Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Magdeburg Northern Riverside Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 8.4 km (5.2 miles), terrain: flat, gain 28 meters

I first visited Magdeburg in the mid 1990s, and I wasn't very impressed back then. There was a nice cathedral and a nearby park, but most of the rest of town still radiated the uninspired character of its socialist past, full of drab concrete blocks, and older buildings which were falling apart.

So, on my return visit a few weeks ago, I was interested in seeing if my original judgement might be swayed in some way. And the current status: the city has been beautifully rebuilt, a total makeover, with lots of interesting neighborhoods, outdoor cafes and restaurants, and miles of riverside promenades. It's the perfect spot for some fun discovery using your own two feet.

This is the first of a couple of Magdeburg running routes that I'll write-up here. It will start in the heart of town, on the cathedral square, follow the city-walls for a few blocks, and then head north along the Elbe River, following the park-like promenade all the way to the old harbor, then back again. On the return leg, we'll turn inland to explore a few of the historic riverside neighborhoods along the way.

So lets get ourselves to the Domplatz (Cathedral Square), right next to that twin-towered gothic cathedral. The 700-year-old church is impressive within, too, so make sure you take the time to go inside later on.
Cathedral Square
The square is lined by classical buildings (and modern ones along one side), and there's a playful line of fountains dancing across the square. On the side opposite the cathedral is the state parliament of Sachsen-Anhalt. Near the cathedral, you'll see some foundation stones from the ruins of the old castle built by Kaiser Otto I.

So now, let's get going, and see what else Magdeburg has in store for us...

Turn towards the cathedral, and run around its back side, along Remtergang. This is a cool little neighborhood with some narrow lanes and hidden parks.
Remtergang, with cathedral in background
At the Stadtturm Hotel in an old city-wall tower, turn left and run northwards on top of the old city wall. It's lined by trees, and has an old-fashioned, park-like feel. Off to the right, across the fairly busy road called Schleinufer, is the Elbe River.
On top of the city wall
In a couple of blocks, the wall ends, where you turn right to run over the pedestrian bridge, crossing the road. You descend the steps to the riverside promenade, and continue northwards, with the water to your right side.

Now you just keep going until the turnaround spot about four kilometers ahead.
The promenade
After you go under a car bridge, the promenade widens to a park-like setting for a few blocks.

You'll then run around the back side of a riverside restaurant and a cool beach bar (in the summer). Then comes a boat-landing section, with a big parking lot for the passengers. Riverboats cruise the Elbe from this spot.
At the riverside restaurant
You'll then pass under twin steel-arched bridges and leave the old town, heading into an industrial area, continuing on Sarajevo-Ufer. This trail also happens to double as the route of the Elbe Radweg, the 1,200-kilometer-long Elbe River bike trail that stretches from the North Sea to all the way to Prague. So you'll probably see a lot of tour-bicyclists along this stretch.

You'll then pass some abandoned silos in the historic harbor, at the four-kilometer mark. Then the trail brings you to the Science Harbor Museum, (Wissenschaftshafen), with a few restored ships and harbor bridges and warehouses, a cool beach-bar, and other stuff for fans of Victorian-era technology. 
The lifting bridge at the old harbor
This is our turnaround spot, so let's head back to the town center now.
Beach bar with restored river tugboat in background
When we run under the twin bridges again, keep to the right to follow the higher path that, parallel to the waterside trail. This higher trail goes through an old fort that once defended this end of town, and cannons and stone walls line your route. Magdeburg was once Prussia's biggest fort.
Cannon along the trail
When you get back to the riverside Italian restaurant, let's veer off from the water: take that pedestrian bridge that curves upwards towards the right, over the Schleinufer riverside road.

On the other side, along the hillside, you'll see a line of three ancient churches, beginning with the little Magdalena Chapel. Run up through the little garden to get a closer view, at the six-kilometer mark. Then run a block north, down Neustädter Straße to view the other two churches, one in the Catholic University, the other is the Wallonenkirche, once used by French-speaking Huguenaut refugees, originally a monastery.
Magdalena Chapel and the other churches
Now turn around and run south, past the chapel and continue on through the hillside parkland at the foot of some big apartment buildings.
Martin Luther at the Johanniskirche
When you come to still another old church, the Johanniskirche (St. John's), turn right and run along the side, past the statue of Martin Luther. Magdeburg was once in the center of Luther's protestant reformation, and he sometimes preached here. Then run across the road, Jakobstraße, to the old city hall straight ahead.
The town hall with golden rider
Run past the statue of the stag and you'll come into the Old Market, with the front side of the town hall and its statues of a golden rider and Roland, the ic guardian of the city's independence. There are still regular markets held here, so you might see a lot of market stands, including a Christmas Market every December.
Roland standing guard
Now run back to the Johanniskirche and turn right to continue southwards through more of the riverfront parkland.

You'll soon come to the art museum in the restored thousand-year-old monastery Unser Lieber Frau, Magdeburg's oldest building.

Out front of the abbey church, turn right to run along Kreuzgangstraße for one block to that undulating pink building, topped by trees. This is the "Green Citadel", the last building designed by eccentric Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Hundertwasser hated square spaces and the results are refreshingly obvious in this creative project, topped by golden spheres and strange towers with spiraling balconies. 
Hundertwasser's Green Citadel
It's really interesting to run into the courtyards within. There are shops, restaurants and a little hotel inside. Take a look! You'll be glad you did.
In one of the courtyards
Now continue running one more block, and you will find yourself back at the classical elegance of Cathedral Square again. Like I said: I totally revise my hasty earlier judgement: what a great town!

Monday, 10 September 2018

Karlskrona Island-Hopping Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 13.0 km (8.0 miles), terrain: a few small hills, gain 65 meters

NOTE: You can easily shorten this route by just leaving off loops like Dragsö island.

Karlskrona is spread out over 30 islands, embedded in the watery realm of Sweden's rocky skärgård (skerry islands). And, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has a lot of interesting architectural scenery to offer during a run through town.

Karlskrona is the home of Sweden's one and only navy base, and it's that old maritime architecture that give the town its World Heritage status.

Views out over the water and the bay automatically become an important part of any journey around town. This running route will take you out through a lot of the most interesting islands, including the whole world heritage site, the old town, some woods and natural coastline and a few interesting neighborhoods.

We'll start in the heart of town, at Stortorget, the main square, sitting atop the hill on Trossö island. The square is flanked by a pair of baroque churches and the impressive county government building, all intended to set the tone of the town. Karlskrona is a planned town, built to accompany the naval base.
The main square, Stortorget
This area, the southern tip of what's now Sweden, was earlier part of Denmark, settled by Danes. But when the Swedes took control of it in the late 1600s, they used the chance to build a naval base in the ice-free harbor. Until then, their navy would be locked inside Stockholm harbor every winter, hindering them from supporting their provinces in Germany and the eastern Baltic.

The Swedes built their new town to surround this big market square. The main downtown is just north of the square, and the naval base is down the hill to the south. A big part of the old naval base, on Stumholm island, a few blocks to the east, has been turned into a big maritime museum. The modern part of the naval base is not open to the public, as you can imagine.

This route will first head south to the naval base, then east past the classical architecture of the World Heritage Site and the ships of the maritime museum, then west through the pedestrian shopping street downtown, through the town park, then out along the waterfront, past the fish market and jumping from island to island to run through the woods of Dragsö island, and then returning to the main square.

So, if you're ready to see this really interesting town, let's get going!
The clock tower
So turn southwards, and face the round Church of the Holy Trinity. Head downhill to the left of the church along Södra Kungsgatan. We're running towards that strange clock tower in a park ahead. The clock tower (Amiralitetsklockstapeln) was used as a reference for the navy ships to set their chronometers, needed for navigation.
Navy base entrance
Run past the tower and notice that a railway tunnel was dug directly below it to supply the naval base.

Keep going until you face the entrance to the base, and its old buildings, now turn left and run back to Vallgatan, where you turn right and run past the old, yellow naval buildings and come out at the water at the Aurora Bastion, and its castle walls.
Along Vallgatan

There are a few nice old buildings along the water here, and the lighthouse. Turn north (left) to head along the water until you get to the bridge that takes you to the right onto Stumholm island, one of the highlights of the run.
Aurora Bastion
Head straight east, and you'll find yourself in the center of the maritime museum complex. The museum is free of charge, so theoretically, you could jog inside the museum buildings, but I'd recommend not making a nuisance of yourself that way. Come back later to take a look inside, while viewing the old ships tied up to the docks here and viewing more of the old fortifications!

To the left of the main museum building, there are some retired navy ships along the quay, and some old sailboats near them, cutters used to train new sailors.
Maritime Museum windjammer
Now continue east to the water, and turn right to run past the little swimming beach and then left to run past the old flying-boat hangars.

Now run into the compound surrounded by the stone wall, and you are in a fort with some old cannons facing outwards along the ramparts. Run up there and enjoy the view out over the maze of islands and rocks out in the harbor.
Along the ramparts, with a view of the outlying skerries
Viewing all those rocks, it's not surprising that in 1981 a Soviet spy submarine grounded out there, causing a big incident with the neutral Swedes.

Now let's follow the water, past the lighthouse, back to the bridge and leave this really interesting corner of town. Turn right when you cross the bridge and run a block to Ronnebygatan. Now turn left and run uphill on this main pedestrian shopping street. It's pretty lively during opening times, and is a fun spot to people-watch.
The town park
When you get to Norra Kungsgatan, turn right to head to that green park down the hill, on the left. We'll circle the park, head back up to Ronnebygatan again, then turn right to  head to the waterfront.
Extra loop onto Stakholmen, if you wish
This is the fish-market, and we're now looking northwards towards the mainland, with a big blockhouse fort on one big rock. Stay along the water, running westwards past the ferry landing, with its redeveloped waterfront and new wooden promenade. 
At the fish-market
You'll see a footbridge connecting to a little rocky island (Stakholmen) to the right (you might want to circle it for fun), then continue next to the street, Björkhomskayen.
On Ekholm island
When you come to the high bridge ahead, turn right to run through the little island of Ekholm, with its pleasant collection of wooden houses. Exit Ekholm on the footbridge to the west and continue to Strandvägen, where you turn right to continue along the water.
View of Brändaholm summer homes
There's a great view of Brändaholm, a beautiful colony of little red summer homes across the water. You'll run past a little boatyard full of neglected old boats, then come to the bridge that takes you to the right, to Dragsö island. This is my favorite part of the run, with lots of real Swedish nature, cliffs and woods.

As soon as you cross the bridge, turn right onto the little trail in the woods, and follow it to the parking lot for the campground. The campground occupies most of the island, but there is public access to anywhere you want to go.
The little beach: continue on that trail next to the water
Run through the parking lot and then you'll run through the main gate into the campground, past their amazing mini-golf course, with replicas of all the town's famous buildings: you'll recognize almost all of them from the first part of the run!
Rocky shore in Dragsö campground
Keep to the right and follow the campground road until it ends at a tiny beach. A trail then goes into the woods on the left, circling to the left. There are some signs explaining that it's an Enchanted Forest, where the stones turn into trolls each evening, and where you'll probably see a few plaster trolls no matter what time of day it is.

You can take some side trails out onto the giant rocks and cliffs, if you'd like. Then the trail connects back into the campground road again, heading south along the west side of the island.

You'll come out at the beach near the front gate again, where you again run through the parking lot. But this time take a look to the left: there's Brändaholm again, with its charming collection of summer homes. This is a really cool little neighborhood, so let's loop through it.
Flowers in Brändaholm
Run onto the lower trail that hugs the water, running past one great stuga (cottage) after the other, with their stunning gardens. When the path ends, head uphill and then follow the steps to take you back down to the parking lot again.

Now run back along the little trail to the bridge and leave Dragsö island. But now turn right to follow another little trail along the wooded west shore of Saltö island.
Runners on Saltö
You'll come out along a beach, where you turn left onto Almogatan, which takes you past modern apartments to Tjurkovägen, the main street in the neighborhood.

Turn right and cross that high bridge that takes us back to the main island. But now we want to see more of the old-town, so immediately turn right, at the water and run to Wachtmeistergatan.

Now run uphill, past some old wooden houses. Turn right at the top of the hill onto Korvettgatan and continue running past old houses.

When the street ends at Chapmansgatan, turn left and follow the stone wall of the naval base as it curves a few times. It will come to an intersection where several streets all come together. Continue eastwards along Hantverkeregatan, with more old wooden houses.

This street will end right back at the main square again, where we started. Now that was a run with a lot of variety!

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Kalmar Waterside Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 13.6 km (8.4 miles), terrain: flat, gain 39 meters

NOTE: I was lucky, and did this run during the annual Kalmar town festival!

Sweden is modernizing quickly, with free wifi everywhere, lots of cafés and restaurants with outside seating, tourists from all over the world. But provincial towns like Kalmar still retain their quiet, remote charm, and I love exploring the neighborhoods.

This route takes you through all the best sights in town, combining the downtown/old-town, the castle, the Kalmarsund waterfront and some unspoiled Swedish nature out along the Stensö peninsula.

So if you want to see Kalmar's best side, come along for the run!
The main square and cathedral during the town festival
We'll start the run in the heart of the downtown, at the main square, with the cathedral and town-hall. This is at the corner of Storgatan and Östra Sjögatan.
Along Norra Långgatan
Let's see a bit of the old-town while we're here, so go behind the cathedral to Norra Långgatan and run northeast the three blocks past tiny old houses to the old stone walls guarding the town from the sea. There is parkland here, and nice views over the water.

Now turn right to the next street, Storgatan and start running southwest down this main shopping street through the whole old town until you come to the smaller square, Larmtorget, with its fountain and bandstand. 
Now turn right on Västra Vallgatan and run the block towards the giant water tower and the old stone gate-tower in the city walls, the Västerport. This gate is one of the town landmarks, and has a great glass store and a beautiful café within its walls.
Västerport and the water tower
Run through the gate, exiting the old town, and cross the wooden footbridge over the town moat. The thing that looks like a palace across the bridge is really the town jail.
Running out across the footbridge
Across the bridge, turn left and run along the water to Stationsgatan, where you cross it to turn right and run through the bit of parkland to the big corner at Järnvägsgatan, crossing the railroad tracks from the nearby main station.

Run south into the city park with its pretty, little pond and the art museum and we will now continue following the waterfront until the turnaround spot in another 5 kilometers.

Once past the museum, stay close to the water as we approach the most famous Kalmar landmark: the castle, Kalmar Slot, at the 2-kilometer mark.
Kalmar Castle with fencing tournament
The castle has its origins in the first tower built in 1180. It guarded the town and harbor from pirates and enemies, and was one of the biggest forts in Sweden.

The Danes settled and occupied the southern tip of what is now Sweden, and Kalmar was the southernmost Swedish castle, and was the scene of various battles and sieges. Finally, the Swedes won out and conquered the Danish lands south of here, so the castle lost its importance and fell into disuse. It was restored to its present glory during the last century.

You can only get inside the castle if you buy a ticket, but you can at least run inside the first gate to get a closer look.

Now run out to the main entrance to the cemetery and run to its little, circular chapel, then turn left to get back to the waterside trail.
The waterside trail
Now continue running south through the parkland along Kalmarsund bay, past a first little beach, then past sports fields (volleyball, skateboards, etc.), another beach with a diving platform, and then around the backside of the Vikingarna marina, at the 4-kilometer mark.
The marina, with little fishermen's huts
Now cross the little footbridge, continuing southwards onto the Stensö peninsula. This narrow spit of land was formed by boulders pushed there by the last glaciers to come through the area, and is three kilometers long.

At this end of Stensö, there is a mini-golf course and a campground. Later there is just pure nature. Smell the pine trees, feel the breeze on your skin and enjoy the view out over the Baltic waves, we're in the Swedish countryside.
The Stensö shore
This trail soon joins into a bigger one, but at the turnoff for the next beach, turn left to get back to the eastern shore of the peninsula. Follow this trail all the way to the point, at the 7-kilometer mark. Enjoy the water view here, because the route will now leave the water for a while.

So, now follow the main trail that heads up north, through the middle of the peninsula.

Take the trail to the left when it splits off, to go through the campground, then head north, on the paved road, leaving the peninsula along Stensövägen. This pleasant street is lined by trees on the one side and by typical Swedish wooden homes along the other. This is our chance to get a look at how lots of Kalmar people live.
Typical Swedish house
At the corner of Stensbergsvägen, turn right and run two blocks to Stensviksvägen where you turn left to continue northeast past more pleasant homes with white picket fences.

Eventually, at about the 12-kilometer mark, you'll see a stone wall and further dirt walls of the castle defenses to the left, and lines of trees on the right. We're back at the cemetery, and turn to the right there at Skansgatan.

Run to the chapel and turn left and now basically follow the same way back to the starting point as we originally came here.

When you cross the train tracks again, you can just follow Olof Palmes Gata right back into the old town and you'll find yourself on Storgatan again.

For something different, you might want to turn right to then head northeast along Södra Långgatan back to the main square.