Saturday, 8 December 2012

Graz Old Town Running Route

Click here for route map
Length up to 4 km (2.5 miles), terrain contains one steep hill of 100 meters (can be avoided)

Note: these pictures were taken on a few frosty December mornings. I hope to one day run it in summer weather!

Graz Routes List:
Leechwald half-marathon hill trail  
Graz old-town loop 

For more running routes, see the Route List

If you're staying in or near the old town in Graz (and if you're in Graz, make sure you do!), here's a great route to take. It's short, but takes on the steep climb up to the top of the castle hill. But if you don't feel like doing the hill-climb, you can easily just circle around it.
Florist in the Graz old town
What better way to take in some of the most interesting spots in this UNESCO World Heritage Site than to include them in your morning/evening run?

We'll start the route on the south side of the old town, at Kaiser-Josef-Platz, across from the opera. This little market square hosts an old-fashioned farmers' market every morning, and is also located across from the south end of the Stadtpark.
The farmers' market in front of the opera
So, looking at the imposing classical facade of the opera-house, cross Glacisstraße and run into the Stadtpark towards the right side. Stadtpark was created from the old city fortifications that zig-zagged their way around the old town, heading northeast, then north. You can either run in the wider park area along the eastern edge or run directly along the top of the raised dike that is still left over from the old ramparts.
In Stadtpark, along the dike
You will cross two streets that bisect the park, and continue running northwards. The old arch-duke's palace is behind the ramparts to the left.
Stadtpark, the palace ramparts
Follow the dike as it curves towards the left (westwards), as it heads directly towards the castle hill.

You'll come to some tennis courts, and another street heading towards an old city gate to your left.

You could just run straight past the sign that maps the trails up to the hilltop and run through the woods right to the top.
The Paulustor (St. Paul's Gate)
But I like seeing a bit more of the old town, so let's turn left and run through the city gate, heading south on Paulustorgasse.

NOTE: If you don't want to run up the hill, just continue running westwards along Wickenburggasse, with the hill to your left. Just keep the hill directly to your left side. You will come to a tram line right at the Mur River. Now follow Kaiser-Franz-Josef-Kai southwards, still keeping the hill to your left. You will rejoin the route at Schlossbergplatz.

In the old town, you'll pass some museums and the police headquarters occupying some old barracks. When you come to an open plaza on the left (Karmeliterplatz) with a column topped by Maria, turn right to go through the arched gateway through the house on the right side.
Heading up the castle hill
You are now running uphill, following a street that curves to the right. At the first footpath on the left, follow it as it zig-zags up to the hilltop 100 meters higher.

You come into the castle area at the clock-tower, with its wooden walkways. There are some great viewpoints there towards the south, over the whole old-town.
The castle clock tower
Continue running uphill past what is left of the main castle buildings. Almost everything was torn down after Napoleon conquered Austria 200 years ago, but a few small buildings remain.

At the very top, you'll pass the round, white bell-tower and come to a terraced park, with great views to the west.
The castle
Now turn around and run back down to the clock-tower and take the stairs that go down the west side of the hill, along the steep cliffs.
View from the castle hill
You'll come down to Schlossbergplatz, where you turn left and run southwards down Sackgasse, following the tram tracks.

In 200 meters, you'll come to a triangular plaza, Hauptplatz, with the domed town hall standing behind it. This is one of the main tram stations in town. If you continued straight, you'd run down the main shopping street, Herrengasse.
Hauptplatz facades: turn left here on Sporgasse!
But we'll turn left right at the beginning of the plaza, on Sporgasse, then turn right on Färbergasse to run southeastwards through the heart of the old town. There are a lot of little courtyards going off to each side, each fascinating to go exploring some time.

You'll pass the bishop's square, then the house with a Glockenspiel (figures that appear at certain times while bells chime).
The old royal bakery in the old town
When the street ends at another small square, turn left down Einspinnergasse to the first cross-street, where you turn right and run down Burggasse the last two blocks between the opera and Stadtpark to Kaiser-Josef-Platz again.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Graz Leechwald Running Route

Click here for route map
Length up to 21.3 km (13.2 miles), terrain hilly, with a gain of more than 500 meters

Graz Routes List:
Leechwald half-marathon hill trail  
Graz old-town loop

For more running routes, see the Route List

Here is a great run if you want to do some trail running in the woods while you're in Graz. The Leechwald trail follows a wooded ridge-line east of the city center, providing beautiful vistas along the way.
Along the Leechwald trail
It is basically an out-and-back run, heading northeastwards, with a 6-km loop at the end, before heading back on the same trail. It goes uphill at the beginning, then rises only gradually the rest of the way until the halfway point, although the loop goes downhill, then uphill before it connects back to the return trail.

The run has been laid out as a half-marathon. I only ran the first half of the route, so I can't describe the rest, but it's well-marked, so run as far as you please. Just follow the "Leechwald" signs with the picture of the running shoe.
Just follow the Leechwald signs
Here's a link to the sponsor's description of the route, in German: Leechwald Run.

You can run the entire route or turn around any time you want. There are quite a few runners out on the trail any time of the day. The way is well marked: every half-kilometer there is a distance marker. You basically follow the main ridge-top trail the whole time.

The first five kilometers of the route, till Mariatrost, is dirt, and the rest is paved. The dirt section is also lit by streetlights at night.

You can easily reach the starting place by taking the number 1 tram line towards Mariatrost, getting out at the Hilmteich/Botanischer Garten stop. The trail-head is directly across the street from the tram stop, at the Hilmteich pond.

The pond occupies the center of a little park, and is full of rental rowboats in the summer.
Hilmteich in winter
Begin the run by turning your back on the pond, at the "Start Leechwald" sign, next to an arial map of the route. Run southwards with the woods to your left side, parallel to Hilmteichstraße. After just 100 meters, you'll see a small path going uphill to the left, at the "Waldschule" sign.

In 50 meters, you will hit the main path, where you turn left again and run northeastwards, continuing uphill.

Follow the path uphill as it winds through the woods. The trail is well-kept, made of hard-packed clay and gravel. This first part of the trail is also marked with "Menschenrechts Weg" signs for the first kilometers.

You will pass a white villa and then an animal refuge ("Wildtiere im Not").

Then, before the first half-kilometer marker, you'll pass a tall brick tower. You have now reached the top of the ridge, and the trail flattens out as you run with a fence to the left side.
The tower
Now just follow the trail. Sometimes you'll feel like you're in wilderness, other times you'll pass by houses that have been built up the hillside.
Along the ridgeline
After the two-kilometer marker, the dirt trail turns to the right, becoming a paved street called Roseggerweg, going through a small neighborhood. You will now get the first views of surrounding hills and the Mariatrost basilica.
View of Mariatrost from the trail
After another half-kilometer, Roseggerweg leaves the houses and goes back into woods.

After 5 km, you come to Mariatrost, a huge pilgrimage church and monastery complex built on the Purberg. Its yellow, double-towered baroque facade is visible from a long away. The trail, Roseggerweg, leaves the woods, and joins a paved street. If you went straight downhill for 100 meters, you would head towards the basilica. But, instead of continuing down the hill to the church, turn to the right at the modern wooden houses and continue running northeast through the woods.
Mariatrost from below
The trail turns into a paved road here. There are cars traveling this section, sometimes few, sometimes a lot. So if you don't want to run on the street, turn around here.

The road goes by some big farm fields, then back into the woods. I turned around there, at the 6-km marker, so the rest of the description is just what I could see from the map.
Abandoned farmhouse along the way
When the trail comes back out into open fields again, it will come to another crossing, shortly before the 7-km marker. You will now go straight along Schaftalberg. The trail will then follow a 7-km loop to the south and return to this point.

So now, run straight, and follow the road until it ends at a farmhouse on a cross-road, Reindlwaldweg, at about 8.8 kilometers. There you turn right and run south.
View from the Leechwald trail
This road ends just above a village, Edelsbach, on a big road called Schillingsdorfer Straße. Turn right on Schaftalweg and head back northwards and uphill to the crossroads where the loop began.

At the cross-roads, at about 13.5 km, turn left and head back on the same way as you came.