Thursday, 24 April 2014

Vienna Prater Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 9.4 km (5.8 miles), terrain: flat

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

Vienna running routes:
Vienna Neustadt/Altstadt run
Vienna Schönbrunn Palace loop

Vienna Prater Park
For other running routes, see Route List.

Here's a run that takes you along one of Vienna's most popular running routes. The Prater is a long, green stretch of parkland between the old town and the Danube River. It's a woodsy area that is always worth seeking out for a run through some of Vienna's finest scenery.

The Prater was once a royal hunting ground that became a public park 250 years ago. It's filled with a lot of interesting stuff, and is home to much of the city's best sporting and recreation grounds. It has lakes, woods, lawns, cafés, playgrounds, an amusement park, a football stadium (Ernst-Happel-Stadion, the biggest in Austria), Vienna's trade fair, a 4-km-long miniature railway, a planetarium, a horse-race track, swimming pools, and bike-, horse-, skateboard- and in-line tracks. And, I should add, running tracks.
View over the park from the giant wheel, photo by Dolcedo
This route heads through the main part of the park and back again, beginning at the Praterstern. Praterstern is just a couple of kilometers northeast of the old town, a traffic circle where seven streets come together. A train station occupies the middle of the circle, including an U-Bahn station (U1 and U2 lines service it), making it a good place to start.

The run is basically an out-and-back along the Prater Hauptallee. This pedestrian street is 4.5-km long, and cuts through the main part of the park. Hauptallee follows a straight line to the Lusthaus, a café at the southeast end of the park, which is a favorite destination and hangout for many park visitors. We could run even further, past the Lusthaus, through more woods and lakes, but I figure that 9.4-km is long enough already for this route. There are instructions below, though, on how to extend it, if you prefer.
Running along Hauptallee, photo by Sylvia Petter
Hauptallee is basically a long, straight pedestrian/bike street, lined by trees. To each side are narrower trails for horses and pedestrians. You can choose to run on the pavement or off on the smaller, softer pedestrian trail, avoiding bikes and in-liners.

Start the run: At the Praterstern Station, turn to face south. You'll see a pedestrian tunnel going under the circular street called Praterstern. Go through the tunnel. When you emerge on the southeast side, you're heading straight for the big Ferris wheel at the amusement park, with the domed planetarium in front of it.

Turn towards the right at the planetarium to hit Hauptallee, where you continue running diagonally southeast for the next 4.5 kilometers.
Prater tree in a quiet corner of the park, photo by Dominik Gubi
At first, you'll pass the amusement park on the left side, and the roller coaster. The "Venice in Vienna" amusement park was built in 1895 (referred to by the locals as the "Wurstelprater"), with its famous 120-year-old Ferris wheel.

Just past the amusement park, you run past the exhibition center, also on the left side, site of a world's fair in 1873.

Then you'll run past various sports fields to either side: soccer, tennis, even baseball fields. Right after the baseball fields, you'll cross Kaiserallee, at the 1-km point. This is also the end-station for Tram Line 1, another possible way to get here, and it follows a very scenic route along the old-town ring.
Tram 1 stop at Hauptallee, photo by Michael Bauer
After the sports fields, you'll enter a woodsy area, with forest to each side. You might see the mini-railroad trains puffing along their tiny tracks to the left side of the road. The railway parallels Hauptallee till the stadium.

Then comes the big, round stadium, on the left side, at the 2-km mark. Across from the stadium parking lot, on the right side, you'll see a narrow lake curving off, the Heustadelwasser. Just to make the run a bit more interesting, we'll follow the crescent curve of this lake until it joins back into Hauptallee 1.7-km later.
Ernst Happel Stadium, photo by Mariusz Kucharczyk
So turn right and follow the path along the banks of the Heustadelwasser, which was once an old arm of the Danube.

After the 3-km mark, you'll go under a loud Autobahn bridge, which unfortunately bisects the park. But soon the park will get quiet again, and at the 3.7-km mark, the lakeside trail joins into Hauptallee again, where you turn right and continue running southeastwards.

After going under a railway bridge, you'll arrive at the round Lusthaus café. Circle the building and head back towards the start, along Hauptallee again.  
The Lusthaus, photo by Georg Mayer
NOTE: If you want to see the rest of the park and extend the run by another 3 kilometers, you can head east from the Lusthaus along Schwarzenstockallee towards the pond called Krebsenwasser, circling the south end of the park, and returning to the Lusthaus along the shores of a couple of more small lakes, with the Vienna Golf Club to the left side.

This time, when you reach the Heustadelwasser again, run along its other shore. When you return to Hauptallee at the stadium parking lot, continue northwestwards back to the Praterstern.

Not a bad run, eh? The Prater is worth coming back to again.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Best Berlin Running Routes and Trails

Top 7 Berlin Routes

Berlin, the fascinating town that it is, is also a great place to run. There are some great parks, the historic center, interesting neighborhoods, and it's surrounded by lakes and woods to the east and west. And -- using the extensive U-Bahn system -- you can easily get to any of Berlin's inspiring running routes.
A Russian band playing in Tiergarten
So, this is it, the list of the best runs in Berlin

Best Berlin Running Routes
Historic Center (Mitte): This run takes you by all the most interesting sights in the old city center, the Brandenburg Gate, the Chancellor's office, the Hollocaust Memorial, the Reichstag building, along the Spree River, the cathedral, Potsdamer Platz, Checkpoint Charlie, etc. 
Tiergarten: This expansive park in the heart of town provides a vast green stage upon which to hold your run. There are a variety of sights in the park: the president's palace, the victory column, the Soviet memorial, the Bundestag... A great place to get a history lesson while letting off some steam. 
Prenzlauerberg: This is undoubtedly Berlin's coolest neighborhood. If you'd like to loop through the laid-back streets, past creative cafés and playgrounds, and even run past a remnant of the Berlin Wall, this is the run for you. 
Kurfürstendamm: The Ku'damm was the pulsing heart of old West Berlin, full of cafés, clubs, fashion and food. Here are two routes that trace the Ku'damm and also the old-world charm of nearby Wilmersdorf. 
Grunewald West: Grunewald, along Berlin's western edge, provides a big forest full of lakes and hills, a great escape from the daily city life. This route loops through the western part of the woods, along Wannsee lake.
Grunewald East: And this route loops through the eastern part of the woods, tracing the chain of small lakes that makes this route such fun. 
Potsdam palaces: Potsdam is a bit outside Berlin, a bit like Windsor is for London: a beautiful town nestled by the great Prussian royal gardens and palaces. A great place to get out and about! 
Ode to Berlin: And just for fun, here's an essay on what makes this great city so fascinating in the first place.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Barcelona Beach Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 10.1 km (6.2 miles), terrain: flat

NOTE: You can reduce the run to 6-km if you start right at the Olympic Harbor and only run along the beach.

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

Barcelona running routes:
Montjuic hill climb
Beach run
Old town and harbor route
For more running routes, see Route List.

Barcelona is one of my favorite places on earth: with people strolling past the pet-kiosks along the Ramblas till past midnight, with the moody, ancient lanes winding through the old town, the modern dance-bars of Port Vell pulsing with music, and modern businesses lining Avinguda Diagonal, the crazy Gaudi buildings... And topping it off, there is a lot of great beachfront, right in the center of town.

When I first came to Barcelona, 30 years ago, the waterfront was lined by decrepit industrial ruins and decaying wharves, cut off from the city by the train line. But all that is a thing of the past, as the waterfront has been turned into a swimming/sunbathing/boating/running beach paradise. The 1992 Olympics gave the city the opportunity to give the waterfront back to the people, and they did it just right.

This route will cover the northern half of the beach area, and add a section through the parkland at the Ciutadella. The southern part of the beach was touched by the Old Town route, so maybe give that a try, too!
The Arc de Triomf, photo by Anne Helmond
So, if you're ready to go, get yourself to the Arc de Triomf at the northwest end of Passeig de Lluís Companys. The arch was the main entrance into the 1888 Universal Exhibition, and the park-like green-stripe behind it will provide the first part of the run.

Run through the arch and continue through the park, lined by date-palm trees and really cool decorative streetlamps.

After 200 meters, you enter the main Parc de la Ciutadella, the old world's fair site, and earlier site of a fort. The unloved fort, built by the Spanish kings to keep the Catalans under control, was torn down by the town 150 years ago.

Some of the world's fair buildings are still standing, like the Castell dels Tres Dragons on the right side (now a biology museum).
The fountain and quadriga, photo by Modes Rodriguez
Most of the scenic spots in the park are further to the left side: an impressive fountain with golden quadriga statue, a tiny lake with rental boats, and a formal gardens. So you might want to take a detour to the left and go past them. The Catalan Parliament is also off to the left side, behind the formal gardens.

Keep running straight through the gardens until you come to the car driveway, with the fountain in the roundabout. Turn right there to exit the park. Unfortunately, we can't keep going straight because the fenced-off Barcelona Zoo occupies the southern part of the park.

At the park exit, immediately turn left to follow the Passeig de Circumvallació, which curves along the zoo's eastern end. The railway is blocking us from running directly to the beach here. This is the least scenic stretch of the run.

But soon, at the 1.5-km mark, you'll come to a raised terrace of a park on the right side. Go up the cement stairs and run diagonally through the small park towards the right.

Exit the park at the next cross-street, Carrer de Ramon Trias Fargas, where you turn right and run straight towards the water, to the east.
The twin towers and fish, photo by Wade 48
The street ends at a giant fish statue on top of a restaurant at the beach. Turn left here onto the beach promenade and go over the little bridge, running just 100 meters until you hit the Port Olímpic marina ahead, the harbor for the 1992 Olympic sailing teams.

You have to turn left to run along the marina's southern edge, towards the twin high-rise office buildings perched near the water like a modern gateway to the waterfront (the lucky people who get to work there!).
Port Olímpic sailboats, photo by Santi
Then turn right to follow the marina's western side along Passeig Marítim del Port Olímpic. You could also take the path closer to the marina if, like me, you love boats.

You now basically just follow this palm- and park-lined beach promenade all the way to the end towards the northeast for the next three kilometers.
Volleyball along the beach north of the marina, photo by Spiros K.
This is the life: just enjoy the Mediterranean sun and beach life. If the weather permits, I like to stop somewhere, kick off my running shoes and jump into the water. You'd never suspect that you were in a big city.

At the 4-km mark, you'll run past a sunken stadium along the left side.

At 5-km, the beach ends at a rocky jetty, where you turn around and head back the same way that you came.