74 kms / 310 mts of elevation / Tarmac and some cobblestones
Charleroi: the ugliest city in the world
In South America, where I come from, nature is gorgeous but there are many remarkably ugly cities and urban areas. I actually developed a taste for urban uglyness and often went to these places to take photos. I was exited to learn that the ugliest city in the world was only 50 kms south of Brussels. I was also suspicious... is it really that ugly ?
I thought it would be better to take the train directly from Brussels to Charleroi and cycle back. I always prefer to finish my rides close to home, the prospect of having a good shower and food motivates me. So the first step: Brussels South Station.
Charleroi's old industrial area: absolutely stunning
After a couple of croissants and about 45 minutes in the train we arrived to Charleroi South Station. From there we followed the river "La Sambre" about 3 kms west and then we connected to the main "Brussels-Charleroi" canal. This section of the canal is phenomenal, an old industrial area that looks like Chernobyl, or a scene from Mad Max. Today the old industrial infrastructure is a fascinating attraction.
One of the three most industrialized regions in the world
Charleroi and Liège were the two most active and prolific industrialized cities in Belgium between 1830 and 1910, placing Belgium as one of the three most industrialized regions in the world. So respect ! :D We didn't have the chance to see much inside the city but what we saw here in the outskirts could be considered ugly, but it has plenty of character and history.
Turning towards the Old Canal
The ride comes gradually out of the industrial area and the landscape becomes a bit more natural and green. About 27 kms from Charleroi there is a deviation to the right, it is one of the main attractions of this ride. It's a much smaller, not longer in use, gorgeous old canal that used to connect Brussels and Charleroi.
The ship lift of Ronquières
The old canal re-intersects with the main canal at Ronquières. There is a huge ship lift, enormous structure, you won't miss it, people call them "the inclined platforms of Ronquières".
After Ronquières the ride continues alongside the main canal. The ride until Brussels is very pleasant with nice bicycle lanes all along, you can see interesting old constructions on the way.