Friday, 16 March 2012

Bamberg Historic Hills Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 4.8 km (3 miles), terrain hilly

For more Bamberg routes, see Route List

Bamberg is a medieval jewel, so count yourself lucky if you get to spend some time there. The town has everything that any ancient city needs to be interesting to visitors: beautiful stone churches, medieval statuary, lots of half-timbered houses lining rivers and streams, narrow alleys winding their way along hillsides, market squares, monasteries, ancient breweries and vineyards, palaces, fountains, parks and crooked old inns.

Bamberg's old town hall
The whole place has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, being one of the few mid-sized German towns that wasn't bombed flat in the war.

Bamberg actually has 3 old-towns: the Inselstadt (Island Town) which is the main old-town on the big island in the Regnitz river, the Bergstadt (Hill Town) going up the hillsides to the west of the island, and the Gärtnerstadt (Gardener Town) to the east. The Gärtnerstadt has louder streets, so I left it out of this route, concentrating on the other two sections.

This route will first head up the hills of the Bergstadt and then do a loop through the Inselstadt. The Bergstadt is the clerical part of town, tradionally ruled by the Bamberg bishop. It's full of churches, monasteries and antique shops. The Inselstadt is tradionally the citizen-ruled town, formerly run by the patrician families. This is where the main market squares and shopping areas are.

Bamberg shop front: is something crooked here?
That's why they built the old Rathaus (town hall) on a tiny island between the two parts of town, a neutral spot that binds both halves together.

The Historic Hills Run
So, ready to go? We'll start at the Obstmarkt (fruit market) on Lange Straße in the Inselstadt, close to the old town hall. Head westwards uphill along Obere Brücke, past the old shops and pubs to cross the stone bridge to the town hall. The sculptures and the baroque facade on the building are pretty amazing.

Obstmarkt, heading for the town hall
Run through the archway in the Rathaus and straight up Karolinenstraße with its stone houses. Most are full of antique shops with very high-quality furnishings, looking like everything was once owned by a king.

Rathaus, Obere Brücke
This is, as I mentioned, the clerical side of town, traditionally full of churches, monasteries, theology schools and religious artifacts everywhere. Very Catholic.

The street curves upwards to the right, going up the hill to the cathedral and the bishop's palace. You will come up to a paved cobble-stone plaza with the 700-year-old, 4-towered cathedral (Dom) to your left. 

Bamberg cathedral
Go up to the main entrance and look at the old carvings, including ancient lions, and Adam and Eve flanking the doorway.
This is one mighty old lion
Inside the cathedral are some of the best medieval sculptures in the world, and it's well worth coming back again later to go inside.

Across the square is the bishop-prince's palace. Back then, the bishops' offices were often hereditary, with an aristocratic lord filling the double role of bishop and local prince.

On the north side of the square is the older kaiser's court, with its really archaic carvings. Take a close look. There is another Adam and Eve, but here they are hairy. Back then, the German king/kaisers had no fixed capital city, they travelled from one castle to another, always on the move, with a court of 400 people in their caravan. This was their Bamberg castle. Kaiser Heinrich II also built the cathedral.
Entrance to Kaiserhof, reclining hairy Eve in upper right
Now follow the street up past the palace as it curves past other palace-like buildings. Off to the right, on the next hill, you'll see Michaelsberg, the huge former Benedictine monastery crowning the next hill. That's where we are heading next.

The street gets very narrow, and comes to an intersection in front of St. Jakob's church. Turn right and run downhill on Michaelsberger Straße, then back uphill again (sorry about that!).

At the front of the monastery, turn right to go through the gate and then head to the left side of the huge open courtyard, where you can get a great view towards the north.

In Michaelsberg courtyard
Now turn around and go back out the front gate again, turning left and then turning right again after just a few steps, going down Storchsgasse.

NOTE: To turn this into a REAL Historic Hills Run, you could head straight out from the monastery, running uphill along St.-Getreu-Straße, past the palace-like psychiatric institute (those lucky, crazy Bambergers) until you reach the wooded hilltop, where you can keep going for kilometers. You can either curve southwest to scenic little Altenburg Castle, on its own hilltop, or just follow the ridge westwards through the Steigerwald. I've been out that way a few times, and it's nice!
The Steigerwald begins here!
At the end of this short street, turn left on Jakobsberg to run back towards St. Jakob's. But at the back end of the church, turn right to run downhill on Sutte.

After a few blocks, the street comes to a square where several streets come together, at the Koi Asian restaurant. Turn left here to run down the pedestrian/bike-way through the Domgrund, a park-like valley to the south of the cathedral hill.
In the Domgrund
At the end of the path, turn right and go up the steps to Unterer Kaulberg, right in front of the Our Lady church.

Now turn left and run downhill, where you cross the next square diagonally to the left and run down the little alley called Lugbank. The street ends at Dominikanerstraße, where you'll see the old Dominican monastery buildings on the right, now used as the "Aula", or lecture hall for the university.
Turn left and run down Dominikanerstraße (called Sandstraße soon). This street is full of Bamberg's most popular pubs and clubs in the evening. The street turns to the right, then left again, going past St. Elisabeth's chapel on the right.

Turn right on the first street after the chapel, Elisabethenstraße, at the fountain with the saint. In 2 blocks you've reached the river. Directly across the water is Kleinvenedig (Little Venice), a row of very picturesque old fishermen's houses lining the river.
Turn left and run northwards along the river, going under the first bridge and onwards. You'll run by another of the bishop's various palaces here at the river, now a 5-star hotel.

Cross the river at the modern pedestrian bridge to the new concert hall on the other side. The Bamberg Symphony now plays here, famous for their many classical recordings.

Head straight into the street called Weide, with the line of trees in the middle. This street curves to the right and hits the old town again after a busy intersection at Markusplatz.

Run straight on Kapuzinerstraße for one block, then turn left to run up Hinterer Graben. This street follows the line of the old city walls, which were right behind the houses on the left. The street becomes Vorderer Graben, curving around to the right.
Pedestrian street in Inselstadt
It ends at the old town guardhouse on Bamberg's main pedestrian shopping street. Turn right and run down this street straight back to the Obstmarkt.

You'll pass a square in front of the newer town hall (looks about 100 years old), then the main church, St. Martin's, built by the Jesuits, where another square begins. This second square is called the Grüner Markt (Green Market) and the street is often full of market stands. There is a Neptune fountain just before you get to the end, at Obstmarkt. Another nice hangout!
The Neptune fountain

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Berlin Tiergarten Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 9.3 km (5.8 miles), terrain flat

Images courtesy of Flickr CreativeCommons. Thanks!

Berlin Running Routes:
Best Berlin Running Routes: Overview 
Historic Berlin Mitte  
Tiergarten park 
Kurfürstendamm, heart of West Berlin  
Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin's coolest neighborhood  
Grunewald West  
Grunewald East
Potsdam Royal Residences
For more running routes, see the Route List.
And if you're interested in an essay on what makes Berlin so special, take a look at this Ode to Berlin, written in the transition days after the Wall came down.

If you're staying in central Berlin, there is a great stretch of green parkland just waiting for your running shoes to hit the ground. The Tiergarten (deer-park), a former royal hunting grounds, forms a varied greenland in the heart of the city, and touches on scenic buildings on every side: Bellevue Palace (German President's residence), the Congress Hall, the Kanzleramt (Chancellor's Office), Bundestag, Brandenburg Gate, Soviet War Memorial, Potsdamer Platz, the zoo, etc. And standing in the middle of the park is the impressive Siegessäule (victory column), a golden statue of winged-victory atop a column.
Breitscheidplatz and Memorial Church, photo by Stephan Jörgensen
This route will start at the west end of the park, at Breitscheidplatz, but you could just as easily start at the other end, at the Brandenburg Gate or at Potsdamer Platz, at the southeast corner.

This is a route that I often took in the years before the reunification of Germany, when Berlin was still divided by a wall. I sometimes worked in West Berlin, and the Tiergarten belonged to the western part of the city. The Berlin Wall ran right along the east edge of the park, separating it with the traditional center of town in East Berlin.
Typical Tiergarten, photo by Dimitri Karagiorgos
This route traces that way that I ran so often back then. The beginning, at Breitscheidplatz, was the heart of West Berlin life. The Europa Center on the east side of the square, with its revolving Mercedes star and disco on the top floor, served as a luring beacon of western desires into the darkened eastern side of the city, beyond the wall. Its amazing 2 water-powered clocks inside are worth taking a look at.

The western side of the square is occupied by the ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, left in ruins as a reminder of the war. The creative fountain landscape on the square is fascinating in itself, with bizarre figures populating the granite stones. From this spot, West Berlin's main street, the Kürfürstendamm heads off westwards (see the Kudamm run!), past a lively collection of cafés, cinemas, clubs, shops for kilometers.

The Tiergarten Run
To start the run, turn westwards and run past the memorial church. Then turn right and run north across Budapester Straße towards the Zoo Palast cinema, where you turn left and run to the plaza straight ahead. This is Hardenbergplatz, a busy drop-off spot in front of the Zoo train station.

Turn right at the plaza to run northwards past the side entrance to the city zoo, with its lion gates. Continue running northwards where you leave the square and find yourself on a sidewalk, with the zoo to the right and the train line to the left. The Tiergarten is straight ahead.

When you come to the canal at the back end of the zoo, cross the two footbridges over the island to the other side. There are boat locks here, and houseboats, a great spot to live.
Tiergarten canal, photo by Roland707
Turn right on the other side of the canal and follow the path along the north bank of the canal. The Tiergarten is directly on your left.

When you come to the next bridge, at Lichtensteinallee, turn left and follow this path into the park, with a little lake on the left and the Spanish embassy on the right side.

Keep running straight and you will come out at the traffic circle around the Siegessäule victory monument, with the golden angel on top. The Prussians built the column to celebrate their victories in wars with their neighbors, the Danes, the Austrians and the French. Streets fan out star-shaped from this spot. Various Love Parades have happened out here, Wim Wenders filmed here, and Barrack Obama even held a speech at this spot.
Siegessäule victory column, photo by strawberrycards
We will basically keep running straight through the park, but to do this, turn left to follow the circle around the column. You'll pass a few lonely-looking statues of Prussian generals before you turn left to continue running in the same direction again, along Spreeweg. Cars will be driving next to you, but this won't last long.

You'll soon be running by buildings in the presidential compound along the left side, then by Bellevue Palace, his residence. When you come to the Spree River, turn right to run eastwards along the riverside next to John-Foster-Dulles-Allee, with the park on the right. This is a lightly-traveled street.
Bellevue Palace, photo by silver pearl
Follow the street as it curves to the right, away from the river. It will then pass the Congress Hall on the left (called the "Pregnant Oyster" by locals), with its ponds out front. The building was a gift of the American people to the people of West Berlin back in the darkest cold-war days, but later the roof collapsed, and needed to be rebuilt. You might want to run closer to get a better view of this interesting building.

Continue following Dulles-Allee eastwards and you will come out into the large open square in front of the Bundestag building, the German parliament. The square has an oddly unplanned feeling, and it is indeed still in the same form as it was when the old Reichstag was a dark, unused hulk with the Berlin Wall running right behind it.
Bundestag, photo by margarebela
The Germans don't seem to know what to do with the area out front. Apparently, nobody has a good idea of a politically correct monument to put in this prominent spot, so they've avoided the subject.

Run straight across the square towards the front steps of the building. The Chancellor's office is to the left, behind you.

After you've taken in the front facade, turn right and run around the building to continue running southwards, with the Tiergarten to your right. In just 100 meters, you'll come to the Brandenburg Gate.

In the old days, the Berlin Wall followed this stretch. There was a sign standing here saying "You are now leaving the American Sector", to which some wise-guy added the comment: "and how?", with the gate-less wall blocking off the Brandenburg Gate looming up behind it.
Brandenburg Gate, photo by bildwunsch
It is worth running through the gate to see Unter den Linden, Berlin's most famous boulevard stretching eastwards ahead of you.

Now head straight back westwards into the Tierpark again, with the Brandenburg Gate behind you and the Siegessäule far ahead in the distance. This is the Straße des 17. Juni, named after the date of the East German uprising in 1953.

In just 200 meters, you'll come to a real cold-war leftover. On the right is a monumental statue of a Soviet soldier, flanked by World War II-era tanks and cannons. The Soviets insisted on building themselves a monument right here in West Berlin, and during the whole cold war it was guarded by Soviet soldiers. Now that the Russian army is long gone, the Germans didn't want to get the Russians mad at them, so they never asked them to take their monument with them. There are many other such monuments in about every East German town, including more in Berlin.
Soviet War Memorial, photo by Juan Falque
Cross the street directly in front of the Soviet memorial and run straight south into the southern part of the Tierpark.

At the second crossing path, Ahornsteig, turn right. Continue running on Ahornsteig as it crosses a few other paths, and then goes over a little pond with statues of some of the old Prussian royalty.
Tiergarten pond, photo by nikda
After some time, Ahornsteig will run into Großer Weg, which you follow until you get to the next cross-street, Hofjägerallee. Here, you turn left and run the one block to Stülerstraße, which runs along the south edge of the Tiergarten.

Turn right on Stülerstraße as it curves past a few embassies. At the next street, Rauchstraße, turn right to run into this interesting little neighborhood. There are a lot of creatively-designed modernistic apartment buildings in here, tucked away on the edge of the Tierpark.

Rauchstraße ends soon, where you turn left on Drake-Straße. In 100 meters you hit the canal that we first crossed to get to the Tiergarten. Turn right at the canal to run westwards along the water. At the next bridge, you'll see the zoo beginning on the left. You can now either follow the way home exactly as before, or cross the bridge to run on the path on the other side of the canal.