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Old June 5th, 2012, 12:43 PM   #281
De Klauw
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Great photo's I also was impressed when visiting the boat lift of Strépy-Thieu. But take in mind it's considered a waste of money since it's designed when the coal mines were still open. Now it's structurally underused. Just like that other big structure: the inclined plane of Ronquières.


And it's a shame that the NMBS is not taking the graffiti problem on trains serious. The should follow the New York approach: don't let the train depart with graffiti on it.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 12:48 PM   #282
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Quote:
Originally Posted by De Klauw View Post
And it's a shame that the NMBS is not taking the graffiti problem on trains serious. The should follow the New York approach: don't let the train depart with graffiti on it.
I don't think we have enought trains for that and they allready run so greatly on time...(sarcasm) I don't even want to know what happens then? One train a day? Because the rest was full of graffiti...

What they should do in the first place is secure trainyards better. In most you can just walk in or jump an easy fence.... they aren't even guarded.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 01:52 PM   #283
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Quote:
Originally Posted by De Klauw View Post
Great photo's I also was impressed when visiting the boat lift of Strépy-Thieu. But take in mind it's considered a waste of money since it's designed when the coal mines were still open. Now it's structurally underused. Just like that other big structure: the inclined plane of Ronquières.


And it's a shame that the NMBS is not taking the graffiti problem on trains serious. The should follow the New York approach: don't let the train depart with graffiti on it.
I am not sure if it is still underused today. Canals are becoming more and more important today, so hopefuly they'll get the money out of the investment.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 02:38 PM   #284
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Thanks for the info.

From what I could see the canal was heavily used. The lifts went up and down transporting cargo barges numerous times in the time I was there. Plus I saw other barges in action. You'll see in the upcoming pictures.

To get rid of the graffiti New York put in double layered fences around the rail yards and had dogs between the two layers. Also, more importantly I think, all new cars they bought were specially made to be able to take a special bath that could wipe any paint off of them.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 03:26 PM   #285
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I can just walk up a small hill, cross a few tracks and start tagging trains if I want to. That's how badly protected the railyards are (or at least the one just beyond Gent-Sint-Pieters).
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Old June 5th, 2012, 03:30 PM   #286
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I am not sure if it is still underused today. Canals are becoming more and more important today, so hopefuly they'll get the money out of the investment.
Yes, the higher energy costs are the more they'll be used.

Not everything there seems efficient, which probably explains their problems. Note in the video of Liege that was posted they are transporting bulk products arriving in a barge with a excavator. In the US that stuff would be transported by huge "lakers" that are self-loading/unloading which would be much less labor intensive. It is probably the same way in Japan, Korea and other potential competitors of these steel mills. So I imagine it is tough for them to compete. But I am still rooting for them. Hopefully, they'll hang in there.

Last edited by 600West218; June 5th, 2012 at 04:04 PM.
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Old June 5th, 2012, 04:03 PM   #287
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They have bulk conveyors in Liège too...I also wondered why they where doing this by an exacavator.... Anyway everything is pretty outdated just because of the fact that in those countries you mentioned everything is cheap so people don't invest in that anymore overhere... Also very little steel in still produced compaired to half a century ago. It's pretty much a death industry branch in Europe anyway. You must have also seen a much more modern steel factory in Gent... I wonder how long they'll be able to compete against Asian countries.

example in Liège: http://goo.gl/maps/N5Be
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Old June 6th, 2012, 01:53 AM   #288
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The locks of Louviere continued...

Now my objective was to talk along the canal and visit the site of one of the old hydraulic locks which was a kilometer or so away.

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Here comes another barge, again showing that this canal is quite busy.

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It is quite impressive how they fill these barges to the max. 80% of that thing has to be below the waterline. One leak and they’ll be under water in no time.

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The majority of these barges take their cars along with them. I guess there are cranes somewhere to take the cars off. It must be an interesting life traveling around Europe on one of these barges.

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Finally I have reached the lock number 4 of the old canal. Note it too has two tubs, and in this case the one on the right is in the upper position while the one on the left is in the lower position. It turns out, they actually work together with the weight of the upper one being used to push up the lower one, so the two can never be in the same position. It is always the case that one is up while the other is down. So don’t be confused by the huge locks we just saw - these smaller and older ones work in a completely different way. The big new one is powered by motors that “lift” the tub up. On these old ones it is that both tubs are supported by pistons that go into a waterfilled pipe that is connected to both. When one tub is made heavier than the other its weight pushed down on the water and that water pressure pushes the other tub up.

Before I visited this site I thought both sets of locks worked in the same way - but they don’t. They work in completely different ways even though they both raise up huge tubs of water with the boats in them.

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There is a pretty good explanation of how it works. The only thing I don’t quite get is how do they get an extra 30 cm of water in the upper tub? Is is pumped in? I

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There you have a very clear shot of the piston. Note all the esquisite steel work that supports the whole length of the tub which goes far in front and behind the piston. This thing isn’t a UNESCO World Heritage Sight for nothing.

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Look how perfect those seals are. That is full of water yet there is no leakage. The whole thing is very well maintained.

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Hey, there goes one of those tractors doing construction work and evading taxes!

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I am not sure what the role is of the narrow metal “bridge” right in front of the lock.

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I think this is all the same explanation, just in French.

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This is the operations structure and, I believe, the residence of the caretaker of the canal. I didn’t take a picture of it but on the other side there were children’s toys and swings indicating that children lived in the building.

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Cars are passing underneath the old canal here. They then go on a bridge to pass over the new canal.

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This shows the piston holding everything up. It might be hard to note but I think you can see the area under the piston is completely dry - there is simply no leaking water. I don’t see as much as a speck of rust or chipped paint. They really take great care of this.

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Here you see the lower tub and all the water in it.

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Amazing steel work here. I know these is of course not as awe inspiring as the Eiffel Tower but I think the quality of the steel work is on a par with it.

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Here we go, visual evidence of tractors being used in construction, as it turns out, to evade taxes. If I had known why they were doing this, and had a cell phone that worked, I might have called the police.

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There were stairs to walk up to the upper level of the canal, which I did.

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Looking along the upper part of the canal. Note the new locks in the background.

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Very nice pathways along the canal. You can probably bike for quite some ways along the canals.

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The two pictures above were taken from the same spot, just facing different directions.

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I walked back to the new lock along the old canal and went through a tiny town.

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Very nice homes and an awesome location. I wouldn’t mind living there at all.

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Shoot, the other tub is being lifted and I’m missing it.

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Note the area where the tub is lifted. Completely dry. Somehow they manage to open and close the gates to the tub without spilling any water in this bottom part. No idea how they do that.

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Note how there are little rollers (well, not little, but they look little in this picture) that the tub must rest on. I wonder what that is about?

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Looking up at it. I don’t want to be around the day that thing ever falls.

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Here I’ve walked over to the other side where I also see an empty base as the tub has been lifted up. Note the counter weights.

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In another stroke of good luck the tub started being lowered while I was there.

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Here you can just begin to see the bottom of it peak out from under the structure.

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Very nice, it has a barge in it!

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Almost all the way down.

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Starting to lift the gates - note the water spilling down.

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I wonder if a gate has ever fallen and cut a boat in half? I guess they would then call it “the Belgian Guillatene”.

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Note they have their car with them too.

It was now time to race back to the train station and get back to Charleroi in time to do a good amount of exploring there.

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Sorry for the lousy picture but that is the canal viaduct.

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Back at Central Station in the Louviere.

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I was told there is a big and active steel mill in the Louviere and it is only about a 20 minute walk from the station. But I didn’t know which way it would be and I had no time. But Louviere looked very interesting in its own right. I will have to come back and explore more.

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Unfortunately I had to wait a while for the shuttle train to show up.

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This was a little “station” that we stopped at. There were a bunch like this.

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Coming into Charleroi again.

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A lot more cargo trains than passenger trains around here.

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I wonder if they still use rail cars like the little red one on the left? In the US they’ve pretty done away with freight cars and replaced them with flat cars that only carry shipping containers.

Back in Charleroi some the remainder of the day and some of the best exploring awaited me...
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Old June 6th, 2012, 04:01 AM   #289
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Took me some time to go through the 15 pages, but boy was it worth it! Easily one of the best threads I´ve seen. And I love when the person describes his trip and gives us his view of the places he´s in...and when those places are the same where you´ve also been to it´s even better!

Not surprised by the grey weather at Brussels...got the same Paris is beautiful, was too young when I went there and I must come back...although I did climb all the gazillion stairs up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower...and honestly if you´re in good shape and a fan of architecture nothing like admire the tower while getting up.
As someone mentioned here you should have took a sneak peak to Antwerp...and even more if you would arrive there by train...that station...

Last but not least...no idea about all of this canals and locks That modern one is a huge thing of a beauty...to the "to go list" it goes!!

Keep them coming and I know you have other thread about England...I´ll check it between my relaxation period between studying to the final exams of this semester
Thanks mate
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Old June 6th, 2012, 04:37 AM   #290
600West218
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andre_idol View Post
Took me some time to go through the 15 pages, but boy was it worth it! Easily one of the best threads I´ve seen. And I love when the person describes his trip and gives us his view of the places he´s in...and when those places are the same where you´ve also been to it´s even better!

Not surprised by the grey weather at Brussels...got the same Paris is beautiful, was too young when I went there and I must come back...although I did climb all the gazillion stairs up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower...and honestly if you´re in good shape and a fan of architecture nothing like admire the tower while getting up.
As someone mentioned here you should have took a sneak peak to Antwerp...and even more if you would arrive there by train...that station...

Last but not least...no idea about all of this canals and locks That modern one is a huge thing of a beauty...to the "to go list" it goes!!

Keep them coming and I know you have other thread about England...I´ll check it between my relaxation period between studying to the final exams of this semester
Thanks mate
Thanks, glad you are enjoying it. BTW, I have heard many good things about Portugal from other travelers and hosts. Hopefully I'll get to do some exploring there sometime in the not too distant future.

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Old June 6th, 2012, 04:42 AM   #291
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Now back in Charleroi I was ready for the second part of my exploration. I first stopped back in the tourist office to tell the woman about how the locks turned out and how to get there so she could advise future travelers. It turned out she had used the time to do some research too and gave me an incredibly nice map and guide called “Itineraire de la Culture Industrielle” which had a fantastic map, suggested route and information on all the sites in Nord-Pas de Calais and Wallonie. If only I had this earlier!!!

For those interested the web-site is here:

http://www.ici-itineraire.eu/index.html

With a map and some directions in hand I headed out to find the industry, and specifically the terrils to climb up on.

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The canal running right through town.

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Some sort of monument. Though to what I am not sure.

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I had to go a bit to the left to get to the avenue that would take me to the canals and industrial area. There were actually some not so friendly looking people along the way so I had to be careful.

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At least there is some new construction here.

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A pretty mediocre area but at least they have palm trees.

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Sort of typical here. Neither old nor nice.

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Ok, now I am on the avenue I need to be on. The green hill on the right is a terril and is my first destination.

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A gate to nowhere now.

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The terril turned out to be pretty steep. I don’t think the place I climbed it was where I was supposed to climb it, but whatever, it was the first place I came to.

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This steel mill is active. There were people and machines working around it the whole time.

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The most important thing is I didn’t even break a sweat getting up there.

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Another terril

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Looking in the opposite direction at some working class housing.

The interesting thing is none of it appears to be terrace housing. That tells me this was built after the first, textile driven, part of the industrial revolution, probably in the 1920s or so.

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The far left would be back towards the train station where I started.

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The hard flint like ground there. It is actually surprising anything grows in it.

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Back down on street level to continue walking along the avenue. Suffice it to say, I was the only pedestrian in sight. Not sure what the drivers thought seeing some crazy person walking through here :-)

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The overpass I am walking under is actually the Charleroi metro.

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Both the canals and the industry are alive and working in Charleroi and here comes the proof.

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A barge full of scrap metal here. Note the woman on the front with a radio in her hand. She is giving instructions to the person piloting the barge. Just guessing, but I imagine it is a husband and wife team. An interesting lifestyle...

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The barges are surprisingly long.

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Definitely scrap metal.

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Two things: Note, they have their car with them. And also this is clearly a barge/tug boat combo not a single long boat like the Pininches are or the other ones we saw were.

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Continueing down the avenue. Note the tram line in front.

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And there goes the tram.

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Wow, so these are coke ovens!!! This appears then to be a fully integrated steel mill.

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A curious place for this sign.

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And here is where the scrap metal winds up.

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This seemed like a very new power generating plant mixed in with all the old steel mills.

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For some reason they didn’t seem that welcoming towards tourists.

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The best graffiti I’ve seen so far. If you check out that web-site, Rapschrift.de you’ll note they’re professionals :-)

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These were the support beams of the metro station all of which had graffiti all the way around them.

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It’s one way to spruce a place up.

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That looks like a lot of work.

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The strangest color steel mill building I’ve ever seen.

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At this point I was really tired and thirsty and probably looked like this.

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I saw some cars parked in front of the building across the street and some people outside unloading something. These were the only people I had seen around here and I decided to go check it out.

To my surprise, they were quite friendly and invited me in. Upon entering I was astounded.

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It was a grouping of giant old steel mill buildings turned into a art gallery, art workshop, club, bar, and music venue!

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In one part people were setting up for a concert.

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In another huge room they were chilling at the bar/loung - and I thankfully got some much needed drinks.

Note the orignal vents in the background which are at tables where people can sit around a fire or artisans can do work with metal.

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And if someone starts messing with you you can just grab a big wrench and smack them :-)

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Not sure why someone is trying to restart the crusades.

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All during May they were having events. I was really bummed that I could not stay around to see some of them.

Also, I was told that this was previously the site of the industrial museum of Charleroi. But that moved out to the big coal mine and then this was taken over by artists.

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Really nice effect to have all the original cranes hanging overhead. I just hope someone has inspected them and they won’t fall in my beer as I am drinking.

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You can’t see it in pictures but that piping was actually a waterfall. There was lots of water pouring out from behind it.

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A nice little 40 foot tall robot that someone made.

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Unfortunately although they had lots of people arriving for a pretty big party I had to go to do some more exploring.

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I then crossed back over the avenue to go to the metro station that was there.

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This is the view from the metro station.

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No subway stations in New York have a view this nice :-(

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The main problem with this desolate little station was I was the only person in it and I didn’t see any way of buying tickets.

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I also didn’t really know which way to go but I figured this direction was as good as any.

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Eventually the little metro train showed up and I got on. Frankly I was pretty nervous because I didn’t have a ticket. I guess if I got caught I would just have to pretend to be a stupid tourist - which I was.

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We did pass some canals.

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The area where we were going kept getting more suburban and even a bit rural. Eventually I just picked a station and got off.

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As you can see, it wasn’t exactly overflowing with crowds. But at least there was a Metro worker there who was able to help me operate the machine to buy a ticket so I could be on this thing legally. I then caught the next train going back towards the city.

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This was the same station where I orignally got on.

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You actually get a pretty good view of all the piping from the Metro.

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Maybe that is their convention center?

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I made my way back to the train station to head back to Brussels.

I was quite sad to be leaving Charleroi after such a brief stay, less than a day. But I had accomplished my main objectives - seeing the canal locks and checking out some of the industrial sections of Charleroi. Given that I didn’t even know if I could do that and given how difficult it is to function in that part of Belgium speaking no French I was really happy to have accomplished that. So I left very satisfied and knowing that I definitely wanted to come back to this place. There was so much left to explore - the coal mines and industrial museum, more of the canals, the residential districts and center, the small city of Louviere. For anyone interested in industrial heritage this city calls for at least 3 or 4 days.

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Rolling back out of town.

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Never did make my way to where these were. Next time.

I actually got back to the Central Station in Brussels quicker than I expected, so I decided to walk around there a bit more.

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This looks like it belongs in Charleroi more than in Brussels...


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Going from where I just was to this in little over an hour was a bit of culture shock.

But that is the amazing beauty of Europe - you can go from one amazing thing to something completely different very easily. It’s as if you don’t have to choose between beautiful architecture and grit, between centuries old and modern, or between urban and rural - you really can have it all, and often times in the same day!

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It was nice to see the Grand Place in better light than the day before. It really made it shine a lot more.

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I liked this street. Though I would really love to see what the residences are like in those buildings.

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I wandered into a mini Asian area.

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Some very stately homes with nice bay windows

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Actually, now that I think of it, these buildings in Brussels seemed to be more of an off-white whereas in Paris they were biege or tan.

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I had heard the Grand Place was nicely illuminated so I went to see that with the lights on.

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It definitely did look nice, though I couldn’t stay until it was completely dark. I had to get back to my hosts place and by the time I got there it was 11 pm. It was a long exhausting day and at times frustrating. But no doubt about it, it was the highlight of my trip. Next time I go to Belgium I am checking for flights straight into Chareloi :-)
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Old June 6th, 2012, 05:46 AM   #292
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The old-steel-mill-turned-bar was actually included in the Charleroi Safari tour so it's fortunate that you ended up stumbling upon it
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Old June 6th, 2012, 06:38 AM   #293
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tchek View Post
The old-steel-mill-turned-bar was actually included in the Charleroi Safari tour so it's fortunate that you ended up stumbling upon it
Interestingly, the subject of the Safari came up at the steel mill bar and they were a bit dismissive of it, saying that you can make your own "safari", which is exactly what I did.

If I had done the Safari I probably would have seen more, but maybe in less detail.

Anyways, I'm happy with the way it went and if I can hook up with the Safari people in the future and see still more things that will be great too.
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Old June 6th, 2012, 08:38 AM   #294
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The street you liked in one of the last pics of Brussels is the Rue Dansaert/Dansaertstraat (well it's actually the first part of it, which is called Ortsstraat). The Dansaertstreet is quite famous as a trendy and alternative shopping street. It is the home of many famous fashion designers. Until 30 years ago, it was very much in decay though.

About the tax evading: You were probably joking, but it's still funny to see your reaction. In Belgium nobody really minds tax evading too much. We even call it our national sport

The pedestrian road or bicycle road next to the canal is very typical in Belgium. I think you can find them along all canals and many rivers. On a sunny day in the weekend, it can be very crowdy on those roads and you have to watch out for crazy bikers.
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Old June 6th, 2012, 09:17 AM   #295
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Quote:
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Here we go, visual evidence of tractors being used in construction, as it turns out, to evade taxes. If I had known why they were doing this, and had a cell phone that worked, I might have called the police.
They were not doing anything illegal, were they? Just using tax regulations in their advantage.

BTW: evading tax is a national sport in Belgium

edit: like Wapper said
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Old June 6th, 2012, 12:17 PM   #296
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Nice thread with great pictures and interesting comments. I know some of the places you 've been to but I've never looked at them the same way you do.
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Old June 6th, 2012, 01:39 PM   #297
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Love those industrial areas, some reminded me to certain places in Northern Spain. Something curious is that in most European countries heavy industry is most of the time located in the northern part of the country (well, not Belgium but Germany, Spain, France, Italy, England, also in USA...) it is mainly because coal mines are usually a step away from them but no matter the reason still it is a casuality.

Very nice informative thread, I enjoyed very much the canals
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Old June 6th, 2012, 01:55 PM   #298
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In Germany, industry is everywhere Mostly in the west and the east though.
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Old June 6th, 2012, 04:15 PM   #299
600West218
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Quote:
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Love those industrial areas, some reminded me to certain places in Northern Spain. Something curious is that in most European countries heavy industry is most of the time located in the northern part of the country (well, not Belgium but Germany, Spain, France, Italy, England, also in USA...) it is mainly because coal mines are usually a step away from them but no matter the reason still it is a casuality.

Very nice informative thread, I enjoyed very much the canals
Thanks.

Where in northern Spain do they remind you of? I could be heading that way in the not too distant future and now you know what I like to see
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Old June 6th, 2012, 04:17 PM   #300
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On the tractors, I was more or less joking :-)

But actually, I think using tractors in contruction could be a great idea. It could be very efficient and allows machines that go unused a lot of the time to find a lot more work. Plus it probably helps the farmers alot.
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