Saturday, 30 August 2014

Gothenburg River Running Route

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Length 4 km (2.5 miles), terrain: flat

Pictures courtesy of the creative folks at Flickr Creative Commons. Thanks! 

For more running routes, see Route List 

Gullberg Quay Paradise
By Swedish singer, Håkan Hellström
Meet me where the boats roll out
Later today
Among rusty bikes
Rubber tires and factory fronts
Crushed glass and sewer pipes
For all of my life, all of my life
It feels like I am at home in
Gullberg Quay paradise

Gothenburg (Swedish: Göteborg), is a harbor town, with a long riverfront full of docks, ferries and loads of ships. Here's a simple little route that heads up the river from the town center for a bit of maritime flair.
Sunken dream along Gullberg Quay, photo by Goflorp
It will go by Gullbergskayen, a long stretch of old boats which Gothenburg romantics have decided to rescue from their deserved fates at the local scrapyards. The whole riverfront is lined with boat projects in every state of completion from "breathtaking makeover" to "cheap/ugly fix-up" to "half-finished and then ran out of time/money/interest" to even "there's no way on earth that this floating wreck will ever sail again". A few never even survived the long wait for their restoration, and they sunk right there at the quay, becoming one with the river bottom. If you like boats, this is the place to be.

We'll start at the same place as we did in the loop around the city center, at Lilla Bommen ("little toll-gate") harbor. This is a little marina next to the opera house. There are also ferries leaving from here.  
Lilla Bommen harbor, with the Viking and the lipstick, photo by Guillaume Baviere
NOTE: The Lilla Bommen ferries for Älvsnabben travel along the river and are a nice way to see town from the water, if you're interested in a cheap hour of sight-seeing.

Start the run at the east side of the little marina, and turn north, with the water to your left side. We'll now just follow the water all the way to the turn-around point, then head back home again.

In just a minute, you'll reach the north edge of the harbor, where you turn left to continue following the water. This is the side where the ferries land. You're running towards a beautiful white windjammer, the "Viking", more than 100 years old and the biggest one built in Scandinavia.  
The Viking, photo by Andreina Schoeberlein
ANOTHER NOTE: Speaking of maritime flair, the Viking is a hotel, and staying there is a great experience: I know because that's where I stayed the last time I was in Gothenburg, hence this route.

Now, turn right at the Viking and start running directly along the Göta Älv River. You'll immediately come to a red-and-white high-rise at the water's edge, shaped like a giant lipstick. This modern monstrosity dominates the whole scene. It does have a very cool tower on top, though.

You'll also run under a big, unattractive harbor bridge and come to the next stretch of re-developed riverfront. This part has new office buildings, but unfortunately, they put their parking lots right along the river instead of adding anything more human-friendly to make it more scenic.
The river from above, the lipstick in lower left corner, photo by Henrik Berggren
There are normally visiting yachts and other ships tied up along this stretch of quay, then another hotel ship, this one is a fake steamer (which never sailed anywhere) with an Ibis Styles hotel in it.

The street Gullbergs Strandgata runs parallel to the river trail. And across the river are more docks, shipyards, quays and warehouses.

After one kilometer you'll come to the Fartygsföreningen Gullbergskayen boat club, where all the interesting ship-restoration projects are tied to the seawall (or lie sunken before it), bobbing in the waves in their various states of nautical decay. There is a gate there to block cars, but pedestrians are quite welcome.
At Gullbergskay, photo by Martin Andersson
The ships are tied-up one- or two-rows deep along the quay, and on the land-side you'll run by a few sheds and containers for tools and spare parts. Depending on the time of day, you'll probably find a few guys hanging around, working on their ships or using them as a floating coffee/beer terrace.
A work in project: could take a few lifetimes, photo by Fredrik Olsson
The quay, also known as the "Quay of Dreams", is one big demonstration of naive love for these aging waterborne orphans, and they're fascinating to look at (OK, I'm a sailor, so I have a soft spot for junky old boats). You'll find fishing boats, barges, towboats, old ferries, sailing ships, rusty coastal freighters, navy patrol boats, about anything that ever floated.
Heaped-up chain along the quay, photo by Irene Kårlin
You'll also run by old ships' motors being engulfed in weeds, and other totally unidentifiable nautical leftovers. Across the river are more docks and cranes and passing harbor boats.
Ship details, photo by Daniel Ek
After 2 kilometers, at the north end of the boat club, turn around and head back to Lilla Bommen again, and you'll get to see it all again from the other direction!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Gothenburg Center Loop Running Route

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Length 4.4 km (2.7 miles), terrain: flat

Pictures courtesy of the creative folks at Flickr Creative Commons. Thanks! 

For more running routes, see Route List 

Gothenburg (Swedish: Göteborg), Sweden's second-largest city, is typically Scandinavian: it's face is turned towards the sea, with its back to the granite cliffs and forests that spread out behind. The town was founded 400 years ago on the Göta Älv river as a Swedish port in the south to compete with the Danes and Germans, and it has grown to be Scandinavia's biggest port.

This doesn't exactly make for a beautiful harbor area: the whole mouth of the river, along both sides, is full of docks, warehouses, cranes and industry. But despite the very utilitarian look to most of the waterfront, it is always fascinating, and a lot of it has been redeveloped and been given back to the people in recent years.
The route along Östra Hamngatan, with its trams, photo by Nic Taylor
Gothenburg is also home to Volvo and other big Swedish manufacturers, so the city has a lot going on. And some of the world's greatest sailing yachts are built on a nearby island, Orust.

NOTE: If you have at least a few hours of free time in daylight, my tip is to take tram 11 or tram 9 to Saltholmen and then jump on one of the ferries out to one of the car-less islands in the archipelago, and get a real taste of the area via a good hike!

This route will circle the city center, both along the riverfront and along the park-lined moat-canal that once served as the city's defenses along the east side, inland.

We'll start the run right in the heart of the redeveloped area of the waterfront, at the new opera house on the Göta Älv river. It seems like every Scandinavian town had to build a new waterside opera house in recent years. This one is about the least-beautiful of them, in my opinion, but provides a nice anchor for cultural life along the water.
The opera at Lilla Bommen harbor, photo by - Cristina -
Stand there, facing the river, with the opera house on your left, and the little statue of Swedish singer Evert Taube in front of you. The marina harbor of Lilla Bommen is to your right, with all its boats bobbing next to you. This is one of the nicest spots in town.

Now turn around, with your back to the river and run past the opera and cross the open square ahead, with the traffic circle to your left, and enter the downtown by running south along Östra Hamngatan. Follow the tram tracks along this main shopping street, as you pass the modern Nordstan shopping arcade on the left side.

When you come to a cross-canal, at the end of Nordstan, turn left on Norra Hamngatan and run along the canal, heading east, with the water to your right side. You'll pass an open square and then the Palace Hotel and Restaurant, one of Gothenburg's oldest institutions.
The sluice, with Trädgårdsföreningen at the trees, photo by bobild
Once you get to the east end of both Nordstan and the Palace, cross the canal on the tram bridge to the right, then continue running eastwards along the other bank of the canal. You'll pass the sluice, where ships go through canal locks.

You'll then cross a wider canal that goes south: this is the moat of the old city walls. Just on the other side of the moat, there is a series of parks along the eastern side.

Just past the moat, turn right, heading through the little gate into Trädgårdsföreningen (Garden Society) park, open from 7 AM till 8 PM. Keep on one of the paths along the right side, near the moat, going past the beautiful Victorian-era greenhouse until you exit the little park in just 400 meters.
The greenhouse in Trädgårdsföreningen, photo by The Hamster Factor
When you leave that first park, you'll come to a fountain pool, with an old theater building (the Stora Teatern) behind it. Pass them both on the right side, near the moat.

Now, just keep following the zig-zag of the moat as it curves westwards around the south edge of the city center.

The canal in fall colors, photo by The Hamster Factor
After the fourth bridge, Rosenlundsbron, the moat is lined by a parking lot rather than park lawn. Just keep running along the water, towards the two white smokestacks of the little electric plant ahead. The many-gabled roof of the old fish-market building is across the water.

When you get to the next bridge, just before the electric plant, keep running straight, staying to the left of the old yellow warehouses ahead (still keeping the moat to your right).

Just past the warehouses, you'll find yourself back at the river again. Now turn right and head north along the pedestrian/bike trail right along the water.

At first, the scenery isn't too spectacular along this part of the river, but when you cross the canal that once formed the old harbor in the center of town, the riverfront gets really nice.
Ships at Maritiman, photo by Sam Doshi
Stay along the water as you go around the old brick warehouses that now house the casino, and continue northwards, going by Maritiman, the ship museum, with its old crane and a fleet of old ships docked to your left.

You'll now pass the Marieholm restaurant-ship and then reach the back end of the opera again. Just run past it and you'll be at the starting point again.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Brussels Old Town Running Route

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Length 3.5 km (2.2 miles), terrain: one small hill, total gain of 40 meters

Brussels Running Routes:
Avenue Louise/Bois de la Cambre  
Center Loop 

Old-Town Sights
For more running routes, see Route List

Brussels, in my opinion, has a cosmopolitan flair that its small size doesn't really warrant: it has world-class chocolate makers, French cuisine, a typically Dutch old town, capital-city institutions like a parliament, palaces and embassies, the European Union quarter, the NATO headquarters, sprawling parks, gigantic monuments and -- of course -- Europe's most beautiful square - Grand Place.
The Brussels town hall on Grand Place
I first started discovering this fascinating place 30 years ago, when I began a 12-year stint of working there off-and-on. I've spent hundreds of evenings running through every corner of the city. And on lots of those runs I crossed through the old-town, taking-in Grand Place and the nearby ancient lanes full of restaurants and chocolate shops, which gave every run a special highlight.

Here's a little route through the heart of Brussels that goes by a lot of the most scenic spots in the old town: Parliament, Brussels Park, the royal palace, Grand Place, the Manneken Pis statue, the restaurant streets, the cathedral and back to the park again.

We'll start the run on the east edge of the old town, up the hill at Brussels Park, right in front of the parliament building. This neighborhood, the Koudenberg, used to be the castle area, defending the main old-town area down the hill towards the northwest. The old castle burned down, and now the newer royal palace occupies the spot, although the Belgian royal family lives at Laeken, outside town.

So let's go to the Rue de la Loi, to the front door of the unassuming Palace of the Nation (parliament). The building looks like it might just hold the state archives or maybe the transport ministry, but this is the Belgian parliament.

Turn your back to the front entrance of the parliament, and face into the north entrance of Brussels Park across the street. This small rectangle of green-space is one of those pleasant little European parks that includes about everything a proper park needs: fountains, statues, a playground, a café, a bandstand, even a theater.
Feeding the ducks in Brussels Park
Run straight south through the park, going around the two fountains along the way.

At the south end of the park, you'll come out facing the royal palace. This gigantic building is only used for functions: nobody lives there.
The royal palace
Turn right and run past the front of the palace until you come to the first real cross-street, Rue Royale.

Turn left on Rue Royale and take just a few strides into the next square, Place Royale, with the statue of the knight Godfrey on his horse.
Place Royal and Godfrey
Turn right at the statue to head downhill into the old-town, along Coudenberg. But where the street curves to the right, continue straight into the big formal garden of the Jardin du Mont des Arts. You'll see the skyline of the old-town beyond the hedges and roses of the garden.
Music above the Jardin du Mont des Arts
When you exit the gardens, keep running straight north through the next square, with the statues of the mounted soldiers, and on into the Rue de la Madeleine. You're now running past the old Dutch-style houses of the real old-town. You'll run past a little red-brick church and then come to another little square, the Marché aux Herbes.
Market day at the Marché aux Herbes
Keep the square to your right side and you'll come to the south entrance of the Galeries Royales St. Hubert, the world's first modern shopping mall, built in 1846.

Now, turn left into the little side street, Rue de la Colline, and you'll see Grand Place opening up at the end of the street. You'll run past some of the first chocolate shops, and they're pretty inviting: Belgian chocolate is among the best in the world. You can run through some streets in the west end of the old-town and the whole street will smell like cocoa.
Grand Place: Brussels Museum
Run into Grand Place and be prepared to be amazed. Every building bounding the square is beautiful, full of details and accented with gold. Turn right and circle the square counter-clockwise and take a look at the amazing buildings here, and their famous tennants: Pierre Cardin's Maxim's restaurant, Neuhaus chocolates, the Brussels Museum in its Neo-Gothic palace,

Circle past the guild-houses on the north side of the square, then southwards past the Gothic, 600-year-old town hall and its huge tower.

At the south end of the town hall, turn right to exit Grand Place (we'll be back in a few minutes, though), and run southwest along Rue Charles Buls. Keep running straight for three blocks, till you come to the crowd looking at Manneken Pis, a tiny statue of a boy peeing into a fountain. On many days of the year, he'll be wearing special costumes commemorating one special occasion or another. He has over 900 costumes, more than Madonna...
Manneken Pis seems a bit lost among the tourist crowds
Now turn right onto Rue des Grands Carmes, where you just run a block before turning right to head northeast along Rue du Midi.

Run just two blocks, where you turn diagonally to your right onto Rue du Marché au Charbon, where you head straight back into Grand Place again, this time on the other side of the town hall.

Now just cross the square to the left corner of the gothic city museum and exit Grand Place by running into narrow Rue Chair et Pain (Meat and Bread Street). In a block, the street turns into the Petite rue des Bouchers (Little Butcher Street), where a long row of restaurants with outside seating begins. 
Restaurants along Rue de Bouchers
If you're here in the evenings, it's hard to get through the crowds that wander around. Just enjoy the chance to slow down and view the stands full of fresh seafood on ice, and the fireplaces glowing in almost every restaurant.

At the end of the street, turn right onto Rue des Bouchers (more restaurants). You'll pass the Galeries St. Hubert again (this street bisects the gallery into two halves), and then run into Rue de la Montagne.

Turn left here and now run uphill for the next blocks. You'll see the Gothic-style cathedral coming into view ahead, with its twin towers. Run through the green square out front of the cathedral, towards its front doors, then run past it around the right side.
The cathedral
Now just follow Treurenberg up to the top of the hill, where you will come out to Rue Royale again, with its tram tracks.

Turn right and run the one block back to Brussels Park.