Reflections on international living and travel



Industrial ruins, Charleroi 

Walking along the industrial wasteland of Charleroi

Charleroi, Belgium - March 2021 - By Jeffrey

Charleroi was once a powerful, important and even desirable city; so desirable, that it "...was in turn besieged by the Dutch, ceded to the Spanish in 1678 (Treaty of Nijmegen), taken by the French in 1693, ceded again to the Spanish in 1698 (Treaty of Rijswijk), then taken by the French, the Dutch and the Austrians in 1714 (Treaty of Baden). The French Prince of Conti took the city again in 1745, but it was ceded back to Austria in 1748, beginning a period of prosperity under Joseph II. Glass, steel and coal industries, which had already sprung up a century earlier, could now flourish." (from wikipedia)

In the 1830s, Charleroi finally became a part of the newly independent Belgium and soon thrived in the industrial revolution that spread throughout Europe. Its primary industries were based around coal, metallurgy and glass. It was so successful, that people across Europe came seeking opportunity in the city.

Alas, the industrial revolution eventually faded or moved to countries with cheaper labour. By the late 20th century, services became the big "industry" in Europe and Charleroi's glory faded. It faded into a city noted for poverty and crime more than anything else. What had once been an industrial powerhouse became an industrial wasteland.

Industrial ruins, Charleroi

This past March, I decided to take the "Boucle Noire" hike - a 26km (16 mile) circular walk that passes industrial ruins, pretty parks and residential areas of the once great Charleroi.

Now, I've always been a fan of ruins, though I generally prefer ancient ruins: medieval castles, old temples, Roman buildings and that kind of thing. Nevertheless, I was struck by the majestic beauty of the industrial ruins of Charleroi. And while ancient ruins tend to be the colour of stones, bricks and the vegetation that crawls all over it, industrial buildings and machinery glow with the artificial colours of paints.

If you like industrial ruins, want to get a sense of history of the French speaking region of Belgium and are up to a 26km walk, I highly recommend the Boucle Noire hike. It starts and ends at Charleroi train station, so you can collapse on a train on the way home.

And, in spite of the city's reputation for crime, I never felt unsafe. Indeed, the people I passed generally smiled and offered a cheerful "bon jour" to me.


Industrial ruin (upside down) 
This picture looks weird because it is upside down.




Industrial ruin




Industrial ruins






Industrial ruin along river




Mirror in the woods
I was delighted to find this mirror in the middle of the woods outside Charleroi.
It allowed me to prim myself up in case I ran into any cute hikers.
I did not run into any cute hikers.



Industrial ruins in park
Even when walking through wooded fields, I came across old ruins like this.



old train tracks in the grass








graffiti found on the walk
There was a lot of graffiti here and there.
But I focused on the old architecture and machinery on this walk.






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