Thursday, 14 July 2016

Oslo Fornebu Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 10.2 km (6.3 miles), terrain: mostly flat, 64-meter gain

NOTE: I first got to know Fornebu as Oslo's airport in the 1980s, and I remember sitting on the rocks on the fjord shore, waiting to check-in for my flight. It was fun to run that same shore now in such a different context.

Fornebu is a quickly developing suburb on Oslo's west side, right along the fjord. It used to be the site of the old airport, but is now being re-purposed as an IT-business-park and as an apartment neighborhood for young families.
The fjord shore in Snarøy
The area is still being built and is changing constantly, as the old runways are removed, to be built upon by offices, homes and parks. The area is home to the Telenor Arena (sports and concert events) as well as to the Expo, with a few big hotels to handle the guests. So you might just find yourself on the edge of town out in Fornebu on your next trip to Oslo.

At first, you might think you've been banished to the boondocks, while all the life is swirling around the city center. But, if you give it a chance, Fornebu has some hidden gems to keep you occupied for an evening or two.

The city of Oslo has made successful efforts to make the area livable, with lots of fjord-side bike/walking trails and a big park. Plus, the older nearby Snarøya neighorhood provides a glimpse of traditional Norwegian living, with wooden houses lining the rugged fjord coast. There are even some original airport buildings still left, clustered around the old traffic-control tower.

So, if you find yourself working in Fornebu, grab the chance to explore this interesting area for yourself.
The Arena
This route starts near the arena, takes you through the huge Telenor headquarters, then along the rocky fjord shore into the scenic Snarøya neighborhood, then back through new housing developments, sports fields, Nansenspark, and then returning via the airport tower to the arena.

So let's get started! Get yourself to the bike/walkway out front of the Quality Expo Hotel, with the ufo-like Telenor Arena looming across the street. Turn south on the walkway, with the main street, Snarøyveien to your right, and start running. The way goes down then up and enters the drop-off area for visitors to the Telenor Expo, the headquarters of the big Norwegian telco. Two crescent-shaped complexes line each side of a big plaza.
Telenor headquarters
Turn left (east) to run between the buildings, then down the steps at the back to come to the bike/walkway along the fjord.

Turn right to continue southwards. The sparkling waters of Oslo Fjord jostle to the left side. You can either stay on this perfectly paved sidewalk or run down to the water's edge and run along a very much rockier, uneven footpath over there.
Little house on a rock
After a few hundred meters, you'll come to the ferry landing and seaplane harbor, with its waterside inn. This little harbor has new apartments lining it on the other side, and a natural bit of coastline behind that.
Seaplane at the landing
So let's take a look: follow the water's edge past the apartments and then take the uphill footpath along the rocky shore to Rolfstangen peninsula. There are fishermen here, and a little beach further south. Follow the shore, and then follow the path uphill above the beach, with a beautiful view out over the fjord.
Rolfstangen point
You'll then be running through a waterside neighborhood along Rolfstangveien. When the street ends, at Pelvikveien (strange name!) turn left and run south. The street will end after a few blocks, but a foot path will continue heading straight downhill to the next street, Haldenveien.
Pelvikveien: keep running straight!
Now turn right and run southwest through this cool shore-neighborhood, where lots of houses have their own docks and boats. Haldenveien will eventually end by running into Snarøyveien (the street where we started the run).

Turn left and run downhill and into Snarøya, a scenic waterside town. This is the main road into town, and it will curve to the left after passing the MENY supermarket. When you come to the terminus for the 31 bus line, you're almost at one of the highlights of the run.

In one more block you'll see a scenic little bay open up to the right, Kongshavn (King's Harbor). There's a little footpath along the water, so turn right and follow the trail past nice waterside homes and boats.
Kongshavn, my kind of place
When you pass the little suspension bridge to the little island, the trail exits to a street, Fürstveien. Turn right here to run northwards.
The little bridge
At the second street to the left, (also called Fürstveien! In fact most of the streets around here all use the same few names!) turn left and run uphill along this short, dead-end street. Now continue along the footpath, with a beautiful little lake in the woods to your right.
The lake
At the top of the hill, you'll come back into a neighborhood, and run straight into Ropernveien, with lots of nice one-family houses. Turn right and follow the street down the hill until it dead-ends into Fürstveien again.

Now turn left, and this street will end back at Snarøyveien, the street we came down earlier. Now turn left and follow this road out past the MENY supermarket again.

Keep running until you see the zebra stripes, where you turn left and follow the next shore trail along a long cove called Hundesunden (Dog Sound). You'll see tennis courts up ahead, and new apartments beyond.

Stay along the water and run past the tennis courts. Now cross the street called Langoddveien and continue up Lillerutsvei towards the new apartments.

When you see the big walkway coming in from the left, turn left there and continue running past the gate, with the apartments to both sides.
Turn onto this little street with the gate!
This path will end on a bluff overlooking the next big cove, Koksa, where you turn right and follow the footpath through parkland, then crosses Forneburingen street.
Overlooking Koksa bay
You'll pass a school on the left side and enter another park Nansenspark.

Run towards the pond with long promenade in the middle of the park, then turn right onto the promenade to run northeast towards the old air-traffic tower in the distance.
Nansensparken pond, with air-traffic tower in distance: head there!
When you reach the tower and the old brick buildings around it, keep to the left to circle the main building counter-clockwise. You'll see the huge Arena sitting beyond it to the north. The old buildings have been offered to local artists, who use the spaces as studios and galleries. It's a cool, creative spot now! Take a look into a few windows.
The artists' studios in the former airport
When you get back to the tower, turn left to take the paved bike/walkway that goes eastwards, downhill under Snarøyveien, almost back at the start. Now just turn left on the other side and you'll be back out front of the Quality Expo Hotel.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Oslo Sognsvann Lakeside Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 4 km (2.5 miles), terrain: mostly flat, 32-meter gain

NOTE: If this 4-kilometer route is too short for you, you can either lap the lake more times, or follow the connecting trail heading out from the north end of the lake.

Oslo is one of those wonderful places that is defined by the natural beauty surrounding it on all sides. It hugs the fjord with its countless islands and rocks on the one side, and stretches up into the surrounding hills on the other. And the hills are typically Norwegian in their pristine wilderness feel, with woods and lakes in every direction. This is an outdoorsman's heaven.

So if you'd like to get a taste of Norwegian nature while visiting this exceptional city, just take the T5 metro train out to its terminus at Sognsvann and head straight out onto the trails.
Runners along Sognsvann
Sognsvann is a small lake to the north of the city. There isn't a lot out there: a sports high school and training facilities for various snow- and summer sports, from skiing to beach volleyball. Sognsvann is the home of the Oslo Triathlon every August, and the lake is a favorite spot for athletes in training. You'll see athletes everywhere around the lake: swimming, running, hiking, biking. As a runner, you'll feel right at home here.

The lake lies at 200 meters above sea level, but the lakeside trail is fairly flat, with just a few small rises.
Leaving the Sognsvann T-Bane station: follow that runner!
So, let's get started! When you get out of the metro train, just walk straight across the zebra stripes past the sign for the little Olympiatoppen hotel.

Now just head downhill along the trail as it takes you to the south shore of the lake. You'll soon see the water there, with a small island just offshore. This is the main picnic- and hangout area for visitors.
Along the south shore of the lake
You can now turn either left or right and circle the lake. Most runners run counter-clockwise, but this route traces the other direction, turning left, towards the west.

You'll first cross a little dam and then the trail will curve to the right to follow the lakeside towards the north. The trail is well-kept (like everything in Norway), a dirt trail lined with streetlamps. You can tell that it is used in winter as a lit-up cross-country ski trail for people to use after work.
Along Sognsvann
Now just follow the trail, keeping along the water any time you might see another trail branch off towards the left. Sometimes the trail follows the waterside directly, sometimes it wanders off a bit inland, where you see only woods.

When you get to the north end of the lake, at the 2-kilometer mark, you'll see a trail continuing northwards towards the Store Åklungen lake, if you want to follow it for a while to add extra distance.
Crossing the stream that feeds the lake
But the lakeside run continues to the right, crossing a stream and now heading southwards along the east side of the lake.

Soon you'll be back at the picnic area at the south end of the lake. 

Back at the south end: a standup paddler in the distance
I hope you've enjoyed it! But watch out, if you want to hang around for a while, there are a lot of mosquitoes and almost-invisible gnats ready to siphon off your blood.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Brussels EU Quarter/Woluwe Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 7.3 or 12.3 km (4.5- or 7.6 miles), terrain: hilly with 122-meter gain

NOTE: Brussels is bilingual, for Dutch and French, and street signs are sometimes in one language, the other or both. I'll include both names when I mention streets here. Sorry about the bad pictures but it was raining when I did this run!

Brussels Running Routes:
Avenue Louise/Bois de la Cambre  
Center Loop 

Old-Town Sights
For more running routes, see Route List

Brussels is a compact city that is graced with some exceptional roles: as the Belgian capital city, European Union capital, NATO headquarters, capital of its own small province, as well as being the chocolate capital of the universe. There are interesting things to see everywhere you go.
Woluwe Park
Here's a run that takes you from the city center out through the EU quarter, along an elegant boulevard and then through the rolling hills of Woluwe Park out in the wealthy suburbs before returning on a parallel path. Actually this route can also be shortened by almost half by returning before getting out to Woluwe.

I used to run fairly often to Woluwe, in the days when I worked several months each year in Brussels. But that was decades ago. And when I headed out there again on a business trip this week, I realized that I had forgotten how hilly Woluwe was! But it's still as beautiful as I remembered. So let's get going on this varied and beautiful route!
The fountain in Brussels Park, with the Belgian Parliament in background
So get yourself to the fountain in Brussels Parc, across from the entrance to the Belgian Parliament. This shady square is lodged between the parliament and the royal palace, and is one of the most popular jogging spots in town.

Turn east and start running east, out Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat. As you enter the EU quarter, you'll already be able to see the gigantic triumphal arch in Cinquantenaire/Jubel Park in the distance, right where we're heading.
Along Loi, let's get by here fast!
This first part of the run is the least pleasant, actually, with loud traffic and office buildings for the first kilometer. You'll run downhill, then up again, past various EU buildings and other offices. On the uphill section, the new European Commission building is on the left side before the Robert Schuman roundabout.
European Commission building in the rain
But once you get past the roundabout, the street gets nicer, with a narrow park as a median strip.

Then, you run straight into Cinquantenaire/Jubel Park, a nicely maintained park dominated by its huge arch, built to celebrate modern Belgium's 50th anniversary.

Cinquantenaire Park
At each side of the arch are some old exhibition buildings now used as museums for art, cars and the military, at the 2-km mark. You can look into the windows of the big airplane hall on the left side to see a lot of cool old planes.
At the arch
Now exit the park, still heading eastwards.  Continue following the street, now called Avenue de Tervueren/Tervurenlaan, which will become increasingly more elegant, lined with nice stone row-houses.
Rowhouses along Tervuren
The further out of the city you run, the nicer it gets. As you come into the wealthy Woluwe suburbs, you're in another world, with huge homes and landscaped gardens.
Montgomery Square
At the three-kilometer mark, you'll come to a huge traffic circle, Montgomery Square. From now on, you'll run past big mansions as you come into Woluwe. 
Amazing art-deco mansion
NOTE: if you want to cut off 5 kilometers from this fairly long run, turn right at Montgomery onto Boulevard Saint-Michel/Sint-Michielslaan and run a few blocks till Rue de l'Escadron, where you turn right and follow the return way back as described later in this route.

Turn in here to the park!
When Avenue de Tervueren comes to a green valley sloping away to the right, take that first cobblestone road down (Montagne aux Ombres/Lommerberg) into the valley, into Woluwe Park. Before the road turns to the right, take the stepped shortcut down towards the ponds below.
The park trail: head uphill, then left
Now, head uphill between the lake and the pond to follow the trail eastwards on the far side of the lake as it turn left, keeping you further from the street noise. This also means, though, that you have to climb the hills over there.

When you come to the paved road after the first lake, cross the street to continue along the trail lining the second lake.
The fake-stone bridge
When you see the little fake-boulder path leading across the lake, cross it to the east to get a nice view of the lake, then turn right to continue southwards, uphill.

When you get to the paved street with car traffic (Avenue du Parc de Woluwe/Woluwelaan), turn right and follow it as it snakes its way westwards up the wooded hill towards the park exit.

NOTE: The rest of the way back involves a lot of zig-zagging from street to street. If you want to keep it simple, just turn around here and re-trace the first part of the run from here. But the route as it continues lets you experience a bit more of this interesting town.
Coming into Woluwe
You'll now enter a quiet Woluwe neighborhood, at the 6-km mark, full of nice villas, running northwards. The street name changes to Avenue des Franciscains/Franciskanenlaan. When you pass the church ahead, the road curves to the right as it goes by a few small stores. Turn left at the little square to run past the bank and continue running north along Avenue des Eglantines/Eglantierenlaan. A really pleasant neighborhood around here!

When you get to Legrain, the street-crossing with the triangular planters in the street, turn right to run downhill, heading north. This street is lined with fairly normal apartments. The further we run back into the center, the less elegant things will get.

After Legrain starts to head uphill again, turn left onto Avenue des Volontaires/Vrijwilligerslaan for just a block, and then turn right to continue northwards along Baron de Castro.

In a few blocks, at the 8-km mark, you'll come to where Castro crosses Boulevard Saint-Michel/Sint-Michielslaan, with its tram line and lots of traffic. Cross the street and continue straight ahead for two blocks.
African archer
When you come to a roundabout surrounded by shops and a supermarket, turn left to keep following the street with the median-strip, passing a statue of an African shooting a bow along Avenue du Front/Frontlaan.

This neighborhood has some fairly modern apartments lining it, and you'll run through a park-like square and continue (the streetname changes to 11 November) till you cross Avenue de la Chasse/Jachtlaan.

After Jachtlaan, take the second right-hand turn and run north along Baron Lambert in Etterbek. The houses look a lot simpler around here, and more urban as we get closer to central Brussels. Keep running along  Baron Lambert until it ends at Chaussée Saint-Pierre/St.-Peter.
Etterbek street
Turn left onto St. Peter, and run until you reach one of the of the coolest spots in Brussels, Jourdan Square, with its outdoor restaurants and cafes. You'll immediately wish you weren't wearing your smelly running gear, and could sit down to enjoy a good Belgian beer at one of those outdoor tables.
Jourdan Square: I want to stay here!
Turn right on the far side of the square to follow the tram tracks northwards to the next intersection with a traffic light, at Chaussée d'Etterbeek, the 10-km mark.

You'll see a park across the street, Leopold Park. So let's get away from the street noise and head into the park, keeping left to run past its little lake, and run past the Lycee school sitting above you on the left.
EU Parliament from Leopold Park: keep right!
Head west through the park, heading towards the giant glass EU buildings ahead, for the European Parliament. We're now back in EU country, and almost done.

When you get to the oval-shaped parliament building, keep right to run past the right side of the glass building next to it (another parliament building). You'll see stairs going up along the side of the building (look for the big, colorful arrows!), taking you up to the higher square in front of the EU buildings, Luxembourg Square. There are giant banners hanging all over, illustrating the insides of the parliament for visitors, a bit of pro-EU propaganda.
Luxembourg Square: EU Parliament entrance
Now turn right to run westwards through the square and along Rue Luxembourg, which will take you a few blocks through some downtown buildings until you come to Troon, a traffic-clogged square and its Metro station. The cross street here follows the course of the old city walls.

Cross Troon and then follow the street to the right (Rue Ducale), past the side of the Royal Palace, then straight into Brussels Park again, where you'll see the fountain across the park where you started. You've made it!
Entering Brussels Park again