic the first time. I always practiced them in a car park or public park.

I've also done some skiing, and the speed of my downhill ski were easily far exceeded 20 km/hr. It was likely twice as fast as 40 km/hr (Olympian downhill slalom reaches some 150 km/hr). With downhill ski, once I mastered the basic slow down and stop manoeuvres, even if you actually run into other skiers (which I had done many times, of course), it isn't too bad and had never once lead to injuries that I would consider serious. But collision between a car and a Segway, or a Segway with a pedestrian is another matter.

I felt as thrilling (read scared) if not more while riding Segway than downhill skiing even its speed is only half. Perhaps because it was the 1st time, and perhaps, the chance of actually hurting somebody and myself badly is greater in Segway than in skiing.

Ada had 2 near misses. One when she tried to negotiate around corner and run into a park car. The other time, one of her Segway wheel caught in a track on the road, putting her in a slight panic mode.

I'm not trying to scare you, after all, I survived the tour totally unscathed. You just need to keep all that in mind. As far as ladies who go to big clothing sales before the doors open, Segway is nothing to fear for them. People usually got trampled in this kind of situations.

Segway is probably too tame for these ladies

Having said that, Munich is a one of the few cities in the world which is very good for Segway tours. The traffic are low, and the German motorists are patient, polite and understanding (despite the fact that Germans insist to drive at an unlimited speed on autobahn). They look out for Segwayers in Munich streets. The row of Segways crossing the road is probably quite a common sight in Munich streets by now.

Segway tours are popular in Munich because the city allows Segwayers to roam seemingly freely on the road. I can't imagine city like Singapore and Sydney's traffic authorities would allow this to happen (for different reasons). But then, German authority let motorists drive at an unlimited speed on autobahn. Recently they put on a speed limit, not for safety reason, but for environmental reason because driving at high speed leads to great carbon footprint.

Would I do another Segway tour? Quite unlikely. There's only very unique situation (that I outlined all above) where Segway is suitable. For example, joining a Segway tour in the Prague Old Town is just plain silly. But there're Segway tour for it. It's too crowded with tourists, and the sights are so closely that if you're on the Segway, you'll miss everything.

And one more thing, as we rode on our Segways, because they're still not very common vehicles - especially in public streets as supposed to university campuses - we gathered a lot of very jealous glances from the kids, and curious glances from the adults as we looked down on them from a higher platform.

It would be better to do it at a milder temperature. It was 8 °C on the day, which is probably not cold for Munich locals. For someone who has been living in Singapore for the last 5 years, the wind chill factor brought it down to close to 2 °C or literally freezing temperature.

And another thing. Each tour guide only guides a group of 4 Segways, which is quite a low number, and allow more pay attention and increase the safety of each of the tour members.

In conclusion, the Segway tour was quite a thrilled and memorable experience. I'm very glad to have done it. One more thing being ticked off on the bucket list.

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