Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Barbados West Coast Running Route

Length 4.5km (2.8 miles), terrain goes up hill

Article and photos by John Griffith

For more running routes, see the Route List!

This is the latest entry in John's Jogging the World series, which takes him to some of the most beautiful spots around, described as only John can do it. Thanks, sir! See more of his articles at the Route List.

Need some exercise? Go for a rum.

For an island that brews one of the world’s finest spirits (Mount Gay Rum) it’s not a little ironic that its most famous son is called Sobers.  Barbados is not an island for alcoholic temperance or indeed temperance of any kind yet here I am returned, almost intact, from ten days of sunshine and pepper sauce with a cheeky Easter holiday under the belt.

I took my Newton shoes (bit of a statement) but I only did one run as the roads and beaches are not conducive.  What I did do was swim with turtles, dance at the Oistins weekly fish fry on Friday night, mono-ski (yeah-man, still got it), eat for England (Lobster at “Lobsters Alive”) and of course drink to Olympic standards whilst trying to maintain a sense of decorum.
Island house
It’s been 25 years since me and Mrs G went to Barbados for our honeymoon and so we decided to go back to see how (if) things had changed from the comfort of Crystal Cove on the west coast.  Barbados has developed significantly in that time and is probably the most expensive and desirable Caribbean island but it is worth a visit.  Prices have surged with the arrival of Cliff Richard, Simon Cowell and Mr Abramovich but it still has charm, a local feel and if you keep clear of the more expensive resorts it’s good value too.

The North Point gives you a grandstand view of Atlantic rollers crashing into the cliffs below.  You can stand in safety to watch waves the size of cathedrals do battle with menacing black cliffs.  Each swell is like a line of double-decker buses, six abreast, driving headlong into Westminster Abbey.  Awesome is too small a word.
Spectacular breakers at North Point
My one run took in a short section of the not too appropriately named “Highway 1” and a 3k climb towards the centre of the island.  Highway 1 bears the Barbados Marathon which goes from Bridgetown north for 13 miles and back.  You weave past Mahogany trees that have lifted the pavement (where there is one) and pass empty beaches and posh, gated hotels (Sandy Lane’s cheapest room is £1500/night -- or about US$2300).  Opposite Tamarind Cove Hotel take off inland at the Roti Shop and head uphill.
Mahoganies warping the pavement along Highway 1
You pass derelict Windmills (there are 506 in Barbados – second in density only to Holland) and small churches conveniently close to Rum Shops.  Lining the roads are colourful Chattel houses which are dismantled and moved from old to new foundations when occupants move on. 

The hill we chose to attack went on forever and to be honest, not knowing the area well or whether we could loop back we stopped and turned around after 3k or so.  But the views of along the white sandy west coast from several stopping points are spectacular and worth the climb.

You have to love this island and its people; it’s more than beautiful and proud of its heritage.  Despite being a poor spot for runners I was made more than welcome and I left wanting more.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Bamberg River Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 6.2 km (3.8 miles), terrain flat

For other Bamberg routes, see Route List

If the Historic Hills Bamberg Route is extremely hilly, this one is guaranteed to let you recover with a nice, flat out-and-back run, heading south along the Regnitz riverside. This run can be done completely without hills, if you return home on the same side of the river. Otherwise, there is a long uphill stairway when you re-enter the town if you return on the other side of the river. The choice is yours.

This route starts just around the corner from the start of the Historic Hills route, at the old harbor on the western arm of the Regnitz River. This is where the Lange Straße meets the river. The old iron cranes standing here used to hoist cargo from the river barges onto the quay. The stone building on the right with the steer sculpture used to be a slaughterhouse. 

Bamberg harbor crane, Michaelsberg in distance
You can see the cathedral towers rising above the hill across the river, and the twin steeples of massive St. Michael's on the next hill to the right. Beautiful spot!

Turn to your left and start running southwards along the path directly along the river. You will immediately go under the two bridges spanning the river to the old town hall perched on its tiny island in the middle of the current.
Under the upper bridge, view to Geyerswörth castle
The path curves around to the left, where a canal flows into the river. The houses along this stretch of the canal used to be leather-working shops, where the tanning process used (and badly polluted) lots of river water.

At the first pedestrian bridge over the canal, turn right, then turn right again to follow the path back along the river again. You are now running around the red Geyerswörth castle, and you get a great view of the old town hall out there in the river.
Old town hall, from Geyerswörth
The path curves around the castle towards the south. Now all you do is keep running straight southwards. For the next 2 blocks, buildings block your view of the river to the right, as you run down Geyerswörthstraße. The street ends at Nonnenbrücke, where you turn right and run the 100 meters back to the river.

Just turn left there to continue running south, with the river to your right side. In a minute, you'll pass the last riverside houses. From now on, there is parkland on the left side of the river and wooded hillsides along the other side, to the west.
River path as it leaves town
After a kilometer, the path goes under a busy car bridge that crosses the river high overhead. Keep running straight south along the water.

You are now in Louisenhain park, with a little botanical garden, a pond and pedal-boat rentals in the river. There is scheduled to be a Bavarian state garden show (Landesgartenschau) in the park in 2012, so they are fixing it up a lot.
Sometimes the path has water on both sides!
After another 700 meters, you hit the southern tip of the island (the main Bamberg old town is on an island, with the Regnitz flowing around it). The pedal boats are moored up here.

So now you have to make your choice: either head back the same way you just came, maybe looping through more of the park first, or else crossing the river on the pedestrian bridge here and running back on the other (west) side. The path on the other side is stonier, so it's better to stay on the east side if it's getting dark. Plus, the western path is blocked by Concordia Palace when you get back to town, and you have to take a long uphill set of steps to go up and around it. I like that way though, because it takes you through an otherwise unseen part of the old town.

I'll describe that way back here:

Cross the pedestrian bridge and turn right to run northwards up the west bank of the river. This is more natural than the parkland across the river. There are wooded hills lining the whole way. 
ETA Hoffmann path back to town
The way is named after Bamberg author ETA Hoffmann, who wrote, among other stories, the Nutcracker tale that Tchaikovsky based his ballet upon.

When you reach town again, 1.5 km later, you'll see the golden stones of Concordia villa ahead of you. Take the stairway leading up to the left (it's the only way you can go). It ends at a little lane called Alter Graben, where you keep going straight to the first corner, Oberer Stephansberg. Turn right to run downhill on that street, passing St. Stephan's church on the left.
Unterer Stephansberg
The street curves to the left as it gets narrower and steeper, and flows into Unterer Stephansberg, then into Judenstraße.
Doorway along Stephansberg
 Cross Kaulberg street at the traffic light and then cross the square ahead of you.

Then turn right on Schranne and head straight downhill, past the beautiful Brudermühle Hotel, with its baroque decorations, and head right over the bridge spanning the river.
Brudermühle Hotel: not bad!
You are now back at Geyerswörth castle again, where you turn left and retrace your steps the last few hundred meters back to the harbor.