Sunday, 9 April 2017

Coburg Castle Running Route, Germany

Click here for route map
Length 5.7 km (3.5 miles), terrain: gradual up and down one hill, gain of 137 meters

NOTE: You can lengthen this run by doing more laps of the castle on the flat hilltop trail, each lap being 800 meters.

The great thing about this part of Germany is the number of hilltop castles perched above the pleasant old towns. Coburg is a lot like other towns in Franken and Thüringen, with beautiful market squares, small palaces and a fortress guarding it all on one of the surrounding hills.
View towards the castle from town
So, when in Coburg, I say to head on up to the castle for a great (and gentle) hill run for some spectacular scenery, wide views and lots of nature.
View from the castle ramparts: makes the effort really worthwhile!
The castle is visible from many parts of town, looming above. The Veste Coburg ("Fortress Coburg") is one of the biggest intact castles in Germany. It goes back a thousand years, and was never conquered. There is a lot of history connected with it. Martin Luther spent 6 months within its protective walls in 1530, writing sermons, translating the old testament and waiting to see if he would be acquitted by the Reichstag in Augsburg. This is the 500th anniversary of Luther nailing his 95 theses to the church door in nearby Wittenberg, and there is a Luther exhibition in the castle during the whole year.

So, if you're ready to make the inspiring run up to the castle, get yourself to the market square in the middle of the old town. The square is flanked by the old town hall ("Rathaus") along one side, and the Stadthaus on the other. The Stadthaus was once the seat of the state government when Coburg was the capital of the little duchy of Saxony-Coburg.
The market, with Stadthaus and statue of Prince Albert
There is a statue to the town's most famous prince in the middle of the market, Duke Albert, who married Britain's Queen Victoria and became an English prince. Turn to face the red/white Stadthaus to the north and now exit the square to its right, running eastwards along scenic Herrngasse.
Ehrenburg Palace
The street ends in two blocks at the side of Eherenburg Palace, home of the Saxon-Coburg dukes. Turn left then right to enter the big square in front of the palace. Keep heading east, past the front of the palace and exit the square by running up the asphalt street, which quickly turns left to continue uphill into the huge hillside park, the Hofgarten.
The way into the Hofgarten: the left side has no steps
The Hofgarten connects the town with the castle up at the top of the hill. You just have to follow the signs to "Veste Coburg" and you'll get there. As long as you keep heading uphill, you can't go wrong.
Students hanging out in the Hofgarten: that's the lifestyle!
Right as you enter the park, the trail splits, with the asphalt trail on the left without steps, so take that one!

The lawns right there are used by students from the nearby college on nice days, and above them are a few playgrounds. Just run uphill past the playgrounds and you'll find more signs guiding you upwards to "Veste Coburg" along asphalt trails.

At the one-kilometer-mark, you'll pass the "Naturkunde Museum", (the natural history museum) along your left, and keep plodding up the hill.
Heading upwards towards the castle
You'll then come to a spot where the trail splits, with signs pointing to Veste Coburg in both directions. It's best to stay on the paved trail to the right: it continues the gradual rise to the top. The gravel trail on the left heads straight uphill and has a lot of steps at the end, but nicer views of the castle above. You decide what you like best.

The asphalt trail curves its way upwards and then runs into a little street at a ridge, just below the castle. Turn left here to continue on up to the castle.

At the two-kilometer-mark, you'll run past a little parking lot and then you're there: with the stone walls rising above you, dotted by towers.
A runner exiting the castle gate
Keep running upwards and over the cobble-stoned bridge and through the gate-tower, into the castle courtyard. The castle buildings are beautiful. 
In the first courtyard
You can turn left to circle the second courtyard, with its old cannons and drinking well, then return to the first courtyard. You can even run up to the ramparts along the right (to the east), and have a great view in a few directions.
In the second courtyard
Once you've had enough of this amazing spot, run back out through the gate-tower and down towards the parking lot. But now turn left to follow the little trail that circles the outer walls. This provides more great views, of the surrounding hills and valleys and of the castle itself. At the western end of the castle, you pass the 3-km mark.
Along the circuit trail
After 800 meters on the circular trail, you'll be back at the castle parking lot again. You can now add a few more laps of the castle, if you want to add distance to the run. Otherwise, head down the hill the same way you came.

Along the way down, you might want to run a few different park trails, by staying along the left side of the park on the way down.

At the playgrounds at the lower end of the park, you'll pass the 5-km mark.

When you get back to the palace and turn the corner to the left, let's see a bit more of town by running straight south along Rückertstraße to the fountain, then continue along the little alley to the stone church straight ahead. Turn right at the old church to run around to the front side of St. Moritz.

The legend of St. Moritz goes back to the early days of Christianity. A Roman legion was sent from Egypt to the Rhine valley to put down a Gallic rebellion. But the legionnaires refused to take part in a ceremony worshiping Caesar. Moritz was one of the officers of the legion, and he was killed for leading this insult to the god-caesar. The head of an African that you see displayed around town on various flags and fences represents Moritz.
St. Moritz Church
Across the church square you'll see the 400-year-old high school (the Casimirianum). What a great old place to go to high school!

Now exit to the west along Neugasse.

In a block, at Ketchengasse, turn right and you'll be back at the market square in a few steps.

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