Great Continental Railway Journeys: Series 5
Michael Portillo travels on the great train routes of Europe, as he retraces the journeys featured in George Bradshaw’s 1913 Continental Railway Guide.
Part 1: Transylvania to the Black Sea
Michael Portillo ventures east through Romania to the shores of the Black Sea. Along the way he encounters a bloodsucking vampire in Transylvania and brown bears in the Carpathian forest, before visiting a fairytale castle with modern conveniences in Sinaia, striking oil in Ploiesti, tapping into the nation’s musical soul in Bucharest and loading cargo from a crane in Constantans. This leg of his journey ends at Constanta, where Michael explores what is now emerging as Europe’s largest grain port
Part 2: Zermatt to Geneva
Armed with his 1913 railway guide, Michael Portillo travels from the Swiss Alps to the shores of Lake Geneva. Along the way, he is caught up in a war zone with the Red Cross and rescued from an `avalanche’ by a St Bernard puppy. He takes to the skies in a vintage bi-plane to retrace the epic journey of the pioneering pilot who was first to fly over the Alps, and tries his hand at watchmaking, James Bond style
Part 3: Tangier to Marrakech
Michael leaves Europe behind to take in the sights, smells and tastes of North Africa as he travels from the Mediterranean port of Tangier to the Berber city of Marrakech. At Asilah, he lends a hand with the construction of Morocco’s new 3billion high-speed railway line to Casablanca, where he calls in to the most famous gin joint in the world
Part 4: Genoa to the Brenner Pass
Michael Portillo travels from the Italian Riviera to the Austrian Alps, starting in Genoa, where he learns how an Edwardian Briton introduced football to the port. He takes the train as it clings to the cliffs along the Riviera Di Levanti to reach the picturesque and remote villages of the Cinque Terre, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, before ending his journey in the famous Brenner Pass, the scene of a ground-breaking engineering project to build one of the world’s longest rail tunnels
Part 5: Riga to Tampere
Michael braves the freezing temperatures of the Baltic Sea and finds peace paddling a canoe on the Lakes of Finland. On his journey from the Latvian capital Riga to Tampere in Finland, he encounters medieval knights in Tallinn, grills sausages in Helsinki and samples cloudberry liqueur in a hot tub. He later arrives in Estonia, where in the setting of a ruined 13th-century cathedral he learns how the Baltic countries demonstrated their desire for independence from the Soviet Union with a `singing revolution’
Part 6: Rotterdam to Utrecht
Michael Portillo concludes his journey in the Netherlands, where he travels from Rotterdam to Utrecht, including a visit to the world’s largest flower auction in Haarlem, a trip to Delft to learn how the city came to specialise in pottery and an exploration of the government buildings in The Hague.