Friday, 13 April 2012

Cologne Green-Belt Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 7.1 km (4.4 miles)

For more Cologne routes, see the Route List.

This is Cologne's (Köln) most popular running trail, without a doubt. You'll find more runners, bicyclists, soccer players, jugglers and tightrope-walkers along this stretch of parkland than you'll find in the entire rest of the city.

The Innerer Grüngürtel (inner green-belt) was created in the 1920s, on the spot where the city's previous fortifications stood. The fortified belt formed a half-circle around the western half of Cologne.

NOTE: See the Historic Cologne route for a visit to one of the surviving forts.

Map of old fortifications, now home of the green belt, thanks to WikiMedia
After World War I, Germany was ordered to tear down the extensive defense forts that were built by the Prussians in the previous century. The mayor at that time, Konrad Adenauer, had the vision to turn it into parkland.

Or at least a lot of was turned into parkland. Some sections were used for railway lines and expressways, and so the park isn't continuous. This route, will loop through the continuous part of the green-belt, through a variety of lawns, ponds, hills and athletic fields.

We'll start the run at the university campus, at Zülpicher Straße. It's easily reached with tram line 9, at the Universität station. We'll run northwards, staying along the inner side of the half-circle (the eastern edge, along the right) on the way out, and come back along the other side, just for variety.
The start, at the university
Looking north over the sunken lawns ahead of you, you'll see the red Info Cafe at the Mensa, the campus cafeteria on the right side. Head north on the dirt, tree-lined path. Sycamores line the paths through much of the green-belt.
Sycamore-lined path
After crossing the first cross street, you'll start climbing the first small hill. The hills in the green-belt aren't natural: they're piles of rubble dumped there after the city was bombed flat during World War II. Running over the hill, you'll see a square pond ahead, the Aachener Weiher. This area is called Hiroshima-Nagasaki Park.
The Aachener Weiher
To the left of the pond is the East Asian Museum, with a Japanese garden, which we'll run by on the way back.

Stay on the right edge of the pond and cross the next street, Aachener Straße. Unfortunately, the cross walk ends in the middle of the street at a tram line 1 station. You'll have to jaywalk across the tram tracks and the next half of the street to get to the other side. Watch out!
Heading towards the TV tower
You now just keep running straight, crossing 2 more streets, and passing a few athletic fields. You are running right towards the TV tower.
A soccer game in the park
After passing the tower, you'll cross one more street, Subbelrather Straße, and enter the last part of the green-belt. This part has the biggest hill, Herkulesberg. You can climb the hill or stay down on the lower paths, as you please. If you take path to the top, you'll see Cologne's Media Park off to the right, home to some of Germany's biggest TV networks.

At the top of the hill, head down by using the steps through the woods on the north side. You are now at the half-way point of the run. The idea now is to stay on the west side of the green-belt on the way back.
Running up the Herkulesberg
The steps end up down at the loud street, Innere Kanalstraße, with a paved pedestrian/bike lane with a white line running down the middle. You can follow the white line back, but the next 2 blocks are very loud along the west edge of the park. So I would recommend to follow the way you came by taking the path to the left, until you cross back south of Subbelrather Straße again. Then head to your right to follow the path along the west edge.
The way back from the Herkulesberg
 On the west path, it is simpler to cross the streets, with more zebra stripes and fewer traffic lights.

When you reach the Aachener Weiher pond again, you can run along its west side, next to the museum, and see the little Japanese garden there.
Japanese garden pond at the East Asian Museum

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