Next Episode of Great Continental Railway Journeys is
Michael Portillo travels on the great train routes of Europe, as he retraces the journeys featured in George Bradshaw's 1913 Continental Railway Guide.
With Bradshaw's 1913 Continental Railway Guide in hand, Michael Portillo ventures east through Romania. He encounters a bloodsucking vampire in Transylvania and brown bears in the Carpathian forest before visiting a fairy tale castle with modern conveniences in Sinaia, striking oil in Ploesti, tapping into the nation's musical soul in Bucharest and loading cargo from a 100-foot crane in Constanta. Travelling through what was, at the turn of the 20th century, one of Europe's youngest nations, Michael sinks his teeth into a Victorian gothic best seller and uncovers an unlikely fellow fan of his Bradshaw's.
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.
Michael Portillo 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. With his 1913 guidebook in hand, he discovers in Tangier how this once proudly independent nation fell under the control of the French as rival European powers scrambled to extend their empires in Africa. At Asilah, Michael lends a hand with the construction of Morocco's new ú3 billion high-speed railway line to Casablanca. In Fez, he dodges the donkeys and learns how to make lamb tagine before being scrubbed down in a traditional hammam.
Michael Portillo embarks on an action-packed adventure from the Italian Riviera to the Austrian Alps with his Bradshaw's 1913 Guidebook in hand. Along the way, our man of the match discovers how an Edwardian Briton brought 'the beautiful game' to the historic port of Genoa. Michael is ambushed by singers of the city's legendary trallalero and learns to whip up a mean pesto genovese. Michael 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 and a national park. A fishing trip in the bay affords spectacular views of the villages from the water. At an important Italian naval base, Michael discovers how Italy's imperial ambitions put her at the forefront of modern aerial warfare.
Armed with his 1913 Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide, Michael Portillo ventures to the northernmost reaches of Europe, where he 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 the Manchester of Finland, Tampere, Michael encounters medieval knights in Tallinn, grills sausages in Helsinki and samples cloudberry liqueur in a hot tub by the light of Finland's midnight sun.
A hundred years ago, Latvia, Estonia and Finland were part of the Russian Tsar's vast empire, but as Michael discovers, each country had a vibrant identity and culture of its own. Aboard a beautifully restored tram built in 1901, Michael finds that Riga in 1913 was one of the Russian empire's most important cities, where industry was booming but workers unhappy with their lot were rebelling.
After a picnic of chewy dried fish and beer on board a Soviet-era train, Michael arrives in Estonia, where in the magical setting of a ruined 13th-century cathedral, he hears a choir sing the nation's most important song and learns how, more recently, the Baltic countries demonstrated their desire for independence from the Soviet Union with a singing revolution.
Seasoned members of the Tallinn Ice Swimming Club introduce Michael to their sport before he crosses the Baltic Sea by ferry to Helsinki, where he discovers the music of the great Finnish composer Jean Sibelius and learns how his masterpiece Finlandia spurred Finns toward their independence.
North of Helsinki in Tampere, Michael takes to the water again to explore one of Finland's 180,000 lakes.
Steered by his 1913 Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide, Michael Portillo heads for the Netherlands, where he roots around the world's largest flower auction in Haarlem, operates a crane in Europe's largest container port, Rotterdam, and investigates Amsterdam's famous red-light district.
Following in the footsteps of early-20th-century British tourists, Michael tours this compact country, which boasted a mighty navy and a global empire to rival that of Britain. He discovers the magnificent art and architecture of the Dutch Golden Age and marvels at the engineering ingenuity of this fiercely independent nation.
In Rotterdam, Michael finds the 'great commercial activity' mentioned in his guidebook has reached epic proportions through the port's automated terminal. He takes a water taxi along the New Maas river to the windmills of Kinderdijk to see how the Dutch conquered the waters which threaten their land.
In Delft, Michael learns how the city came to specialise in pottery and finds out the secrets of its success. Michael is in his element in the Hague as he discovers the beautiful government buildings known as the Binnenhof and begins to understand the origins of the Netherlands' famous reputation for tolerance.
In Haarlem, Michael goes behind the scenes to see how 21 million stems and two million potted plants are auctioned every day from a vast complex roughly the size of Monaco.
Plucking up Dutch courage, Michael takes to two wheels in Amsterdam's fast-moving cycle lanes and heads for the Indies district, where he samples a delicious 'rijstafel' of dishes from the Dutch empire.
Arriving in Utrecht, Michael discovers the main hub of the Dutch railway network and its busiest station. He finds that the first constitution of the Netherlands was signed here and hears what the locals think about Dutch tolerance today.
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