After a few days riding around Liege and it’s outskirts and my good mate nearly being mugged, it’s official Liege is a DUMP!
Bradley Wiggins, Twitter.
He’s right, Liège is an ugly place. The unofficial capital of Wallonnia, it’s a place that has seen better days. Its position on the Meuse river gave it a privileged location as a transport hub.
Believe it or not, canals and river barges were as exciting and important to the 19th century European economy as the internet is for today’s world.
The proximity to coal, iron ore and the means to get heavy steel and iron goods down the river meant it went through a boom. But this all ended once the barge got replaced by the train and truck and the city’s economy gradually wound down. Today the whole area forms part of a Belgian “rust belt”.
Today rising steel prices have helped but it’s still an unemployment blackspot. Whilst the surrounding terrain can be charming and there’s good riding in the region as a whole, the towns and cities are not exactly Europe’s finest since they expanded and then stagnated in tune with the coal and steel industry, there is less of the historic charm of Bruges. That said, Spa is worth a visit, the town that gave its name to so many others.
Not that this makes Liège unique, plenty of cities around the world have suffered a similar fate. Paris-Roubaix’s legend is partly built on the way it connects metropolitan Paris with the grim north. Plus Wiggins lives in North-West England, itself an area that, politely put, is struggling to adjust to deindustrialisation.