Monday, 28 November 2016

Braunschweig Old-Town/Bürgerpark Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 12.7 km (7.9 miles) or 6km if you turn around after Bürgerpark, terrain: flat

Braunschweig (Brunswick in English) offers a lot to see, with a lot of beautiful corners in the old-town and a string of parks following the Oker River southwards. This route will connect those together into a run you're not likely to soon forget. You can either run the short version of the route, through the old town and the Bürgerpark, or double the distance by adding on the further parklands down past Südsee (South Lake).
Half-timbered house in Braunschweig
Braunschweig is a modern industrial center, one of the top research magnets in Europe. But it has a rich history, and was home to the Saxon dukes, who built a castle and, later, a palace in town. Those same dukes later became the kings of Hanover, who then founded the current Windsor dynasty in Britain. Much of the old beauty was destroyed by bombing in the war (90% was lost), but enough survives to give the town character and charm.

So let's start the run right in the heart of this history, at Burgplatz, the square between Dankwarderode castle, the cathedral and the Lower Saxony State Museum. The square is dominated by the lion statue, symbol of the most famous Saxon duke, Henry the Lion.
The Braunschweig Lion in Burgplatz
Stand there at the base of the medieval lion, and quickly take-in this amazing ensemble of buildings. They're all fairly typical for this part of Germany: the half-timbered houses with lots of carved and painted woodwork, and the stone cathedral with its massive defensive tower-base, sending asymmetrical steeples skyward.

Through the arched arcades bridging the castle and cathedral you can see the neogothic tower of the town hall to the east.

So, if you can tear yourself away from this inspiring scene, turn your back to the castle and face westwards. Start running down Vor der Burg, past half-timbered houses.
Old-town wrestlers
In a block, you'll come to a statue of two wrestlers, where you turn left and continue running down Schuhstraße (earlier home to many shoemakers).

You'll come to another big square, Kohlmarkt, with a round fountain and lined with old houses. Now turn left to exit the square along Hutfiltern.
Kohlmarkt fountain
At the first right-hand side-street (Kattreppeln: the "stretching cat"), turn right, and run past the entertaining cat-statue.

In a block you'll come to a street with a tram-line down the middle, Waisenhausdamm. Cross the street and continue straight on, along Hinter Liebfrauen.
Ägidien Churchyard
In two blocks, you will come out to a busy street with the tram lines running here, too. Turn right here and run the few steps to the driveway to the big gothic church there, the Ägidienkirche.

Now keep right and pass the church along its west side, past more beautiful half-timbered houses and the peaceful churchyard, running southwards. This is the one-kilometer mark.
Lessing, with a beer in his hand
After the church, you'll find yourself in a little green square around a statue of the philosopher Ephraim Lessing. Just past Lessingplatz is another busy street with a tram line. Keep to the right to get to the pedestrian crossing.

Now cross the street and run south along Nimes-Straße, passing the Steigenberger Hotel. After the hotel, you'll find yourself entering Bürgerpark. The park lines the Oker River and contains a string of ponds.
In Bürgerpark
Run by that first pond on the right side, then you'll pass the tennis club on the left. Just when you come to the next big pond, on the left side, the path will curve off to the right. Follow it, and it will exit the park onto Eisenbüttler Straße.

Turn right here, at the 3-kilometer mark, and pass the watermill on the Oker River. The street curves to the right just past the mill.  
At the watermill
NOTE: Now you have the choice of either following the road to the right to run the 6-km version of the route, or turn left to run under that big train overpass and follow the Oker past South Lake for an additional 6.7-km.

To do the long version of the run, follow the small street, Kennelweg, southwards under the two train bridges. The Oker River and swampy marshes will be to your left.
Railway bridge over Kennelweg
After the second train bridge, continue southwards on the pedestrian/bike trail. We'll run this path for almost three kilometers, until we come to the southern tip of Südsee (South Lake), and then circle the lake to return.
The riverside trail
You'll see a nice little palace up on a hill to the left, then the trail continues southwards under the A39 autobahn overpass.

You'll soon come to Südsee, where we'll keep the water to the right side and run the 1.5-km to the south tip of the lake. You can either run on the main paved path or take the dirt path closer to the water.
Südsee on a frosty day
It's a nice spot, lots of nature, no cars anywhere, there is even a swimming spot and a sailing club at the north end of the lake.

So when you come to the southern tip, with its reeds and waterbirds, keep the water to your right side and now head back northwards for the return half of the run, running up the west side of the lake.

At the north end of the lake, the trail will merge back to the same trail that we first ran along earlier.

Now follow the same way back to the watermill. But once there, to see more of the area, keep running along Eisenbüttler Straße for a few blocks, until it makes a sharp turn to the left. At that spot turn right and follow the bike/pedestrian path into Bürgerpark again, over the footbridge across the Oker.
The footbridge over the Oker
Once you cross the bridge, turn left to follow the same way out of the park that we ran earlier.

Run through Lessingplatz and past the Ägidienkirche again to Auguststraße.

Now let's discover another cool old-town neighborhood, the Magniviertel, maybe the nicest old-town neighborhood. So cross Auguststraße, and run up Mandelnstraße for its one short block. Then turn right then left to run along Ritterstraße. When you hit the square with the Magnikirche (church), you've come to the heart of the neighborhood, with beautiful half-timbered houses, full of shops and restaurants. This is a great neighborhood to return to in the evenings.
Strange buildings along Ackerhof
Circle the old stone church and come back to where you were on Ölschlägern. Now run west for a block and then turn right to run past the strange, colorful houses along Ackerhof. These modern, cartoony buildings are unlike anything I've ever seen, designed by New Yorker, James Rizzi.

Just past the weird houses, you'll be at a busy street, Georg-Eckert-Straße. The big ducal palace is right across the street, so let's get over there. Run around to the left to the front side.
The palace at night
The palace now houses a shopping mall, but that doesn't make the front facade any less impressive, with a couple of statues of the dukes riding their horses. The building was bombed-out in the war, then the ruins were torn down. Ten years ago, the reconstruction was built on the same site, and visitors would never guess that it is all new.

Now leave the big palace square to run westwards, past the neo-gothic town hall with its tall tower.
Re-enter Burgplatz under the arcade
You'll now be at the back end of the cathedral and the castle, so just run beneath the overhead arcade and you'll be back at the lion, in one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. Hope you enjoyed this great run!

Monday, 14 November 2016

Odiham, Hampshire Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 6 km (3.7 miles), terrain: flat

Hey, okay, Odiham isn't exactly the center of the known universe, and hardly anyone will need this route, but what the heck. I like the place. Odiham is a little village outside the big city of Hook, in Hampshire, southwest of London.
Doorway in Odiham
It's one of those typical, beautiful English villages full of gracious old homes, with a 500-year-old pub, a 900-year-old church, a square with stocks (for punishing criminals), and lots of nice countryside all around.

There's an RAF base nearby, home to the British fleet of Chinook heavy-lift helicopters. And King John's Castle, a weathered medieval ruins, fills a bend in the River Whitewater.

All in all, it's a cool place, and I think you'll like it as much as I did.

This route will start in the village square, then head eastwards down the main street, will then circle westwards along the Basingstoke Canal to King John's Castle, and finally head back again via some fields and neighborhoods.
The George pub and inn on the High Street
So, let's get running! Get yourself to the High Street, in front of the 500-year-old George pub, a fine drinking establishment well worth a visit some evening.

So now, turn right and head eastwards. Stay on the left side of the street, so that when it forks, you can take the left-hand street, London Road.

Some of the houses get more modern here, as you leave the village. You'll pass the Waterwitch pub, with its dock for narrow-boats that travel along the Basingstoke Canal.
Get onto the canal tow-path here!
Cross over the canal, then turn left to head north along the canal, at the 1-kilometer mark. Just follow the dirt tow-path along the canal for the next 2.5 kilometers, between the fields.

The canal will curve southwards, then westwards again, going under a road bridge.
Along the canal
At the 3-km mark, you'll come to a little, white bascule bridge (lifts up like a draw bridge) at Tunnel Lane. Boaters driving narrow boats can lift the bridge so that their boats can go through.
The bascule bridge
Keep running another half-kilometer westwards, and you'll see the ruins of King John's Castle on the right side. King John was crowned after his brother, Richard the Lionhearted, was killed in a crusade. John rode out from here to put his stamp on the Magna Carta, providing the basis of a formal division of powers, the basis of British democracy.

There isn't too much of the 800-year-old walls left and it has the look of a weathered termite mound, but is worth circling and viewing close-up.
King John's Castle
Now head back to the bascule bridge and turn right onto Tunnel Lane, a quiet road between the fields.

When  Tunnel Lane runs into Warnborough Street, turn right and run the block to the Anchor Inn pub, where you turn left to follow the little public footpath between the modern houses, heading southeast.
The footpath near the school
You'll run past Robert May's School. This is the least scenic part of the run, with fences to either side. The footpath then ends at West Street, where you turn left to run the two blocks to Recreation Road.

Just run past a few houses and you'll come to the big sports grounds on the left. Turn left just before the grounds and follow that footpath all the way back to the churchyard in Odiham.
The village stocks
You're now in the Bury, the town square, with the Bell Inn pub, and the stocks. The stocks have holes in them for criminals' legs, where they were locked and kept on display for the ridicule of the other villagers. The stocks are now roofed-over, sitting obscurely at the churchyard, but they look solid enough to still be able to handl more local ne'er-do-wells at any time.

All Saints Church in the background goes back at least 900 years, surrounded by big yew trees in the graveyard.
All Saints, with big yew tree
Keep running eastwards and leave the square past the half-timbered houses for one block to King Street, then turn left and run a block to the main street, High Street.

The pub is just to your left, past a few interesting antique shops.

Now you've earned your dinner in the George or the place next door (actually called Next Door). Enjoy!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Gothenburg: Haga and Slottsskogen Park Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 7.1 km (4.4 miles), terrain: a few hills, gain 91 meters

I didn't have a camera with me in Gothenburg, so thanks to Google StreetView for the pictures!

Gothenburg running routes:
Town Center Loop
River run

Haga and Slottsskogen park
For more running routes, see Route List.

Here's a running route on the south side of Gothenburg (Göteborg) that you're guaranteed to fall in love with. It takes you through the cool Haga neighborhood and then through Gothenburg's biggest and best park, Slottsskogen.
Running in Slottsskogen park
Slottsskogen park opened in 1874, covers almost 140 hectares of public parkland, with lakes, hills, cliffs, cafés, a zoo, the natural-history museum, an observatory and the city's biggest playground. And it's open day and night.

The zoo (djurpark), right in the middle of the park, has only native Scandinavian animals, functioning as a preserve for threatened Swedish wildlife. The zoo has free admission, so you can run an extra loop through it if you feel like it.
The start at Rosenlundsbron, heading south
So if you're anywhere in central Gothenburg, get yourself to Rosenlundsbron, the bridge over the moat that once protected the town from attacks. Turn south and run southwards past the tree-lined parkway along the south side of the canal, and now keep left to run through the little park surrounding the yellow brick church, the Hagakyrkan.
Before the church square ends, turn right to cross over the zebra stripes into the Haga neighborhood along Haga Nygata (Haga New Street). This is the cobblestone-paved pedestrian shopping street for Haga.
Along Haga Nygata
Lying outside the old city walls, Haga was built as the town's first suburb, with a mix of wooden and brick houses. The old working-class neighborhood has been fixed up and gentrified, and is now one of the coolest parts of town. It's full young people hanging out in cafés and pubs, parents biking their kids around. You'll probably want to stop right here and ask to sign up to be a resident. It reminds me a lot of Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin.
Further down Nygata
The streets are strangely bare of trees or greenery, though, giving the place a bit of an empty feel. Every inch is paved in stones: I would plant some trees!

Run westwards along Nygata for six blocks, then turn left onto Mellangatan ("between street"). Run down this quiet side-street until it ends in a little playground at the foot of a green hill. Just keep running straight along the little path, which will take you to another side-street to the right, Bergsgatan.

At the end of the next block, turn left, then left again onto Lilla Risågatan.

Now run just 100 meters to the 1-kilometer mark, where you'll see the green hill again, rising along the left side. The hill has a 300-year-old defensive tower on the top, Skansen Kronan. The granite blockhouse was fitted with 23 cannon, which never needed to be fired. So, we might as well jump at this opportunity to experience a bit of history, and run up those stone steps to then follow the paved path to the top. The massive crown topping the tower dominates the scene.
Skansen Kronan: let's circle it!
Circle the tower and enjoy the view! Then you have to descend the way you came. Back down at the street, continue southwards along Lilla Risågatan to the next corner.

Now turn right to run west for a block on Djupedalsgatan. You now come to a wide boulevard with tram tracks along the center, Linnégatan. It's quieter than you would expect for such a wide street.
Turn left here, and now follow Linnégatan southwards towards those green trees in the distance. After four blocks, you'll come to a square, Linnéplatsen, where Slottsskogen Park begins.

Cross over to the right side of the square, where the main park pedestrian trail, Slottsskogenpromenaden, heads into the park.

Now just follow this main trail and enjoy the nature, running past trees and lawns and small hills. You'll run past an area on the left that has some scattered wooden buildings built in styles from around Sweden.
Running past the lake
After the 3-kilometer mark, when you see the big lake with the restaurant, turn right to keep heading west into a woods, heading along the trail called Säldammsbacken, lined with a few little ponds for zoo animals. The trail starts going up and over a hill, with a 40-meter gain. The zoo is higher up on the hill to the right.

You'll then come to a house with a few small pools of its own on the right: the Fågelhuset (bird house), which is the home of a colony of endangered Humboldt penguins.
Fågelhuset: turn right, just past the building
Just past the bird house, turn right to head north, with a big lawn to the left. This is the Azalea valley, and must be beautiful in springtime. You'll soon start running uphill again.

The street will eventually end at the edge of the park, where a neighborhood with some apartment houses borders the park at the west side. Now turn back into the park along the trail called Hålekärrsbaken.
Heading uphill, past the rock formations along Hålekärrsbaken
You're now heading east, past cool rock formations to both sides, with a short uphill section. But after this, it's downhill all the way home.

You'll soon come to a playground called Plikta. The playground is huge and lively, full of monkey-bars, a giant slide and it's dominated by a whale for the kids to climb around on.
The maze
Run around the playground, passing the 5-kilometer mark, but don't exit the park into that neighborhood, but turn right onto Museivägen. Run till you come to the circular maze on the right side. Just across from the maze on the left is a path to the Natural History Museum, a long brick building (I wish I could have gone inside!).

At the north end of the museum, take the steps down to Linnéplatsen again.

Now run north along Linnégatan again, but this time we'll take a different way back through Haga.

Turn off on Majorsgatan at the 6-kilometer mark. In two blocks, it runs into Kastellgatan, where you turn left and run past the back side of the Skansen Kronan hill.
Skolgatan could use a tree or two
Continue northwards along Skolgatan (school street) through the whole, quiet neighborhood. You'll come to the old-town moat again, where you turn right and run the last 100 meters back to the Rosenlundsbron bridge. Wow, Gothenburg is quite a place!