Great Continental Railway Journeys – 5 September 2020 – 5/9/2020 – Saturday – BBC Two

Linz to Bratislava
Great Continental Railway Journeys Series 7

Michael Portillo travels by train through Austria and the Czech Republic, following his Bradshaw’s Continental Railway Guide, published in 1936. Michael’s journey takes him through spectacular scenery, from the handsome Baroque buildings of the northern Austrian city of Linz, through Czech South Bohemia to Prague, the city of a hundred spires, and onto the canyons and caves of the Moravian Karst region near Brno. He finishes on the River Danube in the Slovakian capital, Bratislava.

Along the way, Michael explores a dark era in European history, beginning with the return to Linz in 1938 of Adolf Hitler, who lived there as a boy. Beneath the balcony of the old town hall in the city’s main square, Michael hears how cheering crowds welcomed the Fuhrer’s announcement of the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany.

At Prague Central Station, Michael meets 87-year-old Zuzana Maresova, who, as a seven-year-old girl, climbed aboard a train to travel to safety in London. She tells Michael she was among hundreds of Jewish children rescued from Czechoslovakia by British stockbroker Sir Nicholas Winton, as part of the Kindertransport.

Czech gymnasts at the Sokol sports stadium in Ceske Budejovice put Michael’s flexibility and balance to the test and explain how their mass movement inspired the Czech nation at the time of his guidebook. Michael joins the great grandson of artist Alphonse Mucha to hear how the father of art nouveau helped define Czech national identity in highly political paintings and designs for stamps and banknotes.

A luxurious steel and glass villa designed in 1930 by the German architect Mies van der Rohe in a suburb of Brno is today a Unesco World Heritage Site. Michael discovers its history as a wedding present to a Jewish couple, who had to leave it to escape the Nazis.

Michael’s guidebook recommends a famous gorge, where he descends in a cable car to explore stalactite and stalagmite grottos deep in the subterranean river Punkva.

Crossing the Czech border into Slovakia, Michael reaches his final destination, one of Europe’s youngest capital cities, Bratislava.


About Great Continental Railway Journeys

Michael Portillo travels on the great train routes of Europe, as he retraces the journeys featured in George Bradshaw’s 1913 Continental Railway Guide.

This show is broadcast on BBC Two, also known as the British Broadcasting Corporation.

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