Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Scenic Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 5.7 km (3.5 miles), terrain: a few hills, gain 147 meters

Rothenburg is, for good reason, one of the most visited towns in Germany. It combines so much medieval charm into one small area, that it's hard to find a town that can top its enchantment. It has about everything you'd like to see in a medieval setting: intact town walls and gate towers, lots of old half-timbered and Renaissance-era buildings, a location perched on the bluffs above a winding, green river valley, and lots more.
Rothenburg old-town
If you're touring Germany and find yourself in Rothenburg, here's a little run that puts all of that together: It follows some of the most interesting old-town lanes, heads up the steps to the tops of the town walls and lets you run up there for a few stretches, heads down into the Tauber River valley, crossing a couple of beautiful old bridges and passing a few watermills. It then heads back up to town again, entering a gate-tower to then view the old spittal grounds and the bastion, and to then run along the top of the town walls again before returning to the main market square.

So, if you're lucky enough to be standing on the market square with your running shoes on, take a look around before we head off. That big, stone, Renaissance-style building with the arcaded front is the town hall (Rathaus). 
At the market square
This square was the legendary scene of a celebrated event back almost 400 years ago, the Meistertrunk
The Rathaus front entrance, with snow flurries!
The Imperial army, headed by General Tilly, had just captured the city. In the town hall, the bürgermeister was pleading for Tilly to spare the city the horrors of massacre and plunder, saying that the local wine was too good for the town to be destroyed, and he offered Tilly a large tankard. Tilly told the bürgermeister that if he could drink the entire contents of over 3 liters in one go, the town would be spared. And, somehow, the bürgermeister managed this Meistertrunk!

We'll have to do without a tankard of wine, but it should be a great run anyway....
Heugasse from the rooftops
Let's turn northwards and exit the square along Heugasse (Hay Lane) and its scenic houses. It's hard to imagine that almost half the town was bombed out in the last weeks of World War II. Almost everything was rebuilt in the original style.

After a few blocks, you'll come to the Schrammeplatz, a square used as a parking lot, with the massive town walls blocking the way in front of you. There's a little gate through the wall here, and you have the choice of following the course of the wall by either going outside, or taking those steps to the top of the wall and running along the ramparts, or running along the lanes that line the insides of the walls. 
Along the ramparts
I think the ramparts are the absolutely coolest way to go, with a view out to both sides, and views downwards into the courtyards of the old-town houses. So that's the way I did it, but just choose the way you prefer.

So climb to the top, if you'd like, and turn left to run westwards along the ramparts. Needless to say, you need to watch your step, and take care not to upset the other people who are just walking along the wall. This section of wall ends in just 200 meters, and you have to take the steps downward at the Klingentor tower.
View over town from the ramparts
Continue westwards along Klosterweth lane next to the section of unrestored walls. In just a block, the walls turn to the left as we reach the west edge of the old town. You'll see the hillside going down through the trees to the Tauber River valley to the west. That tall tower in the corner was used to jail people who did non-serious crimes!
View along the Tauber Valley walls
Run southwards for a block, continuing on Klosterweth. We're above the playground outside the walls. Now you have to leave the wall because the monastery grounds ahead block the path. So turn left and keep running on Klosterweth for a block until you hit Klingengasse. Turn right there at the Schwarzer Adler Hotel and follow the street as it passes under the apse of St. Jakob's church.

Once past the church, turn right to run west on Klostergasse, which will curve past the Burghotel towards the left and come out in a little square at the clock-tower called the Burgturm. We'll now exit the town through the tower gate, heading out through the walled compound that once housed the castle. Now it is just a garden.
The castle gate at night
Keep to the left and follow the Weinsteige footpath as it leads downward into the valley. For this section outside the city, we're following the marked trail number three. Just follow the red trail markers with "3"!
The trail markers
The path circles below the garden above, then take the left-turn to cross the covered footbridge over the Tauber River. This beautiful green valley has a variety of hiking trails if you want to extend the run. We'll just follow a short section of the river.

NOTE: If you want to follow some of the other marked hiking trails, here is an English-language page listing them: https://www.rothenburg.de/welcome/sport-active/hiking/hiking-trails/

After crossing the bridge, follow the trail to the left, next to the quiet Taubertalweg road. You'll run through the Fuchsmühle watermill complex, then continue as the road heads uphill and curves around a bend in the river southwards past more mills and farmhouses.

The road continues curving and joins into Leuzenbronner Straße and continues northeast before curving to the right and crossing the very cool old stone bridge over the river. This is a double-decker bridge, with two sets of arches.

Let's get a closer look by circling under the bridge to the right and following the path along the riverside, still following the number 3 trail.

The Panoramaweg trail (an old shoe as a trail symbol) now takes us past vineyards and zig-zags its way up the hill, back into town through the gate at Kobolzeller Tor.
The Panoramaweg below town
Running uphill, in just a block you'll come to maybe the most photogenic spot in town, the Plönlein fountain, with cobblestoned streets branching off towards two gate-towers.
Along Spitalgasse
Now turn right and run towards the Siebersturm, past beautiful old houses.
The Siebersturm
Continue on Spitalgasse towards the southern point of the old town.

At the Spitalkirche (hospice church) you might want to circle it around the back side to see the beautiful courtyard of the old hospice, with its round-towered Hegereiter-Haus, the amphitheater and some other impressive buildings.
Carnival-goers at the amphitheater
Right after this, you exit town by continuing south through the tower and Spital-bastion. It's a pretty amazing spot, covering several levels, with its own covered bridge and ramparts.
At the bastion
After looking at the bastion from the outside, head back through the gate into town again, taking the first right-hand onto Sterngasse, following more of the city walls as we head northwards.

Let's run along the top of the walls again, so find the first steps upwards. The walls take us northwards for a while, then turn right to follow a lane called Röderschütt. We'll run through a few more towers and then pass the strangely beautiful medieval smithy called Gerlachschmiede, with its pointed front and curving roof. I like it!
The Gerlachschmiede from the ramparts
At the next tower, Rödertor, with its own bastion outside, take the stairs down and turn left to cross the old town along Rödergasse.

In a few blocks, you'll come to another especially scenic spot, where a flower-draped fountain provides a great foreground for the Markusturm straight ahead. The Markusturm is a clock-tower gate leading us into the oldest part of town, with the old market square straight ahead.
The Markusturm
Back at the market, you'll have to wander the other old-town streets once you're cleaned up, and start enjoying a bit of town from the inside: try out one of the inviting cafés or restaurants, try some of the local "snowbal"l specialties, and take a look at the amazing Christmas decoration stores. Have fun!

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Eckernförde Bistensee Running Route

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Length 5.9 km (3.7 miles), terrain: one hill, total gain of 70 meters

NOTE: This is the latest of our Summer Fun-Run routes, in vacation towns in Europe.

Bistensee is a little lake in northern Germany, near Eckernförde, just a few kilometers long and not even one kilometer wide. Most of it is a nature preserve, so there is little development along its shores: it's mostly woods and farm fields, with little Bistensee village at the east end, a campground and a few vacation houses at the west end.

There's not much to it, but it's a great place to just relax and enjoy being out in nature: swimming, sailing, windsurfing, biking, hiking, grilling and -- of course -- running.

There's a 9-km trail around the lake, the Bistensee Rundgang, and other little trails and back-roads all over. There are wooded little hills around here -- the Hüttener Berge -- that add enough challenge to any run.
Country road on the Bistensee trail
This fun run will follow part of the lake trail as an out-and-back. But if you want to do the whole thing, it's described here, as I've been down there quite a few times. The trail on the other side of the lake is badly marked in a few spots, though, so be prepared to hunt around for the right trail if you decide to do the lake loop.

We'll start the run at the southeast corner of the lake, where the road into the campground -- Uferweg -- begins. This is right at the southern city-limits sign for Bistensee village.
Start of the run: take the trail to the left!
Right after the turnoff onto Uferweg, you'll see a map of the lake and the trail. The road forks here: take the left-hand trail, bypassing the campground itself. You'll head past some fields and into a woods. Just follow the main trail through the woods, looking for the white trail signs with the blue picture of the lake.

The trail curves to the left through the woods, and comes out into another trail where you turn right and follow it along the south edge of the woods, heading west.

In just a couple of hundred meters, the trail ends at a little paved road. Turn left here and head south, with horse pastures to the left and a field and woods to your right. It will go down and back up a little valley next to the pasture.
The pastures
At the end of the pasture, there is a "Y" in the road, where you turn right, going past an idyllic farm with horse stables on the left side.

Just past the farm, turn left to head uphill along the trail, still following the lake-trail signs. This is a beautiful beech-tree woods. This is the hard part of the run, gaining 30 meters to the top.
Heading uphill in the woods
At the top of the ridge, you'll come to a dirt road, where you turn right and follow the road, with fields to the left and the wooded slope to the right. The road makes a zig-zag: first right, then left, and comes out above another pasture, spreading out along the hillside to the right, with a great view out over the lake and to the hills on the other side.
View from the ridge
At the far side (west side) of the pasture, the trail turns right to go into more woods. Just follow the dirt trail through the woods for 200 meters until you come to a trail-crossing. This is the turn-around spot for the short 5.9-km out-and-back: just head back along the same trail that you just came here with, with almost no traffic.

Bistensee Lake Loop Trail Route Map
If you want to continue with the 9-km lake loop, turn right at the trail-crossing and head down the steep, sandy trail to the little paved lake road (the one that we were on at the farmhouse).
Follow the Bistensee trail markers!
Now turn left and run past the beautiful thatched-roof café and pottery workshop, Töpferhaus, with a really nice lakeside hotel right behind it. Keep running westwards on the little road until it ends at a bigger road, connecting Alt-Duvenstedt with Ahlefeld. Turn right to run along the paved bike path and then turn right to run back towards the lake (this detours a farm that didn't let the lake trail through their property).

At the lake, you're now at a group of little lakeside holiday houses. Turn left here and follow this road past the narrow, west end of the lake. It will soon run back into the main road, but you can avoid running directly on the road by following the trail as it goes up on the right, bordering the next field.
Moss-covered stones in the woods
You'll come to a woods, where you turn right to leave the main road and follow the dirt road bordering the woods. That trail ends, and turns left, into the woods. In a short time you need to turn right, then turn right again onto the first really little path, that follows the edge of the woods (this is where the trail signs are a bit lacking).

You'll leave the woods by going through a gate to cross a cow-pasture, then exiting through another gate. Now follow more of the trail signs to get you through the next stretch of woods. At the end of the woods, the trail turns to the right (very narrow at this point) to go through more fields before coming directly to the lakeside.

Now, it's easy to follow the trail, as it continues right along the water for the next 1.3 kilometers. This is another really beautiful part of the trail, with nothing but trees and fields lining the lake.

The trail finally leaves the lake and comes right out into a little new neighborhood of wooden single-family houses in Bistensee village. Run past the houses to the main street, where you turn right and head through the village, back to the starting point.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Magdeburg Southern Riverside Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 7.3 km (4.5 miles), terrain: flat, gain 41 meters

This Magdeburg running route will also take us along the Elbe River, but this time heading southwards. It includes an interesting mix of medieval ruins, riverside promenade, and through the extensive parkland of the Werder island between the Elbe and the Old Elbe. The whole island is a park, with lots of recreational activities available.
The state parliament of Sachsen-Anhalt on the Domplatz
We'll start this run at the same spot as the other Magdeburg route: at the beautiful cathedral square. So get yourself to the Domplatz, and let's discover this scenic side of town, with its classical buildings and ancient walls.
Berlin Wall at the cathedral
There is a section of a newer wall here: a piece of the Berlin Wall is standing right out front of the cathedral, so that's as good a spot to start as any. Run towards the back of the gothic cathedral and turn right to run out to the old city walls near the river, where you're surrounded by half-timbered, gothic buildings.

Now turn right, and you'll look out over part of the old city fortifications at Bastion Cleve. The old fort has been restored and there is a bronze miniature showing the old city walls from the Seventeenth Century. Magdeburg was once Prussia's strongest fortified town, and you can get a good feel for it by standing above the massive stone walls.
Bastion Cleve and the cathedral again
Now run around the back side of the restored ramparts and continue into the green park just beyond, Fürstenwall Park. This little park has a lot of big trees, and a war memorial to soldiers who died in the war against France in 1870.

Let's circle the park and monument, and come back towards Bastion Cleve, where there is a beer garden overlooking the river from the raised heights of the Fürstenwall. Now it's time to get over to the riverside, so cross that narrow pedestrian bridge that crosses the riverside road, Schleinufer, and then turn right, heading down the steps.

You're now running southwards in the parkland of the promenade, with the water to your left side. There are nice new waterside apartments lining the shore here. Not a bad spot to live. It's nice to see that the city has come back to life since Germany has reunified.

At the one-kilometer mark, you'll run under an old railroad bridge, the Hubbrücke, which is now used by pedestrians to get over to the parkland of Werder island.

You'll soon run under another bridge to Werder, the blue steel arch of the Sternbrücke. We'll cross that bridge later, but now we'll just keep enjoying the park and water from this side of the Elbe. The park gets wider here in Klosterberge Park.
Along the Elbe at Klosterberge Park
After the 2-km mark, though, the park narrows to a point, so we'll turn around there and follow the trail northwards along the western edge of Klosterberge Park (along the left side) to see a bit more of the park on the inland side. There is another beer garden (yay!) and a Botanical Garden and a pond at the 3-km mark, which you'll pass before you get back to the Sternbrücke.

But this time we'll cross the bridge to the east side of the Elbe and explore a bit of the island, which sits between the present river and the Alte Elbe (Old Elbe). There's even a narrow third river bed that splits the island down the middle, the Taube Elbe.
Stadthalle on Werder Island
When you cross the bridge, you can take a look at the old steamship, the Württemberg sitting there up on dry land, and the big Stadthalle exhibition grounds, with its lookout tower.

Almost the whole island is occupied by the Rotehorn Park, with extensive tree-lined trails for great running. This route will only explore a bit of the park, but you could spend a lot more time continuing around this interesting island.

We'll head south from the Stadthalle along the trail called Heinrich Heine Weg, past the adventure playground and the skateboard park. There is a gravel trail next to a paved street, so it's good to stay on the gravel, although hardly any cars go down the road.

When the road splits, turn left on the pedestrian trail heading northeast. This soon takes us over a wooden bridge to a little island, Marieninsel, set picturesquely in a little lake. There is a beautiful Greek-temple-style pavilion on the island, which sits in the Taube Elbe.

You could continue onwards, seeing the east side of the island, if you wish. There are sports fields and boat clubs, and if you head to the south point of the park, you'll come to the remains of an old fort, Fort XII. As its name suggests, there were at least a dozen such dirt-walled forts once guarding the approaches to the city.
Boat club in Rotehorn Park
From the Marieninsel, head back west, past the Stadthalle and re-cross the Sternbrücke, back to town.

Now, we'll continue northwards again on the riverside promenade, approaching the old-town as we pass the new apartments again, at the 6-km mark.

When you come to the little pedestrian bridge leading up to Bastion Cleve, let's ignore it and continue along the river for a little bit, passing the riverside restaurants and the rocks out in the river.

To the left, across the street, you can see the stone city walls, the Fürstenwall. When you see a pink pedestrian bridge leading from the northern end of those walls, cross the road to the left using the zebra stripes. The idea is to run along the back side of the town walls, through a series of interesting old courtyards.
Tree growing up through the Fürstenwall, from courtyard
So now turn left behind the wall onto Fürstenwallstraße, before the modern office building. It doesn't look like the street will go anywhere, but just run next to the wall and you'll continue into the courtyards further on. They have some quiet gardens, fountains, statues and old trees: a hidden gem that most people only see from above if they look down from the walls.

You'll exit the last courtyard via an arched gate in the stone wall, where you turn right and head uphill past the beautiful old houses behind the cathedral. Now just continue up the hill to the cathedral square again, with its dancing fountains and classical buildings, and maybe decide to enjoy a beer in that beer garden across the square!