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Old June 4th, 2012, 04:05 PM   #261
De Klauw
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nijal View Post
It is the "fleur de Lys". It is present on almost every historical monument in Lille. Look at your photos, it is everywhere. In fact, it is the symbol of the municipality of Lille. Why? Well, I am not sure but I think it is because the Fleur de Lys was the symbol of the French monarchy, and when the French king Louis XIV conquered Lille in the late 17th century (before it was spanish), the symbol of the French monarchy became the symbol of Lille to symbolize the attachement of the city to its new conqueror. On the "Vieille bourse" (the old trade center, which is also the oldest remaining monument of the city), there is no Fleur de Lys because it was built before the French invasion.
It's the symbol of Lille. But also because of it's name. This is a typical example of false etymology. People assumed Lille was a derivation from lilium which means lily. But in fact both the French name Lille and the Dutch Rijsel (which are about equally old) are derived from the Latin word Ad Insulam (at the island), a reference to the original location on an island. Ad Insulam in old French was transformed into 'à l’isle' and later simply Lille. In old Dutch Ad Insulam was transformed into 'ter ijs(s)el' and than later it became 'Rijsel'. So you see it does not have anything to do with a lily but people though it did and that's why the lily became the symbol of Lille (already in the 11th century).
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Old June 4th, 2012, 04:17 PM   #262
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Nijal:

Thank you very much for that stunning information. :-) The before and after shots are incredible. Thank god they didn't lose everything to demolition.

I will review more later and let you know what questions/comments I have.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 06:58 PM   #263
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Quote:
Originally Posted by De Klauw View Post
It's the symbol of Lille. But also because of it's name. This is a typical example of false etymology. People assumed Lille was a derivation from lilium which means lily. But in fact both the French name Lille and the Dutch Rijsel (which are about equally old) are derived from the Latin word Ad Insulam (at the island), a reference to the original location on an island. Ad Insulam in old French was transformed into 'à l’isle' and later simply Lille. In old Dutch Ad Insulam was transformed into 'ter ijs(s)el' and than later it became 'Rijsel'. So you see it does not have anything to do with a lily but people though it did and that's why the lily became the symbol of Lille (already in the 11th century).
Thank you for the information, I did not know this.

To come back to Roubaix, another fact to say how important this town used to be: in the beginning of the 20th century, its nicknames were "the French Manchester", "the 1000-chimney city", "the world capital of wool"... Indeed, the world stock exchange of wool was in Roubaix (today it is in Chicago). Roubaix and Tourcoing were specialized in wool, Lille in cotton and Armentières (where you saw the red-brick belfry) in flax -90% of the French flax production came and still comes from Armentières.

Last edited by Nijal; June 4th, 2012 at 07:12 PM.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 07:33 PM   #264
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Very interesting Nijal.

I will take in more of your comments later. But do you recall the pictures I have from first being in Lille (shortly after the Ametieres belfry) of the canal with the big warehouse, and loading devices to move things between the ships and truks/railroads? Do you know if that is active? Do you know where that canal goes to?
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Old June 4th, 2012, 07:40 PM   #265
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very nice thread...seems like you had a great trip!
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Old June 4th, 2012, 08:38 PM   #266
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nijal View Post

Then, in your Day 2 in Lille, you visited an old quarter which is called the "Vieux Lille" (Old Lille). It is the very historical center of Lille (located in the north of it), and the only part of the city which includes some examples of classic Flemish architecture (as you have seen in Gand/Gent). Today it is a trendy and upscale area, but in the 70s it was a very popular district in decay and promised to demolition.
Many Flemish cities (Ghent, Antwerp etc...) were in such a state back then before they fixed the place and became massive tourist attractions. It gives hope for Wallonia as many historical buildings are still in that state (unless they decide to wipe it out and build Stalinian social buildings instead...)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nijal View Post
It is the "fleur de Lys". It is present on almost every historical monument in Lille. Look at your photos, it is everywhere. In fact, it is the symbol of the municipality of Lille. Why? Well, I am not sure but I think it is because the Fleur de Lys was the symbol of the French monarchy, and when the French king Louis XIV conquered Lille in the late 17th century (before it was spanish), the symbol of the French monarchy became the symbol of Lille to symbolize the attachement of the city to its new conqueror. On the "Vieille bourse" (the old trade center, which is also the oldest remaining monument of the city), there is no Fleur de Lys because it was built before the French invasion.

well, doesn't the name "fleur de Lys" come from the nearby Lys river?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Nijal View Post
Lille is at the center of an agglomeration of more than 1 million inhabitants (not as big and dense as Brussels, but almost). The two other big cities of the conurbation are Tourcoing and Roubaix. Contrary to Lille, they don't have an important pre-industrial revolution patrimony. But they are typical 19th century industrial revolutions booming cities, espacially Roubaix.
I heard that back in the days, Roubaix and Tourcoing enjoyed a fierce rivalry toward each others, because Tourcoing was the city of Flemish immigrants, and Roubaix was the city of Walloon immigrants...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nijal View Post
I am looking forward discovering your trip in Charleroi, a very unknown city!
Well... Charleroi is known in Belgium as an open-air dump, even though I'm optimistic that one day it will become a brand-new modern city because the potential is there, if not the money.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 09:29 PM   #267
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tchek View Post
Many Flemish cities (Ghent, Antwerp etc...) were in such a state back then before they fixed the place and became massive tourist attractions. It gives hope for Wallonia as many historical buildings are still in that state (unless they decide to wipe it out and build Stalinian social buildings instead...)

Yes. For Liège there is hope (the city already is booming). But Charleroi has just to little historic monuments. Charleroi will never become a tourist city.

Last edited by De Klauw; June 4th, 2012 at 09:45 PM.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 10:14 PM   #268
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Originally Posted by De Klauw View Post
Charleroi will never become a tourist city.
So much the better for Charleroi. It is better to be an industrial city than a tourist city (though some places, like Ghent, are both).

And it will still get tourists, as it does now. They will just be fewer, more intelligent, and more discerning than your average tourists

And if there is one thing this one American tourist can't stand it is being around other tourists The further off the tourist track I am the better.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 10:26 PM   #269
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Tourists are people coming to places hoping they will not see other tourists.


Personally I'm not bothered by other tourists. If a place is visit by lots of tourists it must mean the place is worth seeing. Only a overkill of worthless tourist shops annoys me.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 10:48 PM   #270
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Quote:
Originally Posted by De Klauw View Post
Yes. For Liège there is hope (the city already is booming). But Charleroi has just to little historic monuments. Charleroi will never become a tourist city.
True, though they try too hard to make Liège "modern" and there is still a long way to go before they clean up the historic parts.

Charleroi can become a German-style modern city one day. It's not a bad thing that it has very few historical monuments. The area is cheap.
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Old June 4th, 2012, 10:58 PM   #271
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Just ran accross this that shows I am not the only one who appreciates Charleroi:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/welcome-to...s-things-to-do

Mention Charleroi to many people and their noses wrinkle delicately. Their good manners forbid them from saying too much, but it soon becomes clear that this ex-industrial town, now Wallonia's largest metropolis, is regarded as a blemish on the face of a pretty region.

It's a shame they can't get more excited about a town with no lack of history and an unshakeable creative spirit. Urban fetishists and those who like their landscapes with a bit of grit will be in their element here


That last one would be me, as you'll see later
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Old June 5th, 2012, 01:26 AM   #272
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If you like grit and character, underrated historical heritage, quirky out-of-the-beaten-path places and epic post-industry, I think you would have definitely loved Liège.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 02:03 AM   #273
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The thing is that such old industrial places are not near the city center in Liège, wich is good looking and in very good shape nowadays, and would require knowledge where to find those area's and how to get there, wich is not that easy as Liège is a serious chaotic city lacking in public transport (at least in my eyes, tram network wouldn't hurt in Liège). Also the industry in Liège is still working with smoking stacks everywhere, coal, steal in Iron ore being brought in by boats... While in Charlerloi those places are easier to find, more close to eachother, compact....as for the grit, I think some inner suburbs in Liège have more grit than Charlerloi with the mills still spewing their smoke in the sky and thus blackening the brick homes more.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 02:08 AM   #274
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If you like grit and character, underrated historical heritage, quirky out-of-the-beaten-path places and epic post-industry, I think you would have definitely loved Liège.
No doubt. But I'm glad I went to Charleroi. I just really have to go back to Belgium and next time spend the full vacation there, seeing Antwerp, Liege, more time in Charleroi and more time in Brussels. Maybe a couple days around Lille too. That whole region is amazing.

And to think, up until a year ago I had never heard of any of these places and, like a typical American, thought Belgium was just a tiny little country that couldn't possibly hold anything of interest. I was as wrong as it is possible to be wrong.

The Charleroi post is going to be big with more pictures than the prior posts have had so it is going to take a little while to get it all posted.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 02:19 AM   #275
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joshsam View Post
The thing is that such old industrial places are not near the city center in Liège, wich is good looking and in very good shape nowadays, and would require knowledge where to find those area's and how to get there, wich is not that easy as Liège is a serious chaotic city lacking in public transport (at least in my eyes, tram network wouldn't hurt in Liège). Also the industry in Liège is still working with smoking stacks everywhere, coal, steal in Iron ore being brought in by boats... While in Charlerloi those places are easier to find, more close to eachother, compact....as for the grit, I think some inner suburbs in Liège have more grit than Charlerloi with the mills still spewing their smoke in the sky and thus blackening the brick homes more.
600West218 seems to like chaos so it'd be no prob.

Liège has a truly fascinating industrial history...

for the record, here is what Victor Hugo wrote when arriving in Liège somewhere in the 19th century

Quote:
Originally Posted by Victor Hugo


But then evening comes, the wind dies down, the meadows, bushes and trees are silent, you can hear nothing but the sound of the water. The insides of the houses are lit dimly; objects disappear like smoke. In the stagecoach the travelers yawn as though it were a yawning contest, saying: We will be in Liège in an hour. At that moment that the landscape suddenly takes on an extraordinary appearance. There, in the forests at the foot of the brown, fuzzy hills to the west, two round eyes of fire burst and blaze like the eyes of a tiger. Here, beside the road, a terrifying flame shoots up eighty feet high in the landscape, assaulting the rocks, forests and ravines with sinister illuminations. Further on, at the entrance to this valley hidden in the shadows, a huge mouth full of embers opens and shuts brusquely, releasing horrible hiccups and a tongue of flame.

These are the factories that are lighting up.

Beyond the town called Petite-Flemalle, the scene becomes indescribable and truly magnificent. The whole valley seems to be studded with erupting craters. Some of them disgorge turbulent clouds of scarlet sparkling steam from behind the bushes; others dismally outline the black silhouette of the villages against a red background. In other places flames appear through the gaps in a group of buildings. One would think an enemy army has just crossed the country and ransacked twenty villages, leaving them in the gloomy night in various stages of destruction, some burned to the ground, some giving off smoke, some still in flames.

This warlike spectacle was actually produced by peace. This horrifying appearance of appalling devastation was made by industry. You are simply looking at the blast furnaces of Mr. Cockerill.

A fierce and violent noise arises out of this chaos of workers. I had the curiosity to get out of the stagecoach and approach one of these disturbing and mysterious places. There, I truly admired the industry. It is a beautiful and prodigious spectacle, which at night seems to enhance the solemn sadness of the hour with a touch of the supernatural. The wheels, saws, furnaces, rolling mills, cylinders, pendulums, all those monsters of copper, tin and brass that we call machines and whose steam is alive with a frightening and terrible roar, hissing, whistling, moaning, protesting, sniffing, barking, yelping, tearing the bronze, twisting the iron, chewing the granite, and at times, surrounded and harassed by smoky black workers, screaming with pain in the ardent atmosphere of the factory, like hydras and dragons tormented by demons in hell.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 02:42 AM   #276
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Does that asks for a video

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Old June 5th, 2012, 02:55 AM   #277
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Nice video!

And here two pictures of the same factory.

I really hope it will be conserved once the activity is gone

The red stadium is the one of the Standard de Liège (not very good this year though)





(sorry for the credits)

Last edited by Pitchoune; June 5th, 2012 at 03:00 AM.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 06:20 AM   #278
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Charleroi

Finally, the time had come to visit Charleroi. This was my most anticipated day of the trip. Ever since I saw pictures and videos of its industries and canals, and had seen the amazing canal locks not far from it, I expected it to be the highlight of my trip.

Given that I had a lot to see there in a short time, and only a day trip from Brussels to do it in, and that I knew nothing about the layout of the place I figure the best route was to do the “Urban Safari” that some had already told me about.

I did manage to get ahold of someone from the Urban Safari before beginning my trip and exchanged a few message. But they seemed not to realize that I had no way to communicate by phone in Belgium and that I needed to have a pre-arranged meeting place and time for this to work. They never gave that, so the Urban Safari was out.

This meant that I was completely on my own, would have to find my own way around, would be in a city where probably not many people spoke English and really had a lot of things I wanted to see. Frankly I was a bit nervous about the going there and thought I’d likely end up disappointed and without having seen what I wanted to see.

Regardless, there was nothing to do but go for it and so I did. I got up and out early and got (with the help of my host) to Brussels Central station where I bought a ticket for Charleroi.

Waiting on the platform there was this train:

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Pretty mediocre. If you don’t have more talent than that you shouldn’t be defacing public property. But regardless, the mood was being set for Charleroi.

Rolling in towards Charleroi

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There was actually a LOT of industrial scenery when we were arriving in Charleroi but taking pictures through train windows generally doesn’t work - as you can see.

But the good thing was that I could see the industry was fairly close to the main train station and I even had a sense what direction it was in. However, my plan was to go first to the massive new locks and historic old locks outside of Charleroi and only explore Charleroi itself when I got back.

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Arriving, I immediately went into the train station terminal which was actually quite modern and clean with places to eat and decent stores. I needed to find the tourist office, which I did, to get information on how exactly to get to the canal locks and the industrial parts of Chareloi. Unfortunately, the woman manning the tourist center didn’t know anything about any canal locks nor did she know much about industrial areas of Chareloi. She seemed completely perplexed that a person who didn’t speak French and had obviously come from another country was asking about such things. She did tell me about the coal mining museum and some photography museum but as I came here planning to TAKE pictures, not LOOK at them, I left the tourist office rather frustrated.

I knew the locks were in Louviere, a small city not far from Chareloi, so I went to the ticket counter to buy a ticket to Louviere. The man selling the tickets promptly asked if I wanted to go to the Louviere Central or Louviere South Station. Which is better for getting to the locks I asked? He said he didn’t know. Ughhhhhhhh. Off to a bad start already. I just guessed - Central. Hopefully a station called “Central” will be bigger and I will have a better luck there.

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On route to Louviere we passed coal trains - the first I had seen. Some mines around here obviously still work. We also passed lots of “terrils”, or small hills of waste materials from old industry.

Little did I know you have to go to Louviere South first anyways, and then get off and take a little shuttle train to the Central Station. Another delay, another thing going wrong.

At least in Louviere there was some higher quality graffiti:

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This is the little two car shuttle train.

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Arriving at the Louviere Central station felt like being dropped off in the middle of nowhere - the place was desolate. The station building, which I would have to walk through to get out, didn’t look much bigger than a decent sized house.

Inside the station was one ticket counter, a couple muslim woman who looked like they were homeless, a vending machine for snacks and this:

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Yeah, it was a pain to get there, yeah it seemed desolate, and yes I hadn’t even seen anything yet, but when person like me, with my interests, walks into a train station with this on the wall - well, I know I am in the right place. My heart warmed and I think I cracked a smile even though there was no one to see my smile.

I think that mural (which has an amazing amount of material on it if you really look at it) covers the main industries of the area - steel, glass, and mining. This is an industrial area and clearly they are proud of it. Me likes!!!

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Lets see, they have blast furnaces, mines, and glass blowing. That is obvious. They also have a sewing machine, scissors, and a spool of yarn so I guess they had textile industry here too.

Notice the guy on the far right - he seems to be making pottery. So I guess they had that too. In the center is a farmer plowing and people above him harvesting, they still must have agriculture.

The main thing I can't figure out is all the laboratory flasks. Did they have a chemical industry here too?

Anyways, I am short of time so I go outside and catch my first break of the day - there is exactly one taxi sitting there waiting for passengers. The driver doesn’t speak English but I show him a brochure with a picture of the locks, he writes the number 20 on a piece of paper and we’re off.

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The cheerful scene directly across from the station.

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We passed mainly old industrial era housing like this with a few factories too. After a 2 or 3 miles it gave way to some fields and we wound up going under some massive overpass.

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I didn’t know what that was, only that it seemed much bigger than your normal highway overpass.

We turned left went down a road lined by fairly modern light industry. Then it came into view:

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At this point, as the car drove down into the parking area I was thinking something along the lines of “oh my ******* god, this thing is big”. And I know what big is - I live in New York City and go to construction sites such as the World Trade Center where people fawn over how big their cores are, etc. I can assure you, this thing is on a totally different scale. It is an absolutely massive hunk of concrete with lots of machinery in it.

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Seeing this I immediately knew all the effort to get here had been worth it. When you see things like this you know why you travel - no picture, no book, no written description can make you appreciate what this is truly like. You simply have to go and see it with your own eyes. I will post plenty of pictures, but they won’t show you what the place is like, they can only maybe show you why you should go there.

BTW, just to get some scale here, look at the cars/trucks at the bottom of the picture. Then note the concrete and steel blocks suspended by cables high up on the structure. Those are counter weights and each one of them is practically the size of a house.

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I noticed no one working around this place wore hard hats. I guess if one of those things falls on you a hard hat wouldn’t help much.

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That is the “bathtub” that boats get hoisted up in. Again, there is nothing in the picture that really gives scale, but as you’ll hopefully see in other pictures, it is huge.

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Notice how clean and orderly everything is. No visible flaws in the concrete or steel. Clearly excellent workmanship (and a lot of pride) went into building this beast.

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This is with my back to the lock facing down the canal. The canal divides to go to both of the lifts.

Next I went inside. The have a pretty good visitor center and the people there all spoke decent English. I asked if they would be able to call a taxi for me to get back to the train station when I was done and they said yes - that was a big relief.

They send you up to the 8th floor (it is much higher up than 8 floors but it is probably the 8th floor than people can access) where you see an excellent video (with a handset in whatever language you need it in) on the need for this lock, its purpose, its design, and its construction. On the 8th floor there are large windows overlooking the machine rooms.

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Again, there is nothing there for scale, so you will just have to take my word for it that the machinery is huge.

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A very good diagram showing canals across Belgium and northern France.

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Note the massive yellow crane used to move machinery.

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Ships waiting to transit the locks. Keep in mind, this thing not only lifts boats like the large on on the left but it is also lifting the massive concrete tub that they are in AND all the water needed in that tub to keep the boat afloat.

While on the 8th floor there started to be a lot of noise and an employee told me they were lifting a boat and that if I went down to the 5th floor I could see it better. So I did.

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The viewing angle was actually pretty lousy and the windows dirty but you can make out the boat in the tub - the front of the boat has light blue colors.

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Massive counterweights.

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I went up to the eighth floor to take some more pictures.

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In this picture you can see on the left, up on a higher elevation, the old canal and one of the silver painted steel old locks. The new lock that I was in was built to replace four old hydraulic locks that formerly took boats through here. They needed a bigger canal and bigger locks but couldn’t afford the water loss that comes with traditional locks so this is what they built.

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Keep in mind, this picture only shows the equipment on ONE side of the lock. The other side, with a different tub to be lifted, as its own, identical, equipment room. I was lucky enough to see them both.

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The other canal with the other lock.

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The furthest I could see with my camera.

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Untitled by 600West218, on Flickr

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Untitled by 600West218, on Flickr

Note the terrils in these pictures.

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Untitled by 600West218, on Flickr

Looking back towards Louviere.

Also, in the visitor center I found out what the overpass that I went under was - it was the canal!!. After this lock the land actually dips again. Rather than building additional locks to lower and then raise the boats again they simply built a HUGE concrete viaduct to carry the canal over the dip. I’ve never seen anything like that before!

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Untitled by 600West218, on Flickr

I went townstairs and outside and looked up to see one of the raised tubs. Not how clean and dry it is. It isn’t leaking any water!

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Untitled by 600West218, on Flickr

image hosted on flickr

Untitled by 600West218, on Flickr

image hosted on flickr

Untitled by 600West218, on Flickr

You have to get a ways away from this thing before you can fit it in a picture. Again, scale is a problem but note the tiny looking cars at the bottom left.

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Untitled by 600West218, on Flickr

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Untitled by 600West218, on Flickr

Boats waiting to head in.

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Untitled by 600West218, on Flickr

That is all I can show for the moment. To be continued with more posts tomorrow....

Last edited by 600West218; June 5th, 2012 at 06:31 AM.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 10:04 AM   #279
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I've also visited it and it was really magnificent. When I was there, there were only a few visitors. It's sad that people are not very interested in this structure.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 12:09 PM   #280
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Great pictures 600 west! If you had time enough you could just walk along the old canal back to La Louvière too wich has enough interesting historic boatlifts (3) locks and hostoric draw bridges along it I feel bad now for not saying that before in your help thread :/ but i showed them in pics an might think you'd find out the route of the canal yourself on a map. It's a 6km walk though.


Edit: There are no working mines in Belgium itself though but because of the steel mills in Liège that are still working and also some activity in Liège coals and iron ore in brought in mainly from Germany by river barges and trains. The area in Belgium with steel industry and coal mines is actually part of the same coal layer as the massive Ruhr Area in Germany where the coal is transported from wich also makes it into a small part of France...

map with still working mines:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...-CoalDNLBF.png

I live close to the Kempen-Limburg area. Every town in that area grew around a coal mine and every town has it's own or several mine ruins, some restored and used for other purpose, others left to rot and decay. There was no steel industry, the coal was transported south on the King Albert Canal towards Wallonia.
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Last edited by joshsam; June 5th, 2012 at 12:34 PM.
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