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!

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Hätteboda Summer Fun-Run Running Route

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Length 6.2 km (3.9 miles), terrain: flat, 25-meter gain

Thanks to Chris Hauser for showing me this great route!

Hätteboda, in southern Sweden, is a lakeside campground surrounded by woods.
Hätteboda campground beach and sauna
It bills itself as Europe's greenest campground: "We use nature without consuming it". There's no electricity, no running water, just outhouses for toilets. There are a few kitchens where guests can wash dishes, but to do it, you first have to use an old-fashioned hand-pump to fill up a tank with well-water. To get hot water for showers, you fill a black plastic canister with water and set it in the sun to warm up before you hang it up above you in the shower.
Camping in paradise
They use the renewable resources of their woods to provide firewood. But if you want to build a fire, you have to saw-up, then split the logs with an ax yourself. But, luckily, they have a few saunas out along the lakeside to help use the wood for a good cause. The campground is full of families every summer, enjoying a lifestyle that's hard to find elsewhere. Their website is for anyone who likes the wilderness.
Do-it-yourself firewood
So if you find yourself there some nice summer day, like I did, then you'll want to take a run in the woods and then jump into the lake to cool off. The campground blazed a few hiking trails themselves, but they are so full of roots and boulders that they are not fit for running. So we'll stick to the dirt roads of the surrounding area.
Canoe on Arasjön lake
So off we go, let's discover a bit of this beautiful corner of Sweden!

The campground is spread out among several areas along the various coves and arms of Arasjön lake, so I'll have us start in the Outback Camp, because it's fairly central.

So now, follow the dirt road north to the Main Camp, then turn right at the woodyard and reception to continue northeast, out the long driveway, exiting the campground.
The campground entrance
When the driveway ends at the next dirt road, turn left and just follow it north as it curves westwards. This is the least scenic part of the run, just woods and a few houses that belong to the settlement of Hätteboda.

After 2.5 kilometers, the road will end by running into a crossroad at a farm with a yellow farmhouse. Turn left and run southwards past pretty meadows and barns, heading towards the settlement of Aramo.
The road ends here, turn left and run towards Aramo!
At 3.5 kilometers you'll come to a little crossroads in Aramo with a few mailboxes and a wooden table where the farmers place their milk cans to be picked up by a milk truck.
The milk cans
Run past the table, and in a few steps you'll see the road fork ahead. Take the left-hand dirt road, leading into the woods. You'll now pass an abandoned barn on the left and its abandoned house on the right side (you might want to take a look inside: who can resist?).
Take the left-hand fork where runner Chris Hauser just came from!
Now keep following the main dirt road past a few spots where smaller roads branch off. At around the 4-km-mark you'll run between a nicely restored old red barn and its red house, a spot that looks like the road is just a driveway for that house. But keep running and you'll be back in the woods again.
The abandoned barn
Soon after, just before coming to another house, you'll see a new gravel section of the road turn to the left to bypass the house. Follow it. Until recently, the bypass wasn't there, and people pulling trailers or driving RVs to the campground drove right up against the house trying to turn the corner on the original road (the poor home-owners).
The restored barn
Before the 5-km mark, this little road will merge into the main dirt road near the campground. Now just turn right and run the 200 meters to the campground entrance, then turn right again to head into the campground and back to the start.

Nice country around here! Beautiful Sweden!
Plow, seen along the way

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Munich Englischer Garten Running Route

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Length 12.5 km (7.8 miles) or just 5-km if you run only the southern half, terrain: flat, 41-meter gain

Munich Running Routes:
Best Munich Running Routes: Overview
Englischer Garten
Old town, English Garden, Isar 
Nymphenburg Palace gardens  
Isar River south route  
Classical Munich  
Starnberger See lake-side route   

For more running routes see the route list.

The best place in Munich to run on dirt trails among woods and lawns is definitely in the wonderful Englischer Garten park. The park is huge, and fairly informal, and is easy to get to as it touches town center.

The park is fairly simply laid out, just trees and grass, with a few fast-flowing streams winding through. There are no carefully landscaped flower gardens or other fancy features, but locals use it as their favorite hangout on nice weekends and evenings. So if you want to run in nature, the Englischer Garten is the place to be.
Not bad in the Englischer Garten!
One uniquely Munich feature that the park does have is the Biergärten that dot the landscape. So make sure you come back after your run to indulge in Bavarian food and mega-sized 1-liter beers.

The park is about six kilometers long, stretching north-south along the Isar River. The southern half, near the town center is by far the most-visited. A busy road, the Isarring, cuts the park in two, and the northern half is much emptier, quieter and is left more natural.

So, if I've talked you into it, get to the corner of Prinzregentenstraße and Wagmüllerstraße, where the south end of the park begins. This is also perhaps the most famous spot in the park, where the local surfers ride the standing wave in the swift Eisbach stream. You'll find a group of surfers and lots of onlookers there day and night.
Onlookers at the standing wave
The Eisbach (translated: Ice Stream) is an artificial stream created by rerouting some of the nearby Isar's water towards the park to provide scenic streams and ponds. The stream soon splits into several parallel streams that head northward, sometimes recombining, sometimes exiting back into the Isar.
In the summer, a lot of swimmers try the Eisbach, too
After taking a look at the surfers, turn north and head up the main path into the park. After crossing the Eisbach as it heads northeastwards, you'll come to a big lawn. Due to its closeness to the town center, this is the place where most people come to picnic, throw frisbees, play volleyball and relax on nice days.
The main lawn: crowded on a nice evening!
There are a variety of trails that all head the same direction, northwards, with trails on the eastern edge, along the west and in the middle, following the streams.

We'll keep along the eastern side of the park, here, and return southwards along the western side, just for a bit of variety. The wider paths include a lot of bicycles, the narrower paths are just for pedestrians: take your choice.

You'll soon pass a round, Greek-temple-style lookout on a tiny hill, then come to some buildings set in a woods. The buildings surround Munich's most famous beer garden, the Chinese Tower, with its pagoda-shaped wooden tower in the middle of a sea of tables full of happy folks eating and drinking. Try to resist the temptation to stop here already...
The Chinese Tower: a place you have to come back and try out!
Still heading north, you'll cross a lightly-traveled paved street, which is just open to bikes and buses. Keep heading northward along the park's eastern edge, and you'll see a little lake coming up on the left, the Kleinhesselohersee.

This is another cool hangout, with pedal boats, another beer garden and lots of ducks and geese swimming about.
The Kleinhesselohersee
Just past the lake is where the southern half of the park ends. The Isarring road bisects the park here.  
Paddle boats on the lake
NOTE: If you want to shorten this route to 5 kilometers, just follow the curve of the lake around to the west side of the park and head back to the start from there, staying in the southern section.

To continue the 12.5-km route, you'll see a pedestrian bridge going up over the road, right across from the pedal-boat rental boat-house. Take that bridge, then keep to the right again until you see another big beer garden, Hirschau, where you turn northwards among more lawns and woods.

The trail will head towards the northeast, bringing you closer to the eastern side of the park.

But the landscape is quieter and emptier here. If you want to get away from the crowds, this is the place to do it. In the north end of the park there are also main paths along the east side, the west side and in the middle, where bicyclists also ride. And there are still further paths between them for walkers and runners. This part of the park also borders directly on the Isar, with a path next to the river, if you'd like to see a bit of it.
Runners in the northern section
The nicest paths, I think, are the ones that line either side of the Oberstjägermeister stream meandering up the middle.

The lawns here are not cut as often as in the south, sometimes looking more like a lush meadow. And you might even find sheep grazing in blocked-off areas.
Yes, you might even find sheep grazing in the middle of Munich
A few bridges and a dam cross the river along the north section. There is an electricity-producing dam and then a pedestrian bridge over the Isar. Even the river looks more natural here: there is more woodland along the other side.
Even the Isar looks more natural here
When you get to the northern edge of the park, the trail turns to the left: another road blocks the park here, the Föhringer Ring.

NOTE: If you want to add even more distance to the run, you can keep running northwards out of the park along the Isar riverside for many more kilometers!
The Oberstjägermeister stream is dammed-up here at the north end, to form a few little ponds.
Along the Oberstjägermeister
It's time to follow the trails to the west and then turn southwards to take a parallel trail back home again, perhaps along the other stream, the Schwabinger Bach.
Did I say it was more relaxed in the north end?
Now just head south all the way back to the pedestrian bridge over the Isarring, and now stay west of the Kleinhesselohersee (lake) and head south through the southern section of the park.

After a while, you'll pass the main lawn with all the people hanging out, and rejoin the surfing observers. Now that was a nice stretch of green right in the middle of the city!