Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Happy Holidays 2017

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!
Running Routes wishes you a great holiday, and a great run into the new year. Here are some Christmas scenes from a trip to Prague last week, where the wonderful Christmas Markets are in full swing.
Christmas Market on the main Old-Town square, with Tyn Church
There is another market behind the cathedral, up on the castle hill
And sometimes the snow flurries hit with wild winds, like here in front of the Czech President's palace
The old-town Christmas Market again
Ice-skaing in front of the Czech National Theater
Christmas lights behind the town hall

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Learning German: Pass the Fernsprechteilnehmerverzeichnis, please

Here in Germany, the joke goes, "If you can speak three languages, you're trilingual. If you speak two languages, you're bilingual. And if you speak one language, you're American."

During my first few months in Germany I was able to fight off the idea that I fit into that joke somewhere. Ugly Americans who can only talk to those people who can answer back with some variant of "Whutcha gonna do now?" were another, lazier breed, I could always convince myself.

After all, I'd completely memorized my beginners' "German for Travellers" tape, a personal feat which I rated right up there with reading "Shogun" all the way through. I could tell any customs official "I have nothing to declare," ask my way to the opera and count all the way to 17, all with hardly a hesitation. But, after four months of living in Hamburg, I was surprised one day to learn that the "WC" over the public toilets had absolutely nothing to do with "Welcome Cabbies."

Moved into action, I decided to do something revolutionary: to actually study German and really learn to speak it. For me, the Typical Overseas American, this really was revolutionary. Besides the cassette tape, the only German I knew came from old World War II movies and consisted exclusively of "Achtung!," "mach schnell," and "prosit."

Making it even harder, I've always been one of those people with an almost non-existent grasp of grammar, in any language. My mind differentiates only vaguely between an adverb and a vinyl bowling bag.

Still, I was determined. I went out and bought a stack of grammar books with people in lederhosen yodelling from the covers: the kind of psychological trick designed to sweeten the shock of stumbling into the endless jungle of gerunds, preterites, subjunctives and other verbal tow-away zones.

On page two I learned that German words can be not only masculine and feminine, but also neutral. On page five I found out there were 16 ways to say "the." On page seven, the 12 possibilities for the word "a" came trotting out onto the field, and I was well into my second beer.

The demoralization went on, page after page, beer after beer. Intricate tables of adjective endings, half-explained descriptions of the six or so random ways to form plurals. The endless verb-form lists: 16 totally different pronunciations just for the verb "have." That's something English takes care of with just "have, has and had."

Independently and quite unprepared I had stumbled upon the First Principle of Learning German: "It's hard." Incredibly hard. Unbelievably hard. An entirely random language with every useless complication built in with the same German thoroughness and inventiveness that have brought the world the printing press and the Audi Quattro.

I explored ever deeper, trekking through the grammatical Sahara of gender, the place where most newcomers check out of Hotel German. I learned more about sexual relationships than I had ever experienced in any singles bar.

And I began to see patterns: how the whole key to understanding German lies in how it combines lots of small words to create whole new ones, much like the 10 possible numbers and 26 letters used on license plates create millions of combinations.

I learned that an advantage is a "before-piece," that an envelope is an "around-hit," an elevator is an "up-train," a telescope a "far-pipe."

Words developed jungle-like, syllable by syllable, until it was no longer humanly possible to follow a clear path from beginning to end. A record cleaner became a baffling "Schallplattenreinigungsgerät." A phone book turned into an incomprehensible "Fernsprechteilnehmerverzeichnis."

Then I marched ahead into the jumble of German word order, which turns sentences like "We will have to let her do it" into "We become it she make let must." The punchline to a joke in "Stern" magazine was "Already times what of (or from) deersback in creamsauce heard (or belong)?"

Maybe now you're expecting a self-pitying confession that I finally just gave up, finding a better use of my free time, like learning to write Documentary Letters of Credit or programming in Java. Something simple.

But no. The grammar books quickly began collecting a thick dust blanket, and I chose instead a steady diet of German TV versions of "Simpsons" and "Sesame Street," "Peanuts" books and "Donald Duck." It was easy and fun. And now I speak German.

That same American pop culture that's so lazy about disciplining its citizens in scholarly research provided the key. People only learn best in short, fun, interesting doses, which is what American culture is all about.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Tenerife, Playa de las Americas Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 14.2 km (8.8 miles) but you can shorten it by starting further north, terrain: a few small hills, gain 63m

NOTE: Do this route in the mornings when its cooler and the other tourists haven't started filling the promenade. Make sure you're back home by about 9:30 a.m.

Anyone staying in the tourist resorts of Tenerife's Playa de Las Américas area knows how busy and urban the whole place feels. So if you're looking to get away from the chaos to a bit more quiet and nature, just head north. The farther north you get, the more nature you'll find, and fewer people.

This route follows the beach promenade as far as it goes, 7 kilometers north to La Caleta from Los Cristianos. But you could begin wherever you are staying: Los Cristianos, Playa de Las Américas, San Eugenio, Torviscas or Costa Adeje.
Camisón in Los Cristianos
The official start of this route is at Playa del Camisón in Los Cristianos, at the La Palapa Beach Club. Los Cristianos has a double beach promenade: one close to the sand and another a bit further back, where most people walk. It's your choice.

So, just turn west, with the water to your left side, and keep on running until the sidewalk ends at La Caleta!

At first, you'll go by a surfing beach, El Cabezo Grande, before the trail heads northwards.
Surfers at a surf school at Playa de Las Américas
There are more surfing beaches at Playa de Las Américas, where the promenade, called Calle Francisco Fumero, is lined with cafés and shops.

For much of the run -- especially after Puerto Colon -- you'll have a choice of running along any of one-, two- or even three levels of promenades, or even head through the beach sand. It doesn't really matter which level you take, there are frequent steps to switch levels as you please.

After Playa de las Americas, Calle Francisco Rumero ends when it comes to a channelized, dry river, the Barranco del Rey. The promenade turns to the right to take you to Avenida Rafael Lluvina (unless you want to run straight onto the sand beach).
Typical promenade scene at Troya
Continue northwards past Playa de Troya along the wide sidewalk next to the avenue, past the notorious Monkey Beach Club, then follow the pedestrian promenade back down to the beach at Playa de Troya.

Now you're running past sand again, until Playa del Bobo ends, then comes a scenic stretch where the promenade rises up above some rocky cliffs with cool beach clubs built into the rocks.
Las Rocas Beach Club
The only dumb part of the run is coming up next: the two-block area around Puerto Colón, where you have to run next to a road and past a parking lot for the port. The promenade runs into Avenida de Colón, with a bit of harbor traffic, where you continue northwards.

When running along the avenue, you'll be up high, above the level of the port and beaches. When you cross over a street that rises up the hill below you, take the stairs down to the lower level at the sign  for "Centro Commercial Puerto Colón". This will take you down to the boat docks.
Approaching Puerto Colón: take those steps to the right!
You'll then run past the docks and come out to the red-paved promenade of Playa la Pinta.
At the harbor
You're now coming into Torviscas, where you'll have a choice of levels to run on, past Playa de Torviscas and Playa de Fañabé. The north end of Fañabé is where the beaches start getting nicer and more natural.
Fañabé and the rocks
The promenades join together to go up high over more cliffs.

NOTE: my favorite way to go in Fañabé is to run down to the sand and then continue over the rock ledges below Fañabé Beach Club. You'll have to slow down in a few dangerous spots, so watch out! And a few homeless people live under the rock ledges, so women might not want to run alone down there.

When you round the Fañabé Beach Club -- either above on the promenade or down on the rocks -- you'll have a great view of El Castillo del Duque, a stone mansion built out on top of the next rock outcropping. It's owned by local celebrities. 
Castillo del Duque as seen from Fañabé rocks
The whole area seems nicer, more upscale and exclusive from now on. No more English pubs and chips shops. There's a little mojito stand right there. It makes me wish I'd brought enough money for a cocktail!
Time for a mojito break, right?
Again, you can either follow the promenade past the mansion, or run on the rocks below it along the water at Las Toscas.

Either way, you'll now come to the area's best beach, Playa del Duque. It's lined with exclusive resorts and shops.
Playa del Duque
At the Riu Palace resort, they are constructing a new beach, which is interesting to watch.
Beach under construction
Then comes another dry river, the Barranco del Agua, at the Sheraton resort. This is lined by a somewhat weird sight: the pebble beach, where people have set up hundreds of little stone pyramids.
The pebble beach, with Las Palomas in the background
You now have to run around the back of another rock formation the circular Las Palomas (the pigeons).

There is just one more resort, the H10 Costa Adeje, then the promenade ends at Playa de La Enramada, just before La Caleta.
Enramada: end of the promenade
La Caleta is in the process of being extended way back into the hinterland, but it still has a bit of the feel of a little fishing village, with winding little lanes going down to waterfront houses built out onto the rocks. So you might want to continue and take a look, but there is no more pedestrian way to follow.

So that's it, time to turn around and head home. You get to enjoy it all from the other direction now. Enjoy!