Monday, 20 February 2012

Istanbul Bosporus Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 4.9 km (3 miles), terrain flat except for a short hill-climb at the end
NOTE: I ran this in Istanbul's coldest winter in 30 years, dodging frozen puddles along the seawall. May your run be in more pleasant circumstances!

Istanbul running routes:
Istanbul Sultanahmet old town route
Istanbul Bosporus shore run 

For more running routes, see Routes List.

NOTE: The Sultanhamet route picks up along the water where this one ends.

Here's a route that compliments the other route in Istanbul's old-town Sultanahmet neighborhood. But this one spends more time in parks and the Bosporus waterfront, letting you get away from the sometimes maddening bustle of the city.
Winter tourists at the obelisk
The route will start at the same spot as the other run, at the Egyptian obelisk on the Hippodrome. It will then curve through Gülhane Park, under the gaze of Topkapi Palace, then continues curving along the waterfront path, southwards, then westwards along the Bosporus, following the old city walls.

The waterfront is also Istanbul's most popular jogging track. It's the only place that I've seen other runners.

So, off we go, heading to the start, at that magnificent setting of the Hippodrome. Take a moment to experience the two obelisks, the chopped-off serpents' column, the Blue Mosque on one side, the Turkish and Islamic Art museum in the old Pasha's palace on the other side, and the Hagia Sophia (holy wisdom) in the distance.

Turn towards the north, looking at the red Hagia Sophia and start running. Further down the Hippodrome, you'll pass the German Fountain, donated by Kaiser Wilhelm II during his visit to Sultan Abdülhamid II in 1898.
Side view of Hagia Sophia
At the end of the Hippodrome, join the main street, Divan Yolu Caddesi, with the tram tracks and follow it downhill for a few hundred meters. You can see a small white column across the street, the only piece left of a triumphal arch that once marked the spot from which all distances were measured to the Byzantine capital (the milestone of the empire). Right behind it is the entrance to the impressive underground cistern, Yerebatan. Make sure you visit it sometime!

Running downhill next to the tram tracks, you'll see the old Topkapi walls straight ahead at the next curve. Run straight into the arched opening through the wall into Gülhane Park on the right.

Gülhane Park fountain
Once you're inside the iron park fence, you have a choice of following the main path as it curves slowly to the right, or take the side-path on the right side, just underneath the hilltop Topkapi palace grounds. Either way, this is a breath of fresh air for getting away from the mobs pushing through the streets, and the annoyingly aggressive sidewalk salesmen.

Higher path below Topkapi
You leave the park at the east end, where you need to cross the busy shore road, Kennedy Caddesi.

Now you turn right and start running along the Bosporus waterfront, with a view across to the Asian side. The traffic can be loud at times, but normally it's not too bad.
Foggy view northwards across Bosporus fishing boats and Europa Bridge
On the other side of Kennedy Caddesi, the ancient city walls line the whole route. Sometimes the walls are intact, other times in ruins. And sometimes you'll see gates and the remains of buildings built into the walls.
Monument to Admiral Piri Reis from water below Topkapi
You'll pass the lighthouse as the route curves westwards. Later you'll come to another modern shipping tower, with a radar antenna rotating on top, standing at a little harbor.

Heading to the lighthouse
Just past the radar tower, the space on the left opens up into a park, and you can head to the paved path directly along the water. It's a great spot, spoiled only by the plentiful garbage lying about, left by the local fishermen.

But we won't be running along the park for long. There is a round, white building along the street, then a gas station. Right after the gas station, cross back to the right to the street and run back to the traffic light to cross the street, run through the city walls and under the railroad bridge.

NOTE: the Sultanahmet route continues westwards along the water where this one heads back, if you want to hear how it looks further on, along the shore.

You are now running up Aksakal Caddesi, going uphill towards a curved, red-brick-lined embankment straight up the hill. The embankment is holding up the rounded, south end of the Hippodrome, and is the only part of it left standing.
Hippodrome embankment below Marmara University
When the street joins the embankment, turn right and continue heading uphill along the embankment. The buildings of Marmara University now occupy that south end above the embankment.

At the top, you'll come out at the Turkmenistan restaurant at the south end of the Hippodrome.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Istanbul Sultanahmet Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 4.9 km (3 miles), terrain mainly flat with hill-climb near the end

Istanbul running routes:
Istanbul Sultanahmet old town route
Istanbul Bosporus shore run 

For more running routes, see Routes List

This route hits the water just where the Bosporus route leaves it.

NOTE: To avoid the tourist masses that daily flood the area between the Hippodrome and Topkapi, try to run in the mornings.

If you were smart enough to book a hotel in Istanbul's Sultanahmet neighborhood, the heart of the old town, then here is a route that will take you past all the main sights. This is an inspiring route, indeed, heading past the greatest glories of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires.
The Blue Mosque, with stray dog
We'll start at the Hippodrome, at the Blue Mosque, then head past the Hagia Sophia, past Topkapi palace, through the beautifully restored section of Sultanahmet, then down to the Bosporus waterside to the fishing harbor before heading back to the Hippodrome. This will entail a run downhill, and then back up at the end: but Istanbul is built on top of a ridge of hilltops beside the water, so there is no way around it.

So, let's not waste any time: time to hit the streets!

The starting point is at the Egyptian obelisk in the Hippodrome, that long, paved plaza in front of the Blue Mosque. The Hippodrome was built by the Romans as a horse-racing stadium seating 30,000. The stadium seats have long been carted away to be used in the many Ottoman building projects, but the north/south-oriented open space has remained.
The Hippodrome
The obelisk was placed there by Emperor Theodosius, and its marble base depicts him watching the horse races from his royal box. To the south of the Egyptian obelisk is the surviving base of a spiraling bronze snake column, which the grateful Greek cities once donated to Delphi to celebrate their victory over the Persians, using the Persians' melted-down weapons.

And just south of that stands the masonry obelisk, still showing the holes where the gold-plated bronze plates once depicted the successes of one of the Byzantine emperors.

But the real star of the scene is the Blue Mosque, sitting off to the east side of the plaza, its 6 minarets and huge dome dominating the horizon. Definitely take time later to visit it and see its beautifully-worked interior.

So now, turn north and run up the Hippodrome, towards the red hulk of the next amazing building: the Hagia Sophia. This impressive structure has withstood invasions and earthquakes for about 1500 years. Built by Emperor Justinian, it was the greatest church in Christendom. When the Turks stormed the city in 1453, Sultan Mehmet rode into the church on his horse and turned it into a mosque. After the Turkish revolution of 1922, it became a museum, and you can visit its mix of Moslem and Christian symbols, in its semi-restored state. I wonder what it would look like if someone did a first-class job of restoring the interior...
Heading towards the Hagia Sophia
We'll just run past it, staying along the left side of the fence (you have to pay 10 lira to get inside, but time for that later). DON'T run down the main street with the tram tracks, but take Cankurtaran street along the Hagia Sophia fence.

Stay on Cankurtaran street until the street ends by running straight to the battlement-topped walls of the sultan's Topkapi palace grounds. Turn right there to run uphill on Soguk Cesme street between Hagia Sophia and the palace walls. There is a row of wooden houses lining the stone walls on the left. The houses all belong to one hotel, with suites in each house: not bad!
Wooden houses along Topkapi walls
The street leads to an open space, and the massive gates to Topkapi on the left, and a beautiful pavilion straight ahead in the street. Turn right here to run along the east side of Hagia Sophia. We'll then zig-zag once through the nicest part of Sultanahmet now to see more of its beautifully restored wooden houses.
Gate inscriptions at Topkapi palace
Running south along Kabasakal, you are passing, on the left side, a long, open archaeological dig of what was once part of the Byzantine emperor's palace grounds. A fire destroyed the modern building on the site, letting archaeologists explore the area, which they've been doing for years.
The ladies' baths
Then, the first building on the right after the Hagia Sophia is the women's baths, with their interesting bubble windows. The street ends at Dalbasti street, where you turn left (eastwards) and run to the end, at Kutlugun. You might see various stray dogs around here, but don't worry: they seem to be pretty contented, and are totally uninterested passing joggers.

This is the nicest neighborhood in the old town. It's full of beautifully restored buildings, now used as hotels and restaurants. Few Turks live in this small area now, but if you head down the hill to the east, the neighborhood is less dominated by tourists.

Turn left at Kutlugun and run back to the Topkapi walls again, where you turn right and go a further block before you zig back south again on Akbiyaik. This is the main entertainment street in the neighborhood. Follow it past all the hotels, restaurants and cafés as it curves to the left and starts to head downhill. Just before it goes under the railroad bridge, turn right on Akbiyik Degirmeni street, just before the nice hotel.
Along Akbiyik Street
This street is already a bit less touristy, with some unrestored homes. Turks live here, and you can get a feel for normal Istanbul life as you run through the neighborhood.

The street winds just inside the railroad line. Just stay to the left when you don't know where to go.

Eventually, it will come out at a little plaza where you can see the cross-street go downhill under the train tracks, on Aksakal street. Look to the right, uphill, and you'll see the rounded brick support wall of the south end of the Hippodrome.

NOTE: the Bosporus running route connects up to this one at this spot.

Turn left to run south on Aksakal, under the train tracks and past the ancient city walls, running straight to the Bosporus water. Cross the shore road, Kennedy Caddesi, and turn right to run past the gas station, where you can finally turn left to run into the waterside park. The old city walls line the scene along the right side.
Head straight west along the water
There is a smooth walkway right along the water. You are now heading westwards, towards the fishing harbor in the distance. When you reach the first fish restaurants at the harbor, turn right to cross Kennedy Caddesi and head back into town.
The fishing harbor and restaurants
You are now running uphill on Cap Ariz, and the neighborhood has the feel of a fishing village, full of fish restaurants. When you reach the fish fountain on the roundabout, turn diagonally to the right onto the semi-pedestrian street, Ustad. This is a tough uphill stretch. Sorry about that! Walk parts of it if you need to. You will run about 11 blocks until the street ends at Talli Kuyu street.
The fish fountain: follow that guy in the black coat up Ustad!
Turn right to run along this neighborhood shopping street. Near the end, you'll run past a few expensive hotels, including the Santa Sophia Hotel. The street then curves to the left, going uphill.

It ends at Paykane street, where you turn right and run the five blocks back to the south end of the Hippodrome.