Saturday, 23 August 2014

Gothenburg Center Loop Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 4.4 km (2.7 miles), terrain: flat

Pictures courtesy of the creative folks at Flickr Creative Commons. Thanks! 

For more running routes, see Route List 

Gothenburg (Swedish: Göteborg), Sweden's second-largest city, is typically Scandinavian: it's face is turned towards the sea, with its back to the granite cliffs and forests that spread out behind. The town was founded 400 years ago on the Göta Älv river as a Swedish port in the south to compete with the Danes and Germans, and it has grown to be Scandinavia's biggest port.

This doesn't exactly make for a beautiful harbor area: the whole mouth of the river, along both sides, is full of docks, warehouses, cranes and industry. But despite the very utilitarian look to most of the waterfront, it is always fascinating, and a lot of it has been redeveloped and been given back to the people in recent years.
The route along Östra Hamngatan, with its trams, photo by Nic Taylor
Gothenburg is also home to Volvo and other big Swedish manufacturers, so the city has a lot going on. And some of the world's greatest sailing yachts are built on a nearby island, Orust.

NOTE: If you have at least a few hours of free time in daylight, my tip is to take tram 11 or tram 9 to Saltholmen and then jump on one of the ferries out to one of the car-less islands in the archipelago, and get a real taste of the area via a good hike!

This route will circle the city center, both along the riverfront and along the park-lined moat-canal that once served as the city's defenses along the east side, inland.

We'll start the run right in the heart of the redeveloped area of the waterfront, at the new opera house on the Göta Älv river. It seems like every Scandinavian town had to build a new waterside opera house in recent years. This one is about the least-beautiful of them, in my opinion, but provides a nice anchor for cultural life along the water.
The opera at Lilla Bommen harbor, photo by - Cristina -
Stand there, facing the river, with the opera house on your left, and the little statue of Swedish singer Evert Taube in front of you. The marina harbor of Lilla Bommen is to your right, with all its boats bobbing next to you. This is one of the nicest spots in town.

Now turn around, with your back to the river and run past the opera and cross the open square ahead, with the traffic circle to your left, and enter the downtown by running south along Östra Hamngatan. Follow the tram tracks along this main shopping street, as you pass the modern Nordstan shopping arcade on the left side.

When you come to a cross-canal, at the end of Nordstan, turn left on Norra Hamngatan and run along the canal, heading east, with the water to your right side. You'll pass an open square and then the Palace Hotel and Restaurant, one of Gothenburg's oldest institutions.
The sluice, with Trädgårdsföreningen at the trees, photo by bobild
Once you get to the east end of both Nordstan and the Palace, cross the canal on the tram bridge to the right, then continue running eastwards along the other bank of the canal. You'll pass the sluice, where ships go through canal locks.

You'll then cross a wider canal that goes south: this is the moat of the old city walls. Just on the other side of the moat, there is a series of parks along the eastern side.

Just past the moat, turn right, heading through the little gate into Trädgårdsföreningen (Garden Society) park, open from 7 AM till 8 PM. Keep on one of the paths along the right side, near the moat, going past the beautiful Victorian-era greenhouse until you exit the little park in just 400 meters.
The greenhouse in Trädgårdsföreningen, photo by The Hamster Factor
When you leave that first park, you'll come to a fountain pool, with an old theater building (the Stora Teatern) behind it. Pass them both on the right side, near the moat.

Now, just keep following the zig-zag of the moat as it curves westwards around the south edge of the city center.

The canal in fall colors, photo by The Hamster Factor
After the fourth bridge, Rosenlundsbron, the moat is lined by a parking lot rather than park lawn. Just keep running along the water, towards the two white smokestacks of the little electric plant ahead. The many-gabled roof of the old fish-market building is across the water.

When you get to the next bridge, just before the electric plant, keep running straight, staying to the left of the old yellow warehouses ahead (still keeping the moat to your right).

Just past the warehouses, you'll find yourself back at the river again. Now turn right and head north along the pedestrian/bike trail right along the water.

At first, the scenery isn't too spectacular along this part of the river, but when you cross the canal that once formed the old harbor in the center of town, the riverfront gets really nice.
Ships at Maritiman, photo by Sam Doshi
Stay along the water as you go around the old brick warehouses that now house the casino, and continue northwards, going by Maritiman, the ship museum, with its old crane and a fleet of old ships docked to your left.

You'll now pass the Marieholm restaurant-ship and then reach the back end of the opera again. Just run past it and you'll be at the starting point again.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Brussels Old Town Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 3.5 km (2.2 miles), terrain: one small hill, total gain of 40 meters

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

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

Brussels, in my opinion, has a cosmopolitan flair that its small size doesn't really warrant: it has world-class chocolate makers, French cuisine, a typically Dutch old town, capital-city institutions like a parliament, palaces and embassies, the European Union quarter, the NATO headquarters, sprawling parks, gigantic monuments and -- of course -- Europe's most beautiful square - Grand Place.
The Brussels town hall on Grand Place
I first started discovering this fascinating place 30 years ago, when I began a 12-year stint of working there off-and-on. I've spent hundreds of evenings running through every corner of the city. And on lots of those runs I crossed through the old-town, taking-in Grand Place and the nearby ancient lanes full of restaurants and chocolate shops, which gave every run a special highlight.

Here's a little route through the heart of Brussels that goes by a lot of the most scenic spots in the old town: Parliament, Brussels Park, the royal palace, Grand Place, the Manneken Pis statue, the restaurant streets, the cathedral and back to the park again.

We'll start the run on the east edge of the old town, up the hill at Brussels Park, right in front of the parliament building. This neighborhood, the Koudenberg, used to be the castle area, defending the main old-town area down the hill towards the northwest. The old castle burned down, and now the newer royal palace occupies the spot, although the Belgian royal family lives at Laeken, outside town.

So let's go to the Rue de la Loi, to the front door of the unassuming Palace of the Nation (parliament). The building looks like it might just hold the state archives or maybe the transport ministry, but this is the Belgian parliament.

Turn your back to the front entrance of the parliament, and face into the north entrance of Brussels Park across the street. This small rectangle of green-space is one of those pleasant little European parks that includes about everything a proper park needs: fountains, statues, a playground, a café, a bandstand, even a theater.
Feeding the ducks in Brussels Park
Run straight south through the park, going around the two fountains along the way.

At the south end of the park, you'll come out facing the royal palace. This gigantic building is only used for functions: nobody lives there.
The royal palace
Turn right and run past the front of the palace until you come to the first real cross-street, Rue Royale.

Turn left on Rue Royale and take just a few strides into the next square, Place Royale, with the statue of the knight Godfrey on his horse.
Place Royal and Godfrey
Turn right at the statue to head downhill into the old-town, along Coudenberg. But where the street curves to the right, continue straight into the big formal garden of the Jardin du Mont des Arts. You'll see the skyline of the old-town beyond the hedges and roses of the garden.
Music above the Jardin du Mont des Arts
When you exit the gardens, keep running straight north through the next square, with the statues of the mounted soldiers, and on into the Rue de la Madeleine. You're now running past the old Dutch-style houses of the real old-town. You'll run past a little red-brick church and then come to another little square, the Marché aux Herbes.
Market day at the Marché aux Herbes
Keep the square to your right side and you'll come to the south entrance of the Galeries Royales St. Hubert, the world's first modern shopping mall, built in 1846.

Now, turn left into the little side street, Rue de la Colline, and you'll see Grand Place opening up at the end of the street. You'll run past some of the first chocolate shops, and they're pretty inviting: Belgian chocolate is among the best in the world. You can run through some streets in the west end of the old-town and the whole street will smell like cocoa.
Grand Place: Brussels Museum
Run into Grand Place and be prepared to be amazed. Every building bounding the square is beautiful, full of details and accented with gold. Turn right and circle the square counter-clockwise and take a look at the amazing buildings here, and their famous tennants: Pierre Cardin's Maxim's restaurant, Neuhaus chocolates, the Brussels Museum in its Neo-Gothic palace,

Circle past the guild-houses on the north side of the square, then southwards past the Gothic, 600-year-old town hall and its huge tower.

At the south end of the town hall, turn right to exit Grand Place (we'll be back in a few minutes, though), and run southwest along Rue Charles Buls. Keep running straight for three blocks, till you come to the crowd looking at Manneken Pis, a tiny statue of a boy peeing into a fountain. On many days of the year, he'll be wearing special costumes commemorating one special occasion or another. He has over 900 costumes, more than Madonna...
Manneken Pis seems a bit lost among the tourist crowds
Now turn right onto Rue des Grands Carmes, where you just run a block before turning right to head northeast along Rue du Midi.

Run just two blocks, where you turn diagonally to your right onto Rue du Marché au Charbon, where you head straight back into Grand Place again, this time on the other side of the town hall.

Now just cross the square to the left corner of the gothic city museum and exit Grand Place by running into narrow Rue Chair et Pain (Meat and Bread Street). In a block, the street turns into the Petite rue des Bouchers (Little Butcher Street), where a long row of restaurants with outside seating begins. 
Restaurants along Rue de Bouchers
If you're here in the evenings, it's hard to get through the crowds that wander around. Just enjoy the chance to slow down and view the stands full of fresh seafood on ice, and the fireplaces glowing in almost every restaurant.

At the end of the street, turn right onto Rue des Bouchers (more restaurants). You'll pass the Galeries St. Hubert again (this street bisects the gallery into two halves), and then run into Rue de la Montagne.

Turn left here and now run uphill for the next blocks. You'll see the Gothic-style cathedral coming into view ahead, with its twin towers. Run through the green square out front of the cathedral, towards its front doors, then run past it around the right side.
The cathedral
Now just follow Treurenberg up to the top of the hill, where you will come out to Rue Royale again, with its tram tracks.

Turn right and run the one block back to Brussels Park.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Bistensee, Schleswig-Holstein, Summer Fun Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 5.9 km (3.7 miles), terrain: one hill, total gain of 70 meters

NOTE: This is the latest of our Summer Fun-Run routes, in vacation towns in Europe.

Bistensee is a little lake in northern Germany, near Eckernförde, just a few kilometers long and not even one kilometer wide. Most of it is a nature preserve, so there is little development along its shores: it's mostly woods and farm fields, with little Bistensee village at the east end, a campground and a few vacation houses at the west end.

There's not much to it, but it's a great place to just relax and enjoy being out in nature: swimming, sailing, windsurfing, biking, hiking, grilling and -- of course -- running.

There's a 9-km trail around the lake, the Bistensee Rundgang, and other little trails and back-roads all over. There are wooded little hills around here -- the Hüttener Berge -- that add enough challenge to any run.
Country road on the Bistensee trail
This fun run will follow part of the lake trail as an out-and-back. But if you want to do the whole thing, it's described here, as I've been down there quite a few times. The trail on the other side of the lake is badly marked in a few spots, though, so be prepared to hunt around for the right trail if you decide to do the lake loop.

We'll start the run at the southeast corner of the lake, where the road into the campground -- Uferweg -- begins. This is right at the southern city-limits sign for Bistensee village.
Start of the run: take the trail to the left!
Right after the turnoff onto Uferweg, you'll see a map of the lake and the trail. The road forks here: take the left-hand trail, bypassing the campground itself. You'll head past some fields and into a woods. Just follow the main trail through the woods, looking for the white trail signs with the blue picture of the lake.

The trail curves to the left through the woods, and comes out into another trail where you turn right and follow it along the south edge of the woods, heading west.

In just a couple of hundred meters, the trail ends at a little paved road. Turn left here and head south, with horse pastures to the left and a field and woods to your right. It will go down and back up a little valley next to the pasture.
The pastures
At the end of the pasture, there is a "Y" in the road, where you turn right, going past an idyllic farm with horse stables on the left side.

Just past the farm, turn left to head uphill along the trail, still following the lake-trail signs. This is a beautiful beech-tree woods. This is the hard part of the run, gaining 30 meters to the top.
Heading uphill in the woods
At the top of the ridge, you'll come to a dirt road, where you turn right and follow the road, with fields to the left and the wooded slope to the right. The road makes a zig-zag: first right, then left, and comes out above another pasture, spreading out along the hillside to the right, with a great view out over the lake and to the hills on the other side.
View from the ridge
At the far side (west side) of the pasture, the trail turns right to go into more woods. Just follow the dirt trail through the woods for 200 meters until you come to a trail-crossing. This is the turn-around spot for the short 5.9-km out-and-back: just head back along the same trail that you just came here with, with almost no traffic.

Bistensee Lake Loop Trail Route Map
If you want to continue with the 9-km lake loop, turn right at the trail-crossing and head down the steep, sandy trail to the little paved lake road (the one that we were on at the farmhouse).
Follow the Bistensee trail markers!
Now turn left and run past the beautiful thatched-roof café and pottery workshop, Töpferhaus, with a really nice lakeside hotel right behind it. Keep running westwards on the little road until it ends at a bigger road, connecting Alt-Duvenstedt with Ahlefeld. Turn right to run along the paved bike path and then turn right to run back towards the lake (this detours a farm that didn't let the lake trail through their property).

At the lake, you're now at a group of little lakeside holiday houses. Turn left here and follow this road past the narrow, west end of the lake. It will soon run back into the main road, but you can avoid running directly on the road by following the trail as it goes up on the right, bordering the next field.
Moss-covered stones in the woods
You'll come to a woods, where you turn right to leave the main road and follow the dirt road bordering the woods. That trail ends, and turns left, into the woods. In a short time you need to turn right, then turn right again onto the first really little path, that follows the edge of the woods (this is where the trail signs are a bit lacking).

You'll leave the woods by going through a gate to cross a cow-pasture, then exiting through another gate. Now follow more of the trail signs to get you through the next stretch of woods. At the end of the woods, the trail turns to the right (very narrow at this point) to go through more fields before coming directly to the lakeside.

Now, it's easy to follow the trail, as it continues right along the water for the next 1.3 kilometers. This is another really beautiful part of the trail, with nothing but trees and fields lining the lake.

The trail finally leaves the lake and comes right out into a little new neighborhood of wooden single-family houses in Bistensee village. Run past the houses to the main street, where you turn right and head through the village, back to the starting point.