Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cleveland's my gym: Bratenahl

Although I absolutely love riding my bike, hikes - and especially urban walks - hold a very special place in my heart. I’m lucky; Greater Cleveland has many areas that are beautiful, have tons of character and are inviting to the urban hiker who is hungry for the stories told by both nature and man-built structures.  For these purposes, it’s difficult to think of a place that tops Bratenahl, OH. Like it’s the case with many other foreign-born Clevelanders, it took me a few years to even know this beautiful little village existed even though I lived just 4 short-miles away from it. That changed the day I bought this neat “guide” book Cleveland on foot, by Patience Cameron Hoskins, where she describes 50 walks and hikes around the Greater Cleveland area. I laced up my hiking shoes, I grabbed my book, and Bratenahl was the first walk I took.

Bratenahl is one of the oldest Cleveland suburbs. It’s bordered by Cleveland on its south, east and west borders, and by Lake Erie to the north. The former lakefront farmland quickly evolved into one of Cleveland’s first suburbs, and has housed some of the most influential (and affluent) Clevelanders throughout its history. As a result, Bratenahl has some of the most beautiful, palatial homes in our region, a testament to its wealth. The village itself is small; it’s about 1 square mile, and Lakeshore Boulevard is its main artery. As you go down Lakeshore, you see the grand old mansions with perfectly manicured landscapes, beautiful “normal” houses that are quite adorable, and some wooded areas that add to the charm of the village (and where I saw a fox for the first time). You can actually see stunning views of the lake through many of the properties, and if you are there just before dusk you can see breathtaking sights of these gorgeous homes bathing in the twilight. The sounds too can be surreal, so you may not want to wear headphones while you are there. A bird sanctuary, Bratenahl is graced with the intertwining songs of birds that graciously (for the most part) serve as a soundtrack to your urban walk. The village is so quiet that all you hear are those birds and the traffic from I90, which instead of disturbing, serves as a reminder of the city that lives literally across the street.

The best way to get to Bratenahl is to get off I90 at Exit 177 (MLK). If you are coming from the south (University Circle), just go down MLK all the way to the lake. You can park at the Cleveland Lakefront Park (or Gordon Park), and then walk East on Lakeshore Boulevard as far as you are comfortable. If you just follow Lakeshore all the way to the end of Bratenahl (E.140th) the walk will be about 3 miles long, so a round trip will add up to about 6 miles, and it will take you about 2 hours to complete. The terrain is moderately easy to walk on; it’s mostly flat, with some small “hills” along the way. If you want to get more out of your visit, get a copy of Hoskins’ book for a description of the most notable houses (and their owners), some of them off-Lakeshore. There are restrooms at the park, but make sure to bring your own snacks and water, because there’s nowhere to buy them along the way.

I took a few pictures where you can see views of the road itself. The houses are what you want to see, but I felt somewhat creepy taking pictures of people’s homes to publish them online, so I didn’t. Trust me, it’s beautiful down there. Go and check it out.

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