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Leisure Cycling Blog

Through Flanders from Genk to Antwerp


Port House, Antwerp

Back to Brussels Charleroi Airport...

Out of all of the airports dotted around Europe, I have probably spent more time at Brussels Charleroi Airport on the outskirts of the Belgian capital than anywhere else. Ryanair generally offers very low fares from Manchester Airport to Charleroi. This flight was no exception as my ticket was priced at just £9.99. After a direct coach transfer to Brussels-Midi station, I was ready for the 2-hour Inter-City train across Belgium to the industrial city of Genk located near the Dutch border in the province of Limburg.

Genk Train Station

Belgium might appear to be one country on the European map, but not many people realise that the country is essentially divided in two under language and cultural lines. I have visited the French-speaking region of Wallonia in the past, but the main reason of the four-day visit was to explore the cycling network in the Dutch-speaking Flanders region with the local tourist office - Visit Flanders.

Unearthing footballing talent in Genk rather than coal...

A few hours after leaving Brussels, the train pulled into Genk, a city not on the usual Belgian tourist route and formerly one of the main coal and car producing regions in Europe. Genk is best known today for unearthing footballing talent and the local side K.R.C Genk are current Belgian league champions and have nurtured the footballing talents of the current Manchester City star Kevin de Bruyne in recent years.

KRC Genk

C-Mine - Like a scene from 'War of the Worlds'...

I had time to explore the city before meeting up with the group and walked to the nearby C-Mine Museum. This former coal-mining hub has been transformed into a cultural centre and retains the 60-metre tall steel head shafts that loom over the complex like tripods from a scene in the War of the Worlds.

C-Mine

I stayed at the 4* M Hotel located in the city centre next to Molenvijver Lake and Belgium’s first indoor shopping centre and met the international cycling group for a meal later in the evening. Genk might be tucked away at the far end of the Belgian rail network and has the feel of the post-industrial region like Tameside or South Yorkshire, yet it was good to see somewhere 'real' and away from the well-trodden path to Bruges.

Exploring Belgian and Flanders heritage in Bokrijk...

There were two cycling highlights lined up for us by the Tourist Office and the first one was a short ride around an intricately reconstructed heritage village at Bokrijk. This popular open-air museum is the Belgian equivalent of the famous Beamish Museum located up in Northumberland here in the UK. Visitors are given a glimpse into life in Flanders through the ages ranging from the 17th century to the 1960s.

Bokrijk Heritage Museum

Visiti