Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Jena Old Town and Paradies Running Route

Click here for route map 
Length: 5 km (3.1 miles)

Pictures courtesy the creative folks at Flickr CreativeCommons!

For more running routes, see the Route List!

I worked for companies headquartered in Jena for 13 years, and I spent a lot of time working there, and even had my own company apartment there for some time. So I had the chance to explore every little path around the whole area, which I did at every opportunity.

The Jena area is a paradise for running: the pleasant old town in the center is surrounded by wooded hills, full of trails going on forever, in every direction. This university town is relaxed but full of energy, and is surrounded by hillside villas built by professors. And in just 10 minutes from the town center you can find yourself running through forrest, up to the top of a half-dozen hilltops.

View of Jena, with modern Jen Tower on left and St. Michael's, photo by Andreas
There is an old Napoleonic battlefield at the top of one hill, at the village of Cospeda. And there is also the beautiful Saale River winding through town, with steep cliffs along the hills facing the river. And right in the middle of everything is Jena Paradies, a large riverfront park easily reachable from the middle of town.

This run will stay in the valley, circling north and south of the old town. We'll head through the elegant Victorian (Gründerzeit) Damenviertel to the north as well as Jena Paradies to the south.
View from Jen Tower north to Damenviertel, with botanical garden to left, photo by Andreas
View from Jen Tower southwards to Jena Paradies, photo by Andreas
We'll start in the heart of town, in the market square in front of the city hall (Rathaus). The old gothic Rathaus sits in one corner of the square, with a statue of the university's founder, Saxon Prince Johann Friedrich (called "Hanfried" by the students) in the middle. The Friedrich Schiller University will soon be celebrating its 500th anniversary. The square is lined with bistros and pubs, where in good weather lots of people hang out and enjoy the good life. The Ratszeise, in the ground floor of the Rathaus serves traditional Thüringen dishes under its vaulted ceilings.

Some of the buildings are old, and some are quite new. Like almost every German town, Jena was heavily bombed in World War II. Much of the damage was left unrepaired during he communist era, but beginning in the 1990s, bit by bit the town has been replacing the missing buildings downtown.

The Jena Damenviertel/Paradies Route
If you face Hanfried, run straight north, just to the left of the nicest house on the square, the half-timbered Jena Museum Göhre house. This was once a wine-dealer's house. Yes, in earlier days there were vineyards on the nearby hillsides. In the last few years, a few people have replanted some of the vineyards anew.
Hanfried and Göhre during Christmas Market, photo by Andreas
On the backside of the Göhre, you'll see the newly restored town church, St. Michael's. There is a bronze grave-plate inside for Martin Luther, who frequently visited his friends in Jena.

Run straight past the rounded back end of the church, and in one block you'll run straight to a small parking lot. Run through the lot diagonally to your right, to the main University building. Go out to the pedestrian crossing-light in front of the building, and run straight into the narrow lane called Zwätzgengasse.

It will merge into another street, Saalbahnhofstraße, where you keep running straight for one more block.

At Käthe-Kollwitz-Straße, turn left to run into the quieter elegance of the Damenviertel (Ladies' Quarter). This collection of Victorian-era apartment buildings is impressive for its craftsmanship. The workmanship of the stone-masons, carpenters and metal- and glass-workers is beautiful.

Turn right at the next block, Sophienstraße, and continue the tour of the neighborhood.
Damenviertel's Gründerzeit houses, photo by J. Knaack
Sophienstraße ends when it runs into Nollendorfer Straße. At that corner is one of the most interesting buildings from the era, Nollendorfer Hof. Its towers and metal dragons are a bit wierd, but nicely done.

Turn left on Nollendorfer and run the one block to Am Planetarium, where you turn left and run back south through the neighborhood again. After a while, you'll run by a lawn rising to the right, with a little palace set in the parkland. This was built for the princesses, which gave the name for the whole neighborhood.

In another 100 meters, you'll pass the planetarium. The star projectors all the planetariums in the world are made right here in Jena, by Carl Zeiss.

Planetarium projector made in Jena, photo by grrrrl
The street starts going a bit uphill, with a big fenced-in park on the right, the botanical gardens. This old garden was once run by Wolfgang von Goethe. The big, modern building on the left is the Thüringen State Library.

At the big intersection with the traffic light, Fürstengraben, turn right to continue running past the botanical garden. Across the street are more old university buildings and busts of famous professors. The old city walls once stood right where the busts now stand.

Just before the botanical garden ends on the right, you'll see a very old ginkgo tree. This was planted by Goethe, who also wrote a great love poem about the gingko leaf (see the poem).

Just after the tree, in the old building along the street is Goethe's old workshop.
The Pulverturm, photo by Andreas
Just across the street is one of the old town-wall towers, the Pulverturm (or "Gunpowder-tower"). Cross the street here to run straight south over the little bridge across the moat, to the left of the tower. You will run next to the most interesting remaining section of the town wall. At the end of the section is another gate-tower, the Johannistor.

In front of you stands Jena's modern landmark, the Jen Tower, a round, 30-storey office building. It was built as a prestige project during the communist era for Carl Zeiss (hence the telescope shape), but was mainly used by the university. Later, it was privatized and totally rebuilt, with a shopping center around its base. A big part of the old town was razed for it, alas.

Keep running south, past the Jen Tower. The big buildings across the street were formerly the Carl Zeiss factory, but are now used by the university and a variety of businesses.

Turn left just past the tower, on Kollegiengasse. At the end of this block, on the right, inside the arched gateway is an old courtyard that was the original home of the university, the Collegium Jenense. Back then, it was part of a monestary. It is still used by the university to this day. If the gate is open, go in and take a look!

Turn right at the end of the block and head straight by the triangular Holzmarkt, with the Cinestar cinema. Just to the left of the cinema, in the Italian ice-café, is the best ice-cream in town. You have to try their Pocket Coffee ice cream!

Keep running straight south along Neugasse. One house on the left, with the "Quelle" sign, is marked as Carl Zeiss' old workshop.

The street ends at the south end of the old town. Here at Knebelstraße, across the street is the old train station, now housing the San Marino Italian restaurant. Cross the street here and run straight, next to the train tracks for 100 meters until you see the pedestrian tunnel going down to the left. Run down below the tracks to come out into Jena Paradies.

Run straight, then turn right to go into the main part of the park. Take any of the several paths heading south, past the long lawn. 
Lots of balloons take off from Paradies, photo by watson1234
At the end of the lawn, the park ends, and you turn left to cross the bridge over the Saale River. You'll see a big sport complex on the other side: the soccer stadium and a lot of buildings used by the university's aggressive athletics department.

The Saale River in Jena Paradies, photo by Andreas
But we will turn left immediately after the bridge and run back north along the riverside. This is also part of the park, and a pleasant place to run. Just stay along the riverside until the park ends, next to the small dam over the river.

There is a bridge right next to the dam, with streetcar tracks in the middle. Turn left to cross the bridge, staying on the right side of the bridge. Run under the railroad tracks to cross Knebelstraße again, at the pedestrian crosswalk.

Run north on Paradiesstraße for 2 blocks until it ends at the old art-deco Capitol cinema at Löbdergraben. Cross the street and continue northwards on the little side street to the left, Oberlauengasse.

After just one block, turn left to run the last block back to the market square.

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