Wednesday 3 October 2018

Magdeburg Northern Riverside Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 8.4 km (5.2 miles), terrain: flat, gain 28 meters

I first visited Magdeburg in the mid 1990s, and I wasn't very impressed back then. There was a nice cathedral and a nearby park, but most of the rest of town still radiated the uninspired character of its socialist past, full of drab concrete blocks, and older buildings which were falling apart.

So, on my return visit a few weeks ago, I was interested in seeing if my original judgement might be swayed in some way. And the current status: the city has been beautifully rebuilt, a total makeover, with lots of interesting neighborhoods, outdoor cafes and restaurants, and miles of riverside promenades. It's the perfect spot for some fun discovery using your own two feet.

This is the first of a couple of Magdeburg running routes that I'll write-up here. It will start in the heart of town, on the cathedral square, follow the city-walls for a few blocks, and then head north along the Elbe River, following the park-like promenade all the way to the old harbor, then back again. On the return leg, we'll turn inland to explore a few of the historic riverside neighborhoods along the way.

So lets get ourselves to the Domplatz (Cathedral Square), right next to that twin-towered gothic cathedral. The 700-year-old church is impressive within, too, so make sure you take the time to go inside later on.
Cathedral Square
The square is lined by classical buildings (and modern ones along one side), and there's a playful line of fountains dancing across the square. On the side opposite the cathedral is the state parliament of Sachsen-Anhalt. Near the cathedral, you'll see some foundation stones from the ruins of the old castle built by Kaiser Otto I.

So now, let's get going, and see what else Magdeburg has in store for us...

Turn towards the cathedral, and run around its back side, along Remtergang. This is a cool little neighborhood with some narrow lanes and hidden parks.
Remtergang, with cathedral in background
At the Stadtturm Hotel in an old city-wall tower, turn left and run northwards on top of the old city wall, called the Fürstenwall. It's lined by trees, and has an old-fashioned, park-like feel. Off to the right, across the fairly busy road called Schleinufer, is the Elbe River.
On top of the Fürstenwall city wall
In a couple of blocks, the wall ends, where you turn right to run over the pedestrian bridge, crossing the road. You descend the steps to the riverside promenade, and continue northwards, with the water to your right side.

Now you just keep going until the turnaround spot about four kilometers ahead.
The promenade
After you go under a car bridge, the promenade widens to a park-like setting for a few blocks.

You'll then run around the back side of a riverside restaurant and a cool beach bar (in the summer). Then comes a boat-landing section, with a big parking lot for the passengers. Riverboats cruise the Elbe from this spot.
At the riverside restaurant
You'll then pass under twin steel-arched bridges and leave the old town, heading into an industrial area, continuing on Sarajevo-Ufer. This trail also happens to double as the route of the Elbe Radweg, the 1,200-kilometer-long Elbe River bike trail that stretches from the North Sea to all the way to Prague. So you'll probably see a lot of tour-bicyclists along this stretch.

You'll then pass some abandoned silos in the historic harbor, at the four-kilometer mark. Then the trail brings you to the Science Harbor Museum, (Wissenschaftshafen), with a few restored ships and harbor bridges and warehouses, a cool beach-bar, and other stuff for fans of Victorian-era technology. 
The lifting bridge at the old harbor
This is our turnaround spot, so let's head back to the town center now.
Beach bar with restored river tugboat in background
When we run under the twin bridges again, keep to the right to follow the higher path that, parallel to the waterside trail. This higher trail goes through an old fort that once defended this end of town, and cannons and stone walls line your route. Magdeburg was once Prussia's biggest fort.
Cannon along the trail
When you get back to the riverside Italian restaurant, let's veer off from the water: take that pedestrian bridge that curves upwards towards the right, over the Schleinufer riverside road.

On the other side, along the hillside, you'll see a line of three ancient churches, beginning with the little Magdalena Chapel. Run up through the little garden to get a closer view, at the six-kilometer mark. Then run a block north, down Neustädter Straße to view the other two churches, one in the Catholic University, the other is the Wallonenkirche, once used by French-speaking Huguenaut refugees, originally a monastery.
Magdalena Chapel and the other churches
Now turn around and run south, past the chapel and continue on through the hillside parkland at the foot of some big apartment buildings.
Martin Luther at the Johanniskirche
When you come to still another old church, the Johanniskirche (St. John's), turn right and run along the side, past the statue of Martin Luther. Magdeburg was once in the center of Luther's protestant reformation, and he sometimes preached here. Then run across the road, Jakobstraße, to the old city hall straight ahead.
The town hall with golden rider
Run past the statue of the stag and you'll come into the Old Market, with the front side of the town hall and its statues of a golden rider and Roland, the ic guardian of the city's independence. There are still regular markets held here, so you might see a lot of market stands, including a Christmas Market every December.
Roland standing guard
Now run back to the Johanniskirche and turn right to continue southwards through more of the riverfront parkland.

You'll soon come to the art museum in the restored thousand-year-old monastery Unser Lieber Frau, Magdeburg's oldest building.

Out front of the abbey church, turn right to run along Kreuzgangstraße for one block to that undulating pink building, topped by trees. This is the "Green Citadel", the last building designed by eccentric Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Hundertwasser hated square spaces and the results are refreshingly obvious in this creative project, topped by golden spheres and strange towers with spiraling balconies. 
Hundertwasser's Green Citadel
It's really interesting to run into the courtyards within. There are shops, restaurants and a little hotel inside. Take a look! You'll be glad you did.
In one of the courtyards
Now continue running one more block, and you will find yourself back at the classical elegance of Cathedral Square again. Like I said: I totally revise my hasty earlier judgement: what a great town!

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