Friday, 31 July 2015

Budapest Margaret Island Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 5.5 km (3.4 miles), terrain: flat

I didn't take a camera on this run: thanks to Google Maps for the images!

The greenest, most popular run in Budapest is definitely the loop around Margaret Island (Margit-sziget) in the Danube. It has everything that a great running route needs: a scenic, shaded, waterside trail around a popular park, with views across the Danube, leading you past fountains, sports fields, a zoo, ancient ruins, hotels and the city's main outdoor swimming pools. And the trail has been paved in springy rubber matting, making it gentle on your legs.
On the soft Margaret Island trail, looking towards Pest
The 5.5-kilometer trail is easy to get to: just head to the middle of the Margaret Bridge (Margit-híd), either by foot or tram (lines 4 or 6). The bridge takes you to the south end of the island, which is right in the middle of town, just a few blocks west of the main train station (Nyugati).
The long, low spans of Margaret Bridge, with island on right
Standing there on the bridge, take the connecting bridge to the island. You are on the main pedestrian path, which goes up the middle of the island. But after the metal railing ends on the right side, take the steps down to the right, leading you to the waterside running trail.
Start of run from Margaret Bridge: straight onto the island
You'll recognize it immediately by the strip of red-rubber paving in the middle. Most people run it counter-clockwise, so we'll turn left and run northwards, with the water on your right side. Across the water, to the right, you can see the "Pest" side of Budapest, with its apartment buildings and lots of riverboats lining the shore.
The musical fountain
You'll now pass some of the main park attractions, like the musical fountain (the fountains dance in time to classical music, which is played at shows during the summer). You'll then pass a little zoo, where it's nice to run on the parallel path that goes directly along the zoo fence.
At the zoo
There are several parallel trails going up the island's interior, and maybe, for later runs, you might want to explore them, too.

You'll soon pass the foundations of an old Dominican monastery church, left over from the days when the whole island was a big monastery.
Dominican church ruins
After that, you'll probably notice the tall water tower in the center of the island, surrounded by a terrace restaurant: looks like a great hangout!
The water tower and restaurant
Now you'll come to a stretch next to a little road and parking lots for the island's two hotels: first the elegant Grand Hotel, and then the modern Danubius spa hotel.
The Grand Hotel from the trail
You're almost at the northern tip of the island now, with its big playground. There is another bridge here (the Árpád híd), but the trail turns to the left and goes under the ramp leading up to the bridge, then turns left again on the west shore of the island.

NOTE: If you want to double the length of the route, you could take the pedestrian ramp up to the Árpád bridge and cross it to the west, then turn right to take the first little bridge to Obuda Island, where you could also do a loop. Obuda is green but less park-like, with dirt roads and paths crossing grassy fields. The island is mainly known for its Sziget music festival every August.
Rounding the northern tip, around the playground
Now you're running south on Margaret Island with a view of Buda to the right.

This side of the island has a fence along much of the running track, to the land side. You'll run by a series of fenced-in swimming areas and an athletics stadium.
Along the western shore
If you look out over the river, you should be able to see the hills lining the river in Buda, to the south.
Passing the athletic stadium
After you run past the tennis club, the trail returns to the Margaret Bridge, where the trail curves to the left and goes under the span connecting the island to the bridge.

In just a few steps you'll see the stairs leading up to the left, taking you back to the main park entrance where you started.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Portoroz Salt Flats Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 11.2 km (7 miles), terrain: flat

If you're in Slovenia's main seaside resort, Portorož, then here's a waterside route that will take you to a quiet little bay away from all the other tourists. Just to the south of the main bay is a wide expanse of the Sečovlje salt flats, where local residents have been producing salt for hundreds of years.
Along the salt flats
The area was the sole supplier of salt to Venice in the centuries that Venice ruled the Adriatic coast. Most of the flats have been abandoned, but part of them are still used, and there is a salt-making museum for visitors. The whole area is wide-open, with vistas to Croatia on the far side of the bay, and waterbirds wheeling overhead.

And luckily, the way there includes a beautiful stretch of coast, with a marina, a long campground and then cliffs, parkland and quiet green hillsides full of olive trees and cane plants.

So, if you want to explore this quiet bit of coastline, get yourself to the beach promenade at the little white dome of the Portoroz tourist office, across from the Palace Hotel. This is the same starting point as the Piran route. But this time turn left and run southeast, with the water to your right side.
The start of the run at Portoroz beach
Looking out across the water, you'll see the green hill of the Seča peninsula across the bay: this is where we will run, and the salt flats lie behind it.

You'll run past the main Portorož beachfront, where you have to turn inland at the marina, heading east. You are now running along a canal full of little boats at their docks. The canal will soon come together with the main road into town, where you enter the neighboring town of Lucija, Portorož's uglier sibling. This is the dumb part of the run, but it doesn't last for long.

When you get to a traffic circle, follow the signs that point to the right for the marina and the bus-station.

You'll now run past a big parking lot, and the road, Cesta Solinarjev, will curve to the left.

When you almost get to the green Seča hill, you'll see a road to the right that leads to Kamp Lucija. Turn in here.
The Kamp Luzija campground
Don't worry about the gate at the campground entrance. It is open for all pedestrians: there's a public beach and park at the end of the campground. So now run through this stretched-out campground.

TIP: At the campground store and beachbar, there is a little restaurant that is open in the evenings, Gostilna Nonna Torca. It is run by one guy and his mother, and everything they do is by hand. They make their own noodles and bake the bread, and everything is fresh from the market. And the prices are quite reasonable. Try it out!

Right after the beach bar, you'll run past the swimming area, and then leave the campground through a fence-gate. You are now in a public park which goes around the west end of the Seča peninsula.
Running through the park, with Croatia in background
It curves to the left past some tall cliffs. There are exercise machines, and a little windsurf/kiters' camp.

When the park curves around to the left and you are now running eastwards, you'll pass another restaurant, Gostišče Ribič, located in a secluded spot at the end of the peninsula, which also has good seafood with a beautiful terrace.
Ribic restaurant: beautiful terrace!
You'll leave the park by getting on a little one-lane road that lines the north end of the salt-flats.

You'll first go by a little shipyard that works on wooden boats, on a little bay. Then the water narrows to a canal, which is full of little boats tied to home-made docks.
The shipyard
The Seča hill is now on your left side and the wide expanse of the salt flats is to the right. There is very little traffic along the road. There are olive fields and a few houses on the hillside.

Much of the salt-flat area is now included in the Sečovlje Salina Nature Park. The work was seasonal: when the local farmers had little to do on their farms, they moved into the little houses on the salt flats and made salt. Most of those houses are now in ruins.
View over the salt flats
Sluices are opened to flood the individual flats, and then are closed again to let the water evaporate and leave a thick layer of salt to rake together in the crystalization ponds.

You can follow the road until you get to a fenced-off factory grounds, between you and the canal. When you get to the factory gate, you'll see a little road heading over a bridge straight into the salt flats. Cross that bridge: you'll get a glimpse of the salt flats up close.

On the far side of the bridge is a gate into the Nature Park. This route officially ends here (it's already over 11-km) but you might want to continue into the flats to run in the wide-open country, with ponds in every direction.

Whenever you want to turn around, just follow the same way back home.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Venice Burano Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 3.7 km (2.3 miles), terrain: flat, you're in Venice, after all!

Venice running routes:
Giardini Park route
Burano route
For more running routes, see Route List.   

Anyone who has visited Venice's northern lagoon outpost, Burano, is immediately struck by the little island's village character: the simple, colorful, two-story fishermen's homes, the quiet little lanes lining narrow canals, the wide vistas to the distant other lagoon islands.
Canal-side homes in Burano
During the daytime there are a fair amount of visitors exploring the island, but nothing compared to the main attraction areas in Venice itself. And when the tourists leave in the evening, a shroud of tranquility slips back over the island, where the locals can step out into their village world, undisturbed.

That's the best time to be in Burano: mornings or evenings when a hush lies over the little alleys and only seagulls create motion along the waterfront. If you want to explore Burano yourself, just jump on a water bus (Motonave lines 12 or 13) from Fondamente Nove.
Housepainter's ladder reflects the colorful paint used on the island
Burano isn't very big, so this route isn't big either, but it's a nice little run. It only got this long by adding a loop through the connected neighboring island of Mazzorbo. Once you know Burano a bit, you might want to add some loops through the western part of town. I avoided that in this route because the ways twist and turn due to dead-ending at the canals.

So if you want to discover one of the most charming, colorful corners of Venice, let's disembark at the Burano ferry landing.
Houses off Corte Comare
When you step off the ferry, you'll see a little wedge of a park on the right, and a lane leading straight into the island, the Viale Marcello.

Follow Viale Marcello southwards the couple of blocks until it comes to the first little canal, at the Riva Rosa restaurant.

Turn left here and run eastwards past the colorful little houses until the canal makes an abrupt turn to the left. You can keep going straight by crossing the wooden bridge, which we'll do.
Along Via Galuppi
So now continue southeastwards on the town's main street, Via Galuppi, lined by little shops and restaurants. You'll see the church, San Martino, and its leaning bell-tower at the end of the street. It's amazing that the tower is still standing at all.

At the church square, keep left and run around the left side of the church to the waterfront behind it. The church square is flanked by the town offices, the Lace Museum and some other scenic, ancient buildings, and is the main hangout for the village kids in the evenings.
Kids at the church square in the evening
Now turn right and run the short way until the next canal blocks your progress, where your turn right again and run northwest along the canal back into town. You'll go by the best restaurant in town, El Gatto Nero (great fish!).

The canal ends by running into that first canal that we ran along earlier, this time in a different spot. Keep going straight by crossing the bridge, and you'll run through a quiet little square lined by more colorful little houses, along Strada di Corte Comare.
Boats at the marina
Keep to the left side of the square and run straight past the last houses into a little green park along the water. You'll see a tiny footpath curving to the right: take that path and it soon joins a real waterfront sidewalk at a little marina full of fishing boats.

Ahead, you'll see a long wooden bridge that connects Burano with its neighboring island of Mazzorbo, off to the left. Mazzorbo is not so densely packed: it's mainly covered by gardens and orchards, creating an airy, green contrast to Burano.

Cross the bridge to Mazzorbo, then turn left to run along the tree-lined trail, running southwest.
The promenade on Mazzorbo
You'll go past some new houses and then the cemetery, where the trail turns right and winds through some houses and comes out at the island's one little canal.

To add some distance, we'll turn left here and add a little loop along the canal. Run to the furthest little bridge over the canal, cross it, and then return to the spot where we joined the canal and its little footbridge.

Now cross the bridge to get back to where you were a minute earlier, and turn left to run north along the canal (water to your left side). The neighborhood definitely has a more rural character, with big gardens lining much of the way.
Running by the bell tower
Now the trail hits the north shore of this little island, where you have to turn right and run back northeast. At the bell-tower in the northern corner of the island, there is a little park which you can cut through, if you feel like a change of scenery.

The trail turns southeast there and you run back towards the bridge to Burano.

After crossing the bridge, just keep going straight, past the triangular park to the ferry landing straight ahead. There, one of the most charming places you've ever run!