Sunday, 18 September 2016

Wolfsburg Rabenberg Trail Running Route

Click here for route map 
Length 10.6 km (6.6 miles), terrain: a few light hills, 72-meter gain

Wolfsburg is a fairly small city, just over 120,000 people. That has a great advantage for runners: you're never far from the edge of town, where you can find woods and fields in the rolling countryside. So, although the city is a purpose-built factory town, with everything modern and full of apartment buildings, you can quickly escape to some green.
Out in the Rabenberg countryside
Just south of the town center -- around the Rabenberg hill -- is a mixture of woods and fields, with a few streams and ponds.

There is a great trail there, with 3 different lengths: 8-km, 10-km and 12-km. All three start out and end together, but the two shorter routes take short-cuts off the main loop. The Libellenweg (Dragonfly Way) is sponsored by the Wolfsburg city water works, and they added a water theme to the route, with it winding past the various springs, streams and ponds that feed the city water supply. They added a few wells, picnic tables and hand pumps at various spots where people can stop and enjoy the trail more. Most of the way is dirt roads and paths, with a few paved ones nearer to civilization.

NOTE: You can view the official map and a German description here:

This route follows the 10-km-long Libellenweg route, but you can just as well follow the longer- or shorter-one.

The Libellenweg route is marked by trail-markers with a blue square with a white dragonfly. And the three route variations are marked by additional colored dots: blue for 8-km, green for 10-km and red for 12-km. Where the routes overlap, there will be dots for each color. When it is just one or two routes together, you'll see just those dots.
Libellenweg trail marker
We'll actually start the route in town and link it to the Libellenweg. So get yourself to Schillerteich park, right in the town center, by heading east along Pestalozziallee from the Rathaus (town hall). The park is a big lawn surrounding a pond.
Schillerteich with geese
Standing there, along the west side of the pond, turn south, with the water to your left. Now follow the path as it exits the park under the Berliner Ring road and into more parkland. You're heading straight towards a big outdoor swimming pool, the VW Bad
Start of the run out front of the VW Bad
This is where Libellenweg starts. There is a trail map out front of the pool building. Most of the trail is well-marked, with occasional maps showing you where you are, and explanations of the 17 water-features along the way.

The trail now heads east, going through the parking lot and along the fence for the pool area.
VW Bad, nice hangout in the summer!
At the eastern end of the pool area, the trail turns south to go into the woods, at the 1-kilometer mark. But here I'd recommend a short detour: in just a few steps, you'll see a path heading to the right. Take that path, and in a minute you'll come to the Drei Steine (three stones), a spot with some small but cool rock formations. Then just head back to the main trail again, where you head south.
Drei Steine, or at least two of them
From now on, just watch for the dragon-fly markers.

After just a short way, the Libellenweg leaves the main trail, at a boulder with the incription "Steimker Berg". The trail heads left and leads you to a scenic little stream valley often frequented by deer, the Hasselbachtal.
Heading to the Hasselbachtal
After you pass a covered well, the trail turns to the right and heads westwards. It will go uphill and past the Libellengrund springs marked by a boulder. Now the trail splits, with the 8-km trail (blue) heading straight westwards, and the two longer trails (green and red) turning south to follow a longer loop. So turn left here to follow the green trail.

This trail also curves around towards the west and then heads down and up little hills and out into open fields at the 4-kilometer mark. It zig-zags around a field and heads westwards into the woods again, along a dirt road called Grenztrift.
Heading through the fields
This is where the 12-km trail (red) turns off to continue on a longer route to the south, along Hattorfer Hauptweg. But we'll continue along the 10-km trail (green dots) heading west along Grenztrift.

The trail turns to the right (north) along the second real dirt cross-road, Herrenwiesen Weg and continues to the next crossroads.

Now turn right for just a short stretch till the next crossroads. This is where my favorite part of the run begins: the trail leaves the logging roads and heads along a narrow, muddy path winding its way into the woods. It will follow a tiny stream to some more springs and steep little hills at Erlengrund, perfect for mountain-biking.
Along the little stream
The trail finally comes out of the woods at the Rabenberg neighborhood at the 7-kilometer mark, where you turn right and skirt the neighborhood, heading east.
One of the ponds
After almost circling the neighborhood, at the 9-kilometer mark, the trail leads you back eastwards into woods, along a chain of pretty ponds. You'll pass a soccer field and then come back to the VW Bad.

Now you just turn left (north) to head back to Schillerteich and you're almost home.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

City of London Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 7.3 km (4.5 miles), terrain: flat, 50-meter gain

London Running Routes:
Best London Running Routes: Overview
Docklands-LimehouseRegent's Canal and Camden Town  
Hampstead Heath  
3-Parks Route: Hyde Park, Green Park, St. James' Park  
Regent's Park  
Hyde Park   

Heathrow Harmondsworth Moor  

Richmond Park
Notting Hill
Victoria Park 
Wimbledon Common Trail Run
For more running routes, see Route List. 

I've been to London more often than I can remember. And every trip there I've sought out quiet backstreets and the wonderful parks available. But this last trip I suddenly realized that I've never run the City of London, the old heart of this great city. So, I made up for that and ran it one nice evening just as all the office workers were getting off work and either rushing off towards one of the many commuter train stations, or heading off in groups to their favorite City pubs.

And I found I enjoyed the run a lot. I had to dodge cars and pedestrians, but I visited many of London's most historic spots. And it's even fun to pass by one pub after another filled with groups of colleagues capping off the day with a cool pint.

For this run, I've tried to zig-zag past the main sights and the interesting hidden lanes, and then head back along the Thames embankment. It includes such sights as St. Paul's Cathedral, the Guildhall, Mansion House, the Royal Exchange, Leadenhall Market, modern architectural jewels like Lloyd's and the Gherkin, some Roman city walls, St. Katherine's docks, the Tower Bridge, the Tower, and perhaps the biggest star, the Thames itself.

London City Running Route
So, if you're ready to discover the heart of one of the world's most fascinating cities, get yourself to the St. Paul's tube station, where Cheapside and St. Martin's-le-Grand come together.

NOTE: This reminds me that London City contains a lot of strange church names: St. Botolph-without-Aldersgate, St. Mary Axe, St. Botolph-without-Bishopsgate, St. Andrew Undershaft,
St. Peter-Upon-Cornhill, St. Botolph-without-Aldgate (aren't they overdoing it with all these St. Botolph-withouts?), St. Katherine Cree, St. Martin-within-Ludgate (finally a "within"), St. Ethelburga's, St. Stephen Walbrook, St. Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe (is there maybe another one by the chest of drawers?). These old churches add a note of medieval London to neighborhoods which are often full of modern office towers.

St. Paul and his cathedral, as seen from the gardens
OK, so let's face south at the tube station and run the 100 meters to the little fenced garden behind St. Paul's Cathedral. If the gardens are open, run through the gate and head east past the church towards the front doors. If the gardens are closed, just run next to the fence.
Wedding photos on the St. Paul's steps
At the front facade, with its huge columns and doors, keep running a circle around the church and get back to the back side again. Just keep running east through Festival Gardens and into Watling Street.

Run east on Watling, and one block past Bread Street, turn left onto narrow Bow lane.

Bow Lane
Now you're running north until this lane ends (you're back at Cheapside again). Now turn right, then left onto King Street so that you run straight into the square in front of the Guildhall. This square was the site of the Roman amphitheater of old Londinium. The old Guildhall has a lot of interesting details, but it has been heavily modified with modern additions.
The Guildhall
Exit the square to the east and run to the next street, Basinghall, then turn right, then left again on the next street, Gresham.

Now you just run to the next corner, then turn right again, onto Old Jewry.

Old Jewry ends at The Poultry (did I mention that the street-names are equally entertaining?)where you turn left and run towards one of the greatest intersections in the City. On the right is porticoed Mansion House, the home and office of the Lord Mayor. And across the street is the massive, fortress-like Bank of England. A statue of Wellington on his mount dominates a triangular plaza between them, in front of the Royal Exchange. Traditionally, all royal proclamations are read by a crier from its steps.
Out front of the Bank of England
Bank tube station is located below the intersection, with people constantly appearing and disappearing into the station stairways.

Keep that plaza to your right and run northeast up Threadneedle, with the Bank of England to your left.

When you pass the Royal Exchange building on the right, you'll see a little shady plaza, where you turn right and run southwards through it to Cornhill. The Royal Exchange is still owned by the  Worshipful Company of Mercers, who used it for trading goods. Originally, stockbrokers weren't allowed inside because of their rude manners, so they had to meet in a nearby coffee house. The present building now houses a restaurant and boutiques in its giant atrium.
Inside the Royal Exchange
Now turn left and run a few short blocks until you see a church on the right, St. Michael's. Turn right to run up the narrow St. Michael's Alley to the right of the church-tower. At the end of the short alley you'll find one of the great old pubs in the City, the Jamaica Wine House. This little one-story red-sandstone building has a lot of character and should definitely be on your list for places to come back to when you're done with your smelly track shoes. After work, the alley is full of relaxed beer drinkers celebrating the end of the business day.
At the Jamaica Wine House
Turn left, then right, then left again to exit the maze-like alleys and come out onto Gracechurch Street. There, you'll see the impressive entrance to Leadenhall Market across the streeet, on the left.
Leadenhall Market
Run into the market, and cross it. This beautiful example of Victorian covered-market architecture is full of restaurants and pubs nowadays. On the east side of the market, you'll be running behind the strange, modernist headquarters of Lloyd's of London, the insurance brokers. The building has its elevators, pipes and conduits on the outside of the facade, wrapped in stainless steel pipes.
Lloyd's from behind
Run past Lloyd's, then turn left on Lime Street, and you'll come out into a square surrounded by more modernist buildings: the Gherkin (30 St. Mary Axe) and the Cheese Grater (Leadenhall Building). St. Andrew Undershaft Church is on the corner, giving it a touch of tradition. The Gherkin is my favorite of the modern London sky-scrapers: it's oval form is like a piece of modern art.

Run through the square, keeping to the left, and you'll come to another beautiful old church, St. Helen's Bishopgate. From there you have a good view of the Gherkin.
The Gherkin behind St. Helen's Church
NOTE: This brings us to another quirky thing about London: they give all their skyscrapers nicknames, like the Shard, the Cell Phone, the Cheese Grater and the Gherkin.

Now run to the Gherkin, circle it clockwise and then exit eastwards along Bury street and then continue further eastwards along Leadenhall and Fenchurch.

Just before reaching St. Botolph-without-Aldgate, turn right onto Old Jewry and run south towards the River Thames.

At Fenchurch Street Station, follow Cooper's Row as it heads south under the train tracks. In a couple of blocks, you'll find yourself at Trinity Square Gardens and Tower Hill tube station. Turn left at Tower Hill and go down the steps towards the hulking Tower behind its walls.
The city wall with tourists and caesar.
To your left, you'll see a remnant of the old town walls, with the bottom section dating from Roman days. Now cross under Tower Hill street to face the Tower directly.

Turn left now to run past the north side of the Tower, going under Tower Bridge Road and into the wonderful confines of St. Katherine's Docks.

The three basins and their surrounding warehouses were once part of the sprawling system of docks and wharves lining this part of the Thames, when London was the biggest port in the world. A boat lock keeps the water inside the basins when the tide goes out in the river.
In St. Katherine's Docks
Run along the north end of the water, now used as a marina. At the old warehouse ahead, turn right to come out to the south basin. Now turn left and take the narrow footbridge, running past the Dickens Inn, then exit the area to the right, at the boat lock at the Thames.
Dickens Inn, always photogenic
You'll come out to the river, where you now turn west and head back towards St. Paul's along the Thames path.
Runners along the Thames
The amazing Tower Bridge is right ahead, and run under it to come out along the water side of the Tower itself. Enjoy this great old castle up close, then continue along the river. And the view across the river of Tower Bridge, the HMS Belfast and City Hall are also great.
The Tower Bridge
The idea here is to just run along the riverside, but there are a couple of construction projects which are currently blocking the river path in two spots, so you'll have to bypass them a block inwards for the time being. The block just west of the Tower is one of those. You get back to the water again before Custom House.
People relaxing outside the Tower
Now just keep running westwards, going under London Bridge and Southwark Bridge. At Queenhithe, you'll come to the only inlet still surviving on the Thames. You have to run around it, and here there is also construction going on, so it will be a couple of blocks before you can get back to the waterside. Along this part of the river, the banks are exposed at low tide and people go treasure-hunting down in the muck below.
One of the riverside pubs after work
When you get to the Millennium footbridge, we're almost at the end. The bridge connects the City with the Tate Gallery on the other side of the river, located in an ex power station.
Millennium Bridge and the Tate Gallery
Now turn north to head uphill towards the dome of St. Paul's. When you get there, run around the back side and further north to the tube station. What a lot of sights to pack into one nice run!

Friday, 26 August 2016

Wolfsburg Scenic Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 7.7 km (4.8 miles), terrain: flat, 19-meter gain

Wolfsburg, Germany, is the stereotypical company town. The whole place was built to service the Volkswagen factory across the Mittellandkanal, the biggest car factory in the world. The whole town was built because of the factory: before the factory was built just before World War II, there were only fields and woods, with a little castle and a few houses surrounding it.

Although there are few old buildings to be found, the town has developed a lot of recreational land in recent years, and there is a high quality of life, as evidenced by Wolfsburg's status as one of Germany's richest cities.
VW factory: the world's biggest
Most people look at the post-war architecture in Wolfsburg and think there is nothing worth seeing in town. But that's not true: if you want an interesting run, then follow this route! You'll get a good view of that huge factory, see the impressive Autostadt, the castle and the old town, then circle the Allersee lake, a modern recreational area full of runners, swimmers, sailors, volleyball players, etc. After that, the route will take you back along the Mittellandkanal back to the starting point.

We'll start the run at the north end of the main pedestrian shopping street, Porschestraße, near the train station. So get yourself there and face northwards. That interesting building across the street is the Phaeno hands-on museum, the largest of its kind in the country.
The Phaeno hands-on museum at the start of the run
Run to the right side of the Phaeno building and you'll see a sidewalk ramp heading up to a pedestrian bridge over the Mittellandkanal behind the museum. Head up the ramp and out over the bridge. The canal connects the Rhine with the Elbe River and Berlin and on to Poland.
View from the bridge to the Autostadt
The view is great here: with the huge VW factory stretching out to the left and the whole Autostadt straight ahead. The Autostadt (Auto City) is like a VW world's fair, with pavilions for the various VW brands, like Bentley, Audi, Porsche, Bugatti, Lamborghini. There's also a planetarium, an art museum and a big water-fountain show evenings on the lagoon between the Autostadt and the factory.
The lagoon, with factory and Autostadt
At the north side of the canal, take the stairs down to the ground and run east, with the canal to your right side and the Autostadt food-court to your left. Unfortunately, you can't run directly through the Autostadt without buying an entrance ticket.

Run through the parking lot, then turn left to follow the sidewalk north next to the busy Berliner Brücke road, with the huge Volkswagen Arena across the road (soccer stadium).
The car towers
At the 1-kilometer-mark, you'll see the twin glass towers to the left in the Autostadt where new car owners come to pick up their cars. This is one of the bombastic reception areas typical of German car makers: if you buy a new VW, you can pick it up yourself at the factory here, accompanied by a lot of pomp and circumstance, and avoid the delivery fees to your local dealer. Your car will be lowered by an automated elevator from one of the big towers full of waiting VWs down to you at the bottom, like an angel coming to escort you to heaven.

Keep running north past the parking lot and you'll come to a big intersection, where Berliner Brücke  runs into another big street, Oebisfelder Straße. Follow the crosswalks north into that park on the other side and you'll be in the palace gardens for Wolfsburg castle.
The castle entrance
The town is actually named after the castle, since there was nothing else around here to name it after.

Follow the trail into the park until you come to the castle buildings on the right, then turn right to run between the buildings to the north entrance of the fairly small Renaissance-style castle. You can even run through the entrance to see the courtyard within, but then you'll have to come out the same way again.
The formal gardens
Now run the few steps to the little street called Schlossstraße to view the formal garden across the street and the little branch of the Aller river, then turn right to head northeast on the street.
The old town
The scenic old houses lining each side of this street form the tiny old-town for Wolfsburg. At the end of the street, horse stables replace the houses. You might even see some horses being led from stable to stable. That's Wolfsburg too!

Now, at the 2-km-mark, turn around and head back towards the castle, but this time turn off to the left into the park, the Schloßpark.
In the Schlosspark
Head southwards through the park on whichever trail you like best, and eventually you'll be running southeastwards, and come back out at Oebisfelder Straße again, at the 3-km-mark.

Cross the street and run south along Allerpark, past a parking lot, then past a roundabout, heading towards the big, orange Badeland building (an indoor swimming complex).
Running towards Badeland
When you get to Badeland, turn left and follow the way into Allerpark and to the Allersee lake.

There are beach volleyball courts here, and a swimming beach. Turn left to follow the paved trail as it circles this man-made lake, at the 4-km mark.
Allersee volleyball
We're running the opposite direction from about anyone else, you'll soon notice. In true organized German fashion, almost everybody (except us) runs the same direction, counter-clockwise. But as this better fits the route home, we'll break with etiquette and run clock-wise.
Dragon boat team high-fiving after a training
Circling to the south shore of the lake, you'll go by docks for sailing dinghies and a rowing club.

When you reach the western end of the lake, at the 6-km-mark, keep left to exit the park along the In den Allerwiesen road. You're running towards the stadium, with the canal to your left.
Running by the Arena
You'll then go under the bridge of Berliner Brücke, and run by the Autostadt parking lot again.
Back at the Autostadt!
Now you just have to run straight to the pedestrian bridge, taking you south back over the canal again to the start on Porschestraße. Nice run for a town that most people say is pretty boring!