Sunday, 3 March 2019

Erfurt Old-Town Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 5.6 km (3.5 miles), terrain: easy, flat, gain 40 meters

Erfurt is packed with medieval beauty. The capital city of Germany's state of Thüringen isn't known by many people out there in the world, but Erfurt is a special place. And it's a great town for a memorable run.

This run will take you past many of the old-town's best sights: the unique house-lined bridge called the Krämerbrücke, the breath-taking cathedral hill, the Zitadelle fortress, the downtown, and the relaxed, green trails along the Gera River.
The Erfurt town hall
So, if you find yourself in this great little city and want to discover its treasures by foot, come along on this run through lots of great scenery!

To get running, let's first head to my favorite spot in town, the little park along the river at the north side of the Krämerbrücke. There, where the Augustiner beer-garden terrace meets the rippling water of the Gera there's a great view of the bridge. You can take in the beauty of the wall of half-timbered houses on top of the stone bridge, and see the old ford right next to it.
The Krämerbrücke
So let's get running: follow the path up onto the bridge and turn right to run over the Krämerbrücke, heading west. The walls of houses to each side make it hard to imagine that you're crossing a bridge. The old houses are home to a lot of nice tourist boutiques nowadays.
Crossing the bridge
When you exit the bridge, at Benediktplatz, the old synagogue is hidden in a courtyard across the square. Another great view of the bridge can be had if you turn to the right and look out from there.

Head straight out along Fischmarkt for the two blocks until you come to the real Fischmarkt square itself. This is one of the nicest spots in town, with the gothic town hall and some amazing renaissance houses gracing the Platz. We'll come back here again later for a closer look.
Zum Breiten Herd at the Fischmarkt
Now, keep going straight along the old shopping street, Marktstraße. You will run straight into the gigantic, open square in front of the cathedral hill, Domplatz. Sometimes there is a vegetable market there, but it never begins to fill this huge space.

The cathedral hill is pretty impressive, with its twin churches throning on the little hill across the square. The Gothic cathedral is to the left, and the three-steepled St. Severin's church on the right. Both are absolutely beautiful inside, and you should make sure that you come back later to explore.
Cathedral on left and St. Severin
But now, let's run up the steps that lead to the churches and run to the back side to take-in the view to the west.
At St. Severin
Now, run back down the steps and turn left to run to the north end of the Domplatz. There, on the next hill, Petersberg, thrones another highlight: the hilltop fortress called the Zitadelle.
Looking up towards the citadel
The stout stone walls beckon for a loop through the fort! So cross the street and head up the stone walkway heading up through the lawns along the hillside. There is a little vineyard to your left.

When you approach the walls, take the metal steps up to the higher road that heads into the main fort gate, Peterstor. The ornate gateway takes you through an archway below the fort commander's building.

Follow the cobblestoned lane as it continues upwards to the big open square. There is an old field-cannon there. Turn right and run through the square towards the big buildings to the right, along the north side.
The way up
There is a huge, abandoned barracks building and a romance-style stone building with an ill-fitting roof. The stone building is a thousand-year-old church, St. Peter's, which has a big history. It was part of an ancient Benedictine monastery which once stood here, next to the kaiser's castle. It was in this church that rebel duke Henry the Lion begged for forgiveness from Kaiser Barbarossa. When Napoleon conquered the area, the church was turned into a field hospital. It later burned out when the fort was attacked by the Prussians. The repaired building was later used as a warehouse, covered with the current roof.

Run between the two buildings towards the back. There, take the steps downward along the bastion walls. Now turn left and run back along the backside of the abandoned barracks building, turning left to come back to the fort's main square again.

Now let's run back out the same way that we came, heading downhill past the vineyard again, to the Domplatz.

Run south across the square, past the obelisk and then exit to the southeast on Kettenstraße.

Continue along Paulstraße, which ends at a long church, the Predigerkirche. Continue along the left side of the church along Predigerstraße for a block, until you come to the little lane called Schuhgasse, where you turn left and find yourself back at the Fischmarkt, with its Römer fountain.
The Römer fountain at the Fischmarkt
Now let's run through the lively shopping area of the old town, exiting the square towards the southeast along Schlösserstraße.

You'll soon cross the Gera River again, where there is an old water mill.
At the water mill
Continue straight along Schlösserstraße, where a tram line follows the street, taking us to the Anger, the main shopping district downtown.

Turn left at the Anger square and follow it to the Martin Luther statue and the church behind him where he once preached.
Demonstrators at the Anger
Just past the church, turn left on Meienbergstraße and follow it back to the Krämerbrücke, this time at the other end at Wenigemarkt.

The Aegidien Church covers the entrance to the bridge, so you run through the archway under the church to access the bridge again, then turning right to exit back to our starting point next to the river.
St. Ägidien at the Krämerbrücke entrance
You could stop here and enjoy the view if you feel like it, but why not keep running for another kilometer and explore a bit more of the leafy riverside?

So that's what the route does now: head north past the Augustiner and exit the park onto Schildgasse and then head further north on Comthurstraße.

At the Nikolai Hotel the street ends, but continue northwest on the riverside trail. After a few blocks, the trail loops through the little park called Venedig (Venice). This is our turnaround spot.
In Venedig-Park
To see something a bit different on the way back, take the footbridge to the southern part of the park, on an island in the river. When the trail ends, just continue the way we came in, just to the left of the island trail.

In a few minutes, you'll be back at the beautiful Krämerbrücke again. Time to stop and enjoy this amazing scene!

Friday, 25 January 2019

Best Running Routes in Barcelona

Barcelona is one of the most fun cities in Europe, a lively urban mix that fascinates at every turn. It has a real creative feel, and people fill the outdoor restaurants each evening enjoying each other's company over some tapas and a bottle of wine or a beer. You're guaranteed to fall in love on day one. And what better way to get to know some of the most interesting sights than to strap on your running shoes and head off to discover the town on your own two feet?
Morning beach run
Here are the best running/jogging routes in town...

In Parc de la Ciutadella

Top Barcelona Running Routes:

Old Town: The Barrio Gótico (Gothic Quarter) is one of the most fascinating neighborhoods you'll ever see. It's a maze of narrow, curving lanes going back to the Roman days, with some Roman gate-towers and walls sprinkled among the medieval houses. This great route also adds nearby Plaza de Catalunya, the Ramblas and Port Vell at the harbor to round it out into one unforgettable run!

Montjuïc: The Montjuïc Hill, just south of the old town, is like being on another side of the planet. It's covered by parkland, with great views out over the Mediterranean and the city, with an old fort on the peak and the awesome Palau Nacional (now the Catalonian National Art Museum).  And we'll start the run at the Plaça d'Espanya, with its Magic Fountain and the old World's Fair buildings. Enjoy this great hill run!

Barcelona Beach: Barcelona is one of the few great cities of the world with a long stretch of beach right in the city. What had once been a decaying waterside full of old factories and railroad tracks, it's now a lively, beautiful Mediterranean hangout. This run takes you along the whole stretch, past Barceloneta and other great neighborhoods. Don't forget to take time to kick off your shoes and take a dip in the water!

Parc de la Ciutadella: This park, close to the beach, isn't terribly big, but it offers a lot of variety in one short run. With fountains, promenades, unique streetlamps, the Catalonian provincial parliament, the city zoo, a lake with lovers rowing in the evenings, and the Barcelona  Arc de Triomf. Make sure you visit this great corner of town!

Monday, 7 January 2019

Funchal Madiera Waterside Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 4.8 km (3 miles), terrain: easy, fairly flat, gain 33 meters

Funchal, the capital of the Portuguese island of Madeira, is a pleasant place, with a quiet old-town and a long, beautiful waterfront promenade. And there are also lush parks and botanical gardens, the elegant hilltop retreat of Monte, with its viewpoints, gardens and quirky toboggan rides.

Finding a good running route is tougher, though, because the town, like the whole island, is so vertical. Steep uphill roads provide the only way up into the surrounding suburbs. And vertical cliffs block access to areas east and west of town along the coast. So, the best route to take is simply one that heads along the waterfront promenade, with a return loop through the old town, for a bit of variety.

So, if you're ready, get yourself down to the promenade, at the Praça Do Povo park, right next to the marina, along the Avenida do Mar.
The promenade: nice hangout!
You're in the heart of town, with the pretty, relaxed promenade stretching in both directions, with boats bobbing in the harbor and seagulls soaring above. Let's turn eastwards and run with the water to your right side, enjoying the flowers and exotic trees.

Shortly, you'll cross the river: actually two rivers meet right here just before they pour into the sea.

Next, to the right, you'll see a cement walkway heading diagonally out towards a little green/white lighthouse. If you like lighthouses, like I do, head out there and take a look, with a nice view of the coast and also back towards town.

Then continue onwards, passing the bottom station of the Teleferico (gondola lift). It takes people up to Monte above, and also connects to a second lift that continues on to the main botanical garden.

NOTE: Make sure you get up to Monte during your visit. It's cooler up there in the summer, and there are also spectacular views, has an old church set in a jungley garden, and it has it's own botanical garden which is at least as good as the official one on the next hill. And Monte is the place where the unique toboggan rides start, sliding down the streets back to town.
Toboggans heading down to town
Now just keep running for the next block until the promenade ends right in front of that old yellow fort straight ahead, the Fortaleza de São Tiago. The 400-year old fortress now houses an art museum, a restaurant and lots of cultural festivals. There are swimming platforms down below the fort. 
Heading towards the Fortaleza
NEXT NOTE: If you want to add distance to this short run, just connect to the street to the left and keep running eastwards along Rua de Santa Maria and then Rua Lazareto as they gently head uphill past simple homes and some public viewpoints over the cliffs.
So now we head back, this time staying a bit inland. When we get to the Teleferico again, turn right and follow the cablecars for a block to Rua de Santa Maria, where we turn left and run westwards for a block on this restaurant-lined lane.

Turn right again on another narrow lane, Rua Boa Viagem, and head the one block north to the covered market building. Now just circle the building, but on the north side you might want to step inside the entrance just to see this colorful spot and decide to come back again later. One section of the market is a fish market, the other is mainly spices and vegetables.
Inside the market
After circling the building, head back to the waterfront by running along Rua Brigadeiro Oudinot, next to the river.

Now we'll loop through the old-town and take a look at the main sights: after running one block westwards along the promenade, turn right to cross busy Avenida do Mar and run north along Largo dos Varadouros towards that grey-stone archway ahead. That's a reconstruction of the old city gate that once stood there.
The city gate
Keep running past the gate and you'll come to a quiet square, the Praça Colombo (named after Christopher Columbus), with a few nice cafés. You'll already be able to see the tower of the cathedral off to the left: let's head there next!

So at the north end of the square, turn left and run the one block to the back side of the cathedral, with its Gothic arches and ancient stonework.
The cathedral
Let's run around the building to get to the main entrance, so turn right and run a bit uphill on Rua de João Gago along the east side of the church.

You will now come to the main downtown street, Rua do Aljube. Now, let's keep heading west, past the cathedral entrance with its own little square, where the street widens to become a tree-lined promenade through the old-town. The name changes to Avenida Arriaga. Arriaga is where people come to enjoy the evenings, with cafés, restaurants and theaters lining the avenue.
Zarco statue
My favorite spot in town is at the João Gonçalves Zarco statue, who was the first governor of the island. The elegant Grand Café, with its wrap-around balcony is there, as is the impressive old Bank of Portugal building, and the old Palácio De São Lourenço is next door, the city's first fort and government building. The whole area is a lively, elegant hangout. It's a great place to relax and do some people-watching later on.
At the Ritz, with its blue-white tiles
Continuing westwards, you pass the blue-tile azulejo walls of the Ritz restaurant, and there is a really cool park across the street. The Municipal Park occupies the grounds of a former abbey, and the landscaping is lush and almost jungle-like. Make sure you loop through it!
In the Jardim Municipal
The main theater, Baltazar Dias, comes next, on the left, and then you keep running another block until you come to the traffic circle with the fountain. Here, we'll head uphill into that park on the other side, the Parque de Santa Catarina.
In Santa Catarina
Keep left and follow the way uphill past the 300-year-old baroque chapel. There are a few great lookouts over the harbor below and across the whole town from up here, including the cruise-ship harbor directly below.
Great views from the park!
The park ends soon at a fence that guards the old pink government mansion above. Circle the pond and then head down the steps towards the cruise ship terminal below. There is a pedestrian crossing right there.

You can run under the building housing the C7 Museum (honoring hometown hero, football star Cristiano Ronaldo) and continue to the waterside. 
The Ronaldo statue at the C7 Museum
There are usually ships docked up here, sometimes as many as eight of these impressive giants at a time!
At the cruise-ship harbor
Now just turn left and head back to the starting point along the promenade, a few blocks to the east. Funchal is such a beautiful place!