At low tide, the muddy Mersey does Liverpool few favours. A solitary gull busily inspects the impromptu valleys carved into the grimy mudflats by trickling streams, and fails to find anything of interest. But look north, not south, from the Riverside Walk, and a beautiful, raw muddle of a city fills your field of vision. A sturdy old ferry draws up beside the arrogant towers of the Royal Liver Building and the sleek lines of the Cunard Building, while behind portals of faded sandstone lies the greatest concentration of museums and galleries outside South Kensington.
Liverpool is enjoying an artistic renaissance to match the Sixties, and simultaneously reclaiming its role as a crossroads for the world. Though a one-way voyage, steerage class, to New York is no longer available for £4, the city's airport, named for John Lennon, is now the low-cost gateway to Europe. Come 2008, tourists will fly in on easyJet and Ryanair to join the celebration of humanity that will constitute the city's stint as European Capital of Culture.
Visitors will arrive in their millions to indulge in Liverpool. To comprehend the respect that the Mersey city has around the world, you need to head for the Crimea. The chilliest outpost of this far-flung fragment of Ukraine is the narrow pass across the mountains leading to the resort of Yalta. Improbably, someone has built a pub alongside the crest of the road. And they have named it "Liverpool".
For more information, see www.visitliverpool.com