I blame the Beatles. For some reason they gave me this impression that Liverpool was a jolly mid-sized town in the English countryside. In my mind it consisted of rolling green hills, cobblestone streets, whistling mailmen and Julie Andrews. But in reality, take the literal implication of the city’s name and that’s more accurate. Actually, “Liverhole” would be more suitable. Well, while we’re on this path, “Hole” would do just fine.
Traveling from the agreeable town of York, Andrew and I arrived at Liverpool’s main train station around midday. We emerged with our oversized backpacks onto the city streets under towering office buildings and gray skies. Our hostel was a good distance away, but we had plenty of time and a map Andrew drew as our guide. So we set off on foot.
As we ambled south down a main drag, we watched sidewalks covered with people transition into sidewalks covered with garbage – what seemed several years worth. It was like littering in Liverpool was a sport. It was like 30 dumpsters exploded. It was like nothing I had ever seen outside a landfill or New Jersey. As we continued on through the land-o-rubbish, the real estate followed suit. The surrounding establishments turned into grungy apartment buildings, windowless warehouses and junked car lots. Each property, no matter how decrepit, was encased in metal gates and barred fences, respectively. Flashy coils of razor wire further accessorized many perimeters. The whole area began to have a wonderful post-civilization kind of feel, to the point where zombies became a tangible concern.
What was most worrisome, however, was the frequency of neat piles of human poo on the sidewalks. Not neat in the sense that they were clean of course, but neat because they looked so tidy and unrushed. Clearly, taking a dump in the streets of Liverpool was common practice. When a city become prosperous from a combination of the slave trade and making large metal parts for ships, you don’t expect them to be shining beacons of civilization, but you do expect them to have a better handle on their street poop problem.
After an hour of wandering through a maze of barking dogs and vacant lots filled with rusty things, we finally found our hostel. Andrew and I were thankful we had refuge, but the old man who showed us our room seemed irritated with our presence. Giving him business, some nerve we had. Indeed, many of the inhabitants seemed to be in perfect complement to the city. It would appear much of their existence is devoted to drinking, cursing, smashing glasses, causing football riots, and perfecting one of the most atrocious accents known to mankind. The latter feature makes for a fitting soundtrack to Liverpool. Imagine if you will, the ideal English accent – charming, articulate, sophisticated. Now, replace all the positive aspects of that accent with a series of drunken muddled noises. “Oy Terry! Wosat oll about?”
I know, people will say, “it’s not all that bad” or “it’s not the worst place to be.” These sentiments are fair enough – there’s always somebody out there willing to defend this planet’s biggest tests of god’s patience. But, when compared to the hundreds of other places worth seeing in the UK, the competition craps on Liverpool (actually that might explain it). So, why pick on Liverpool when there are plenty of soiled and unsightly cities in Europe? Truly, being a hole doesn’t make it unique. But, what makes Liverpool special is that it’s a hole people somehow feel compelled to visit. Once again, those damn Beatles.
In the interest of marginal fairness, the city does have a few notable features. Liverpool’s highlights include The Cavern (where the Beatles got their start), Museums at Albert Docks, and a central commercial district. Personally, I enjoyed the first two, but the outdoor chain shopping area, albeit clean, was modernized and charmless. Yet, I do believe the most memorable part of our stay was a half-eaten chicken wing we passed three times on a sidewalk. In fact, we were a little disappointed when it was missing on our last day (the only logical conclusion to explain its disappearance was someone had eaten the rest of it).
I realize it seems rash and unfair to condemn any place based on a two-night stay. But honestly, I don’t think I could have survived there long enough to do the proper research before being swallowed up by a garbage monster or beaten to death by a group of local women.
Now, it might surprise you that I do encourage a visit (towards the beginning of your travels and just for a night). This is because Liverpool will set the bar low, provide countless jokes and make you far more appreciative of nearly everywhere else you go in Europe. And really, how often do you have the opportunity to crap on a sidewalk and not feel guilty about it?