The hills of Charleroi are not real; they are Coal Mountains, black waste, covered with a thin layer of vegetation. It does not take much to dig through and be exposed to the real Charleroi, black and gray.
The city with its 335 132 inhabitants of which 149 491 are unemployed was proclaimed by the readers of the Times as “ the ugliest city in Europe.”
Not a concern of the inhabitants of Charleroi. It used to be much worse in “Les Pays Noir” , much worse, when the hills and sky were black, filled with dust and smoke.
The factories have shut down and turned into rusty relics of the industrial revolution. The town itself has been partial refurbished; as with so many socialists run cities it never reaches completion and stalls somewhere halfway. A money pit.
The empty steel mills and dreary neighborhoods are a real adventure and opportunity for the Urban Photographer.
It is not uncommon to see area’s filled with burned cars.
People pass the house of the most notorious criminal and child abuser of Europe “Marc Dutroux “, as nothing ever happend; who abducted young girls, raped and molested them; and if not locked them away in his secret cellar. Only to leave the cellar to be abused during his orgies and sex parties . Several died by starvation or were murdered.
In the suburb of Châtelet behind a grassy field, through a forest, over a fence, is the ghost railway . Hundreds of meters of rails and a station that was never used. Built by a reckless socialist city government in the eighties. The escalators have collapsed, walls full of graffiti, and garbage and decay fills the infrastructre.
Some will say that Charleroi is not all that gray. The 180 year old steel mill “La Forges de la Providence “ is now housing artists. The huge walls are like paintings, covered with colorful images of cars. In the evening you can dance, if it’s not too cold, because there is no heating or insulation.
The photography museum of the city has developed into one of the largest of its kind, with 2,200 m² of exhibition space, partly in an old factory.
Le Bois du Cazier, on the outskirts of the city, is a coal mine converted into a museum. On August 8, 1956 ; 274 miners were killed only twelve escaped during a blazing inferno in one of the shafts.
Despite the art, museums and the beautiful industrial relics, Charleroi remains creepy. Crime rates are at an ever time high, with an average of 3 car thefts, 15 house burglaries and 3 armed robberies a day
Streets filled with so many drunks and young men . Just hanging around as tere is nothing else to do. As a woman, you get plenty of unwanted attention. Dirty looks and comments, just by walking the street. Often someone comes walking next to you with an indecent proposal. Not threatening, but annoying.
Nevertheless, it is worth traveling to Charleroi for a day or weekend.
Charleroi is so ugly, that it becomes beautiful. But be aware, crime rates are high and you better do not walk alone at night.
Thanks for reading.