Europeans were colonising Liverpool before it was Liverpool; so being a European Capital of Culture is something this city is well used to. The Celts harassed the Romans, then the Saxons arrived; the Vikings turned up in 902AD and made themselves at home. Then the Normans took over; King John signed the city’s first charter in 1207 and built a castle. The next foreign king to sign a charter for Liverpool was the King of Spain, Philip II (when he was married to Queen Mary) in 1556.
Liverpool has traded with Europe for ever, and Europeans came here to do business: French glass- makers in Old Swan; Italian silk manufacturers in Tithebarn Street, German sugar refiners, Portuguese wine merchants, Spanish clockmakers.
Liverpool merchants were exporting copper, iron, coal, hops, alum, soap and cloth, and importing salt fish, linen, leather and wine, back in the 1500s.
Parisian horticulturist Edouard André won the competition to design Sefton Park; it was a German, Karl Bartels, who designed the city’s very icons, the Liver Birds. The Liverpool Phil has been making music with visiting Europeans, from Max Bruch and Paganini to Rachmaninov and Bartok.
Among Liverpool’s twin cities are Cologne and Odessa; Wirral is partner to the picturesque Transylvanian city of Sibiu, which, coincidentally, will be Capital of Culture in 2007, the year that Liverpool celebrates its 800th anniversary as a royal charter city.
• When Britain was at war with bits of Europe from time to time, Liverpool mariners became privateers and captured French and Spanish prizes, under licence from the Crown.
• The Wirral coast is second only to Cornwall in its long history of wrecking ships and smuggling brandy, silk, tobacco under the noses of the Revenue men.
• For six months over the winter of 1912/13, Adolf Hitler stayed in Toxteth Park with his half brother Alois, his Irish sister in law Bridget and their son.