Michael Portillo retraces the journeys featured in George Bradshaw’s 1913 Continental Railway Guide.
Part 1: London to Monte Carlo
Leaving London behind, armed with his 1913 guide, Michael follows the most popular route of the Edwardian traveller through France. His first stop is Paris where he absorbs the atmosphere of La Belle Epoque, before he travels south to the Cote D’Azur where he samples the Edwardian highlife and learns why the area attracted the rich and artistic alike. He then ends his journey as he arrives at the gaming tables in glamorous Monte Carlo.
Part 2: Hungary to Austria
Michael explores the once great empire of Austria-Hungary, domain of the famous Habsburg monarchs. Starting in Budapest, the capital of Hungary he travels via Bratislava in Slovakia, to the beautiful and elegant city of Vienna where he immerses himself in pre-war decadence. From there he travels to Salzburg, before heading to the magnificent scenery of the Salzkammergut region to visit the emperor’s Austrian summer house at Bad Ischl, where in 1914 European history changed course forever.
Part 3: Berlin to the Rhein
Michael begins this journey in Berlin, the capital of Germany, which at the beginning of the 20th century was a powerhouse of science and technology. Led by his 1913 railway guide, he then heads west via the picturesque Harz Mountains to the industrial Ruhr Valley to learn how imperial Germany was war ready. He then travels south along the tourist trail of the castle studded Rhein river and ends his journey in the Rheingau to taste the wines of its age old vineyards.
Part 4: Switzerland
Michael Portillo uses George Bradshaw’s Continental Railway Guide to explore Switzerland, whose remarkable railways helped make it a favourite with Edwardian tourists. He begins in the truly international city of Basel and travels east to visit industrial Zurich. He then heads for the glorious Alps and learns how astonishing engineering feats conquered the most challenging peaks, before taking in the striking beauty of Lake Lucerne. Michael’s journey ends with a spectacular ascent by train to Europe’s highest station, perched atop Switzerland’s dramatic Jungfraujoch.
Part 5: Amsterdam to Northern France
Michael Portillo uses George Bradshaw’s Continental Railway Guide to explore the cities of the pre-war Low Countries before tasting the delicacies of Brussels. He then travels to the French sector of the Western Front, where from 1914 the trains carried a new cargo of artillery shells, with the Edwardian tourists of 1913 replaced by soldiers facing the horrors of the trenches. He will end his epic journey in the forest of Compiegne to hear how, after four years of conflict, the Armistice was finally signed in a railway carriage.