Saturday, 27 June 2015

Portoroz-Piran Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 8.7 km (5.4 miles), terrain: flat

Little Slovenia has an even littler coastline, just 40 kilometers, with a few towns. The biggest tourist resort is Portoroz, with its casino and Grand Hotel, and a waterfront lined with restaurants, bars and parks. But the nicest thing about the town is its location: just around the corner from Piran, one of the most picturesque old towns on the Adriatic coast.
View of Piran from the hill
This route follows the water from Portoroz to nearby Piran, then loops through that beautiful, Venetian-built town before returning to the 21st-century touristic reality in Portoroz.

We'll start the run right in the heart of Portoroz, across from the Grand Hotel, at the little, white dome of the tourist info office. There is a little park next door, where you can go to the water and turn right so that you'll have the water to your left side.
This spot, across from the Grand Hotel, is the start
Now just head off, past the little beach bars and restaurants, heading northwest.

You'll soon come to a spot where the sidewalk meets the street, at a big, stone, bunker-like warehouse. Keep left there, and stay along the water, away from the street. The warehouse used to be used for storing salt, which was manufactured in the salt pans south of town, when the area was famous for its salt.
Running past the salt warehouses
After the two old warehouses, the sidewalk comes out to the street again, but just as the main road starts going uphill, turn left into the little side street (it's called Obala, just like the main promenade in Portoroz) towards the Morski Laguna resort and the Bernardin Hotel. You can run right through the complex: there is a public walkway and bike-way.
Heading to Piran
After that, you just continue into the southern outskirts of Piran, heading past a couple of parking lots and then onto the main road again. You'll now have the Piran harbor to your left as you head into the medieval old town.
Along Piran's harbor
At the tip of the harbor, you come right into the main square, Tartini Square, with the Venetian city hall on the left side and the ancient church and the Venetian-style bell tower on the hill overlooking the town. You can see remnants of the old city walls lining the hilltops to the west.
Tartini Square, with Venetian town hall and church on hilltop
Now continue along the water, running past the little waterside cafés and restaurants towards the strange tower in the distance. The tower belongs to a little stone church, but the tower looks more like it belongs to a castle.
Running past the waterfront restaurants
You've now reached the north end of town. You can continue around the corner for a few blocks, but then the trail ends below the cliffs beneath the main church, St. George's, with a wooden statue of the saint on top of the adjacent bell tower.

You could just turn around and head the same way back again. But I'd recommend that you follow one of the little lanes heading uphill in the old town. You'll eventually come to the church and bell tower, with a great view over town. Just run back down any of the other narrow lanes and you're guaranteed to end up back at the main square at the harbor, where you continue running home.
Heading up to St. George's church

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Salzburg River / Old Town Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 10.4 km (6.5 miles), terrain: flat

Salzburg finds its way onto lots of tourists' must-visit list for Europe: its mighty hilltop castle, and its narrow lanes echoing with the clip-clop of horse-carriages are hard to resist, especially for oversea visitors.
Salzburg, Kapitelplatz with a view of the castle
If you've fallen for Salzburg's old-world charm, there's a great, simple run right in the middle of town: just follow the trail along the northeast bank of the Salzach River, and add a loop through the scenic old-town. If you run in the mornings or evenings, you'll hardly recognize the place, as the day-visitors won't be anywhere in sight, and you'll have the town to yourself (and the locals, of course). No more tour-groups off on the Sound of Music tour...
Tomaselli's at Alter Markt
Let's start the route in the heart of town, at the Alter Markt (Old Market), at the Tomaselli Cafe, already in business for over 200 years. Now we'll turn to face eastwards, and run by the old fountain and out past the old town hall, with its clock-tower.
Along Gisela Kai
Now turn right and head over the Staatsbrücke bridge over the Salzach to the shore-drive on the other side, Gisela Kai. Then, we'll turn right and head southeastwards now, staying along the river. There is a river-side trail that goes for kilometers. Sometimes pedestrians have to share the same paved trail with bikes, sometimes there are separate trails. For the first 100 meters, you have to run next to buses and fight with bikes for space, but then it's great.

Luckily, they put in underpasses beneath the few bridges, so you don't have to wait at traffic lights at every busy cross-street.
Mozartsteg pedestrian bridge back to the old town
In just a few hundred meters, you'll pass the 100-year-old footbridge to the old-town, the Mozartsteg. We'll cross it on our way back later, but now just keep heading straight, with the water to your right side.

After you pass the first car bridge, you'll see the Volksgarten park open up on the left side. It began life as the Kaiser Franz-Josef Jubiläumspark. It was dedicated to the Austrian kaiser on the 50th anniversary of his reign in 1908, just a few years before the monarchy disintegrated in the chaos of defeat in World War I. You might want to loop a bit into the park and run by the pond for a bit of variety.
Pond in Volkspark
The riverside trail changes names to Ignaz-Rieder-Kai, but continues southeastwards along the river, gradually curving southwards. You can run for as short or as long as you please. This route turns around at the next car bridge, Hellbrunner Straße, to make it 10-kilometers long. But you could add on many kilometers if you want to keep going, or just turn around any time earlier to shorten it.
So now you just run until you find your own turn-around spot and head back to town.

But when you reach the grey-metal Mozartsteg footbridge again, turn left to cross it to run a short loop through the nicest part of the old-town, beneath the looming castle.
Mozart, Salzburg's favorite son, likes hanging out at Mozartplatz
After crossing the Salzach, continue for a short block and you'll see the little square, Mozartplatz, on the right. Turn right there and stay on the left side of the Mozart statue, running past the big fountain on the left.

You have now come to the archbishop's palace, where you turn left to run southwards to the next block with its own square, Domplatz (Cathedral Square). This is, as you might guess, right in front of the huge baroque cathedral.
Salzburg's baroque cathedral
Now continue straight through the arcade to the next square, Kapitelplatz, with its strange golden globe with a statue of a man on top.

Continue uphill, towards the castle, following the lane to the castle cog-train station. Just before the station, turn right through the iron gates into the stunningly beautiful cemetery, Petersfriedhof. This is part of St. Peter's monastery, still in use.
In the monastery cemetery
Run westwards through the cemetery, with the cliffs to your left and the monks' buildings built into the cliff-side.

Exit the cemetery on the west side and you'll find yourself in St. Peter's Square, with an old church, a fountain, and what is billed as Europe's oldest restaurant, founded in the year 803 (over 1,200 years in business!).
The square in the middle of the monastery
We're almost back at the starting place now. Just exit the square through the archway to the north (on your right), with the Franciscan church-tower rising behind it.

Now run one block up Sigmund-Haffner-Gasse and then turn right, and you'll be back at the old market, where we started.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Manchester Rochdale Canal Running Route

Click here for route map 
Length 7.7 km (4.8 miles) or a shorter 4.2 km version, terrain: flat

Manchester running routes:
City center route
Salford Quays route

Rochdale Canal route
Worsley route
For more running routes, see Route List.  

Manchester, like nearby Birmingham, lacks large parks or green areas in the town center where you can go for a quiet run. The few tiny parks are called "gardens" and are hardly big enough to let you run more than 15 seconds in any direction. But -- and here's another similarity to Birmingham -- there are some really nice canalside and riverside trails to run along, keeping you away from loud traffic.
Narrow-boats maneuver into a lock along Canal Street
This trail follows one of the main canals in town, the Rochdale Canal, which comes into the city from the east after a 32-mile circuit from Sowerby Bridge. The canal was already planned in 1776, and was finished in 1804. So you'll be treading on towpaths that have been trodden for over 200 years: that's a lot of history.

The canal goes through a variety of neighborhoods, and is full of ancient boat locks, heading by old factories, offices, ship basins, parks: enough to keep anyone entertained.

So if you're ready, let's head to Manchester's main train station, Piccadilly, in the southeast corner of downtown. This is an easy spot to get to, as about all the tram- and bus lines head there.

Standing at the front entrance, outside the station, you'll see a modern, white footbridge leading over Piccadilly Street to the west. Run across the bridge and down past the Doubletree Hotel and then continue into the intersection ahead, the one with the tram tracks. Keep running west past the red-brick building (the Manchester Crown Court!) with the Rochdale Canal right in front of it.
Along Canal Street
Run to the left end of the courthouse building, then cross the bridge to the other side of the canal and then turn left to follow Canal Street westwards, with the canal to your left side.

Canal Street is one of the nicest streets downtown, with the water and shade-trees and a couple of boat-locks, and you might well see some narrow-boats moving from lock to lock. Canal Street also forms the heart of the Gay Village, lined with clubs and bars for its short 3-block existence. In the evenings, it's full of people, in the daytime it's totally tranquil.

At the west end of Canal Street, you have to cross the canal again and then take the steps down to the towpath along its southern bank. This is where you really get down close to the canal. Now continue running westwards, directly along the water's edge.
The canal disappears under this building ahead
You'll go under some bridges, even under some buildings that span the canal.

After you go under Albion Street, you'll come to the next area for clubs, Deansgate Locks, with a group of bars with terraces up above the canal, with little footbridges overhead.
At Deansgate Locks
The towpath ends in Castlefield, maybe the most beautiful section of the run. This is where the Rochdale Canal ends by emptying into a basin where the Bridgewater Canal begins. The old buildings all around have been converted into pubs and restaurants, all on the waterfront, with views of the narrow-boats moving about. The boats are now used mainly as houseboats, although a few working boats are also still to be found around the basin. This is definitely a spot to return later for a beer or dinner!

 NOTE: At this spot, this run overlaps the Manchester City Centre running route.
Lock at the end of the towpath
At the end of the towpath, at the little lock-keeper's house, turn right to head north under the raised train trestles next to the canal. The area is called Castlefield because an old Roman fort was located here.
Castlefield basin
Run with the water to your left and some raised seating on your right side, covered by white tent-roofing. Right behind the roofing is a bit of the Roman castle wall.
Narrow-boat skipper and crew in Castlefield
Run straight up the steps to Liverpool Street.

Now turn right and run eastwards along Liverpool Street to the next street corner, to the sign for the Museum of Science and Industry, which houses all kinds of things produced in Manchester, from steam engines to jet engines (there's free entrance!). 
MOSI: turn left here

Airplanes in MOSI
Just ahead, on the right is the little Roman Garden, with exposed foundations from the original Roman settlement, if you want to take a look. There is also a rebuilt gateway to the Roman fort.
Roman gate-tower
But we'll turn left at the museum sign to run north along Lower Byrom Street. We'll just run for two blocks, until you see the little park on the right, St. Johns Gardens. This is an old churchyard. Run through the park (hey, you have to take advantage of the bits of green when you find it) to the next street, Byrom Street. Now turn left and continue running northwards to busier Quay Street. The opera house is located across the street.
St. Johns Gardens
Now turn right and run eastwards down Quay Street, crossing the busy intersection at Deansgate. There is a little square here, Great Northern Square, with the gigantic Great Northern Railway Goods Warehouse to the right. Take the steps up into the square and run diagonally to the right to connect into Windmill Street, with its wide sidewalks.

In a couple of blocks you'll run past the Manchester CCC (ex central train station, now a convention center).

Now cross Lower Mosley Street, heading downhill on Bishopsgate, past the Premier Lodge Hotel and then some old row-houses.

At the next street, Cheapstow, turn left and run the next three blocks to Princess Street. Turn right here and run southwards, back to the west end of Canal Street at the New Union pub.

Now turn left and follow Canal Street the three blocks back to the Crown Court building where we first came to the canal. You could turn right here at the tram tracks and footbridge and head back to Piccadilly Station, for a 4.2-km run. Or you add the following extension by following the Rochdale Canal eastwards for a bit to add another three kilometers to the total. Here's how:

Keep running northeastwards along the canal for a block until you come to Piccadilly Street, which you cross. You are now on Ducie Street. Follow that for about two blocks until you see a parking lot open up on the left side.

Turn left into the parking lot and cross it to the canal. You'll see a couple of places where steps go down to the canal towpath.

Now turn right and follow the towpath northeastwards for about 200 meters until it goes under a big street, Great Ancoats.

Now the towpath ends, at least for now. The land ahead has been cleared for redevelopment, and I expect the towpath will be reopened in the next few years. For now, you'll have to go up to Great Ancoats Street, cross the bridge to the other side of the canal and now continue northeastwards along Redhill Street.
Heading up Redhill Street
Redhill ends after a few blocks, where you cross the canal again, onto New Union Street, where you then take the first left turn onto St. Vincent Street. At the north end of St. Vincent Street, you will be back on the towpath again. From here on, the many old factories have been cleared from the canal sides and have been replaced with narrow (functional, but not fancy) parks.

You could now run eastwards for miles, but this route will stop at Victoria Mill Park, at the little Navigation Inn pub. Now just return to Piccadilly, where you turn left to run the one block back to the station.