With the Iron Curtain coming down in 1991, Michael Palin embarks on 20 countries tour from Balkans to Baltic of Central and Eastern Europe.
1. War and Peace – Countries visited: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Albania
2. Eastern Delight – Countries visited: Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey.
3. Wild East – Countries visited: Moldova and Romania.
4. Danube to Dnieper – Countries visited: Hungary and Ukraine.
5. Baltic Summer – Countries visited: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Russia (Kaliningrad Oblast).
6. Pole to Pole – Countries visited: Poland.
7. Journey’s End – Countries visited: Slovakia, Czech Republic and Germany.
1/7 – War and Peace
Genial explorer Michael Palin packs his travel bag for a journey behind what used to be called the Iron Curtain. Palin, as charming and unjudgmental as always, chats animatedly to locals in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Albania on the first leg of his trip. It’s a fairly gentle stroll, as opposed to a gruelling journey in the mould of Pole to Pole and Around the World in 80 Days. And it takes a little while to find its feet, feeling initially like a holiday program, as everything looks so lovely and the inhabitants of each of the countries all seem pretty happy with their lot after the collapse of Communism. But New Europe does weave its spell, particularly when Palin visits the brutalized city of Mostar, symbol of the pointless slaughter of the Balkan war, with its Muslim cemetery full of young lives ended prematurely. But even here, now that its fabled bridge has been restored after being destroyed in 1993, residents are slowly feeling their way to normality – even though the surrounding countryside is littered with unexploded land mines.
2/7 – Eastern Delight
Michael makes a remarkable visit to GÃ¶reme, where the rocks have been carved to form homes and some of the most remarkable churches of the early Christian era. Leaving the Cappodocia region by balloon, he sails east towards the borders of the New Europe, which if Turkey were to join the European Union would include Iran, Iraq and Syria.
3/7 – Wild East
Michael travels from Transdniester, a breakaway state from the Republic of Moldova, to the Vaser Valley in Romania, where he joins 80 lumberjacks as they board a wood-fired steam train. He finally ends up at Bran Castle in Transylvania, the ancestral home of Vlad the Impaler and alleged home of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
4/7 Danube to Dnieper
Michael travels by road, rail and river through Hungary and the Ukraine, ending in the Black Sea resort of Yalta. Along the way he visits Budapest’s ‘House of Terror’, a National Park in Hortobagy, an area which Attila the Hun was reputed to have rampaged across, and ends up meeting a Leeds market trader who married the Ukrainian prime minister’s daughter.
5/7 Baltic Summer
The intrepid traveler continues his journey around eastern Europe by visiting the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. He tells the story of how three tiny nations escaped the oppression of the Soviet Union and reclaimed a culture that was once thought lost. Michael celebrates the pagan festival of Jaani, embarks on a session of fire-walking, and comes to understand why Lithuania is often
referred to as A Singing Nation.
6/7 – From Pole to Pole
Arriving in Gdansk via canal, Michael meets former electrician Lech Walesa who formed ‘Solidarity’, Poland’s first independent trade union, which led to the demise of communism in that country. Heading to Warsaw he visits the Palace of Culture, Stalin’s controversial gift to Varsovians. Michael then makes his own personal pilgrimage to Auschwitz.
7/7 Journey’s End
In the final leg of the journey, Palin crosses into the Tatra mountains of Slovakia before descending and passing through the Czech Republic and up into East Germany.