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

Monday, 9 April 2012

Nantes Erdre River Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 10.25 km (6.4 miles)

Pictures courtesy of the creative folks at Flickr CreativeCommons. Thanks!

For more running routes, see the Route List!

Definitely the best route to run from the center of Nantes is up the Erdre River. There are paths along both banks, heading upriver for many kilometers, and the scenery is always nice: elegant buildings, pleasant neighborhoods, the university campus, woods, a Japanese garden, and lots of colorful boats and boaters of all shapes and sizes.
Along the Erdre, photo by gemineo
At the beginning, in the center of town, the Erdre looks like a canal set among formal monuments and gardens, but soon it becomes more natural, with occasional woods and ducks. The Erdre is unusual in that it actually gets wider the further upriver you go, looking more like a chain of lakes, although it is not dammed-up.

NOTE: Don't confuse the Erdre with Nantes' main river, the Loire. The Erdre flows into the Loire in Nantes, slipping the last 800 meters through the St. Felix Canal tunnel, past the old town. The Loire itself doesn't lend itself to nice running trails, with loud roads lining either side.

This route goes up the south bank for 5 km, crosses a bridge at Joneliere, and heads back along the other side.

So, if you've now laced up your running shoes, let's get to it!

The route starts at Quai Ceineray, where Rue de Strasbourg exits the north end of the old town. This spot is an old harbor, where river boats once unloaded their freight.
St. Felix bridge span, photo by Diane Naoned
Turn right on Quai Ceineray and run along the stone-paved embankment. On the right side you'll run past elegant regional government buildings.
Running towards the Isle de Versailles, photo by zamito44
After 200 meters, the path makes a 90-degree turn to the left to follow the water. The St. Felix Canal, heads off to the right here, under the raised square, emptying into the Loire 800 meters further east, at the train station.

The route description here is easy enough: just stay along the river. In a few spots, you need to go inland a bit to get around a woods, but just always keep heading left get back to the water, keeping the river on your left side.
Talk about colorful: houseboats on the Erdre, photo by Diane Naoned
You will pass all kinds of boats, including city "Navibuses", that are part of the local transport system. A lot of river barges have been converted to house-boats lining the river

In just 400 meters, you'll see a pedestrian bridge to the Japanese garden on the island, Isle de Versailles.

After the next bridge, where the Bateaux Nantais dock is located, there is a sign "Gare Fluvial", where you head down to the footpath at the side of the water. Most of the rest of the way, there is no more riverside road, just the quiet path.
Rowboats on the Erdre, photo by Diane Naoned
When you pass the next bridge in one kilometer, the Pont de la Tortiere, you will see the Nantes University campus across the river.
Erdre boardwalk, photo by Mypouss
Keep running along the riverside path. In another 600 meters, at the Navibus dock, the path turns inwards around a woods, but just take the first path to your left to continue northwards along the river.

Two kilometers later, after passing a boat club, you'll come to the turn-around point, where two bridges cross the river together at Joneliere. You need to go over the first bridge, the railroad bridge with the one long arch. The second bridge, the loud car-bridge for the NB44 road, has no pedestrian/bicycle lane. First run under the railroad bridge, then turn right to get onto the ramp which will take you up and over the bridge. Another ramp will take you down on the other side. 
Joneliere, photo by Guillaume Boisseau
NOTE: you could also just keep running northwards if you don't want to turn around yet. There is a lot more nice Erdre riverside scenery, including the Parc Floral Rosaraie, if you continue northwards.

So now you just run back again. Similarly, part of the way has only a walking path, part of the way follows parallel to a street. But the streets are fairly quiet on this side as well.