Join us for a cultural odyssey through little known parts of the southern Carpathians starting at the majestic Iron Gates and the ancient Roman Spa town of Baile Herculane. Charlie Ottley explores the remote Cerna Mountains finding historic working mills, and legendary rock formations. On our journey east we stop at a boutique winery and the stunning Cosia National Park with its grottos and picturesque monasteries. Crossing Saxon Transylvania Charlie visits the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler and meets a Romanian Princess at her ancestral home, majestic Peles Castle. In the second part we leave the mountains behind and meander down to the Danube where it branches to form the largest wetland in Europe. Here Charlie explores tiny fishing communities, fragile forests and labyrinthine waterways teeming with rare birdlife. We also see why this vital ecosystem is under threat and look at what is being done to preserve it.
In the far south west of Japan, there is a chain of islands stretching towards the tropics - a place where all life is influenced by the power of the sea, and where volcanoes and typhoons are forces to be reckoned with. The journey begins at an island at the top of the chain and travels south, revealing unexpected stories of isolation, unique wildlife and unsolved mysteries.
Simon catches up with the people he met, including a Burmese undercover human rights campaigner, a homeless woman living in a Hollywood railway bridge, and a 10 year-old boy he met working in terrible conditions in a glass factory in Bangladesh.
Ade Adepitan embarks on the first leg of his epic journey around Africa. Starting in west Africa, this episode sees Ade traveling from Cape Verde to Senegal and the Ivory Coast, before finishing in Nigeria - the country of his birth. In Cape Verde - a group of tiny volcanic islands in the Atlantic - Ade visits a community living in the shadow of an active volcano. He also witnesses how solar power is transforming lives by bringing electricity to isolated communities. Ade's next stop is Senegal. Here he visits Goree Island - a former staging post in the transatlantic slave trade. He then travels down the coast to a fishing village, where he hears that much of Senegal's catch is being taken by foreign companies and turned into fishmeal to feed western livestock. Making a last stop on his journey through Senegal, Ade visits Lake Retba where he joins the workers who wade through the lake gathering salt which they sell for less than half a penny a kilogram. Ade's host has tried to escape poverty by migrating to Europe, but - like so many others - he never got further than the horrors of the camps in Libya. In the Ivory Coast, Ade meets more people who share the dream of getting to Europe. This time, however, they are footballers training to become professionals in Europe's big leagues. But it does not always work out, as many are scammed into giving their cash to dodgy football agents. The final stop is Nigeria, the country Ade was born in. In Lagos he meets some old friends who play para soccer, and he also visits the largest church building on the planet. Traveling out of Lagos, he discovers a country in chaos. Under armed escort, he hears about a conflict that has created hundreds of thousands refugees, but barely been reported on in the west. He finishes his journey at Nigeria's equivalent to Silicon Valley – a company that believes tech can transform the continent.
The historian reaches the southernmost stretches of the Egyptian Nile, though her 900-mile journey is not quite over as she joins archaeologists as they extract a giant stone message board from the foundations of the temple of the crocodile god Sobek. Bettany also visits a hotel once frequented by Churchill and says farewell to her boat crew. After reaching Egypt's border with Sudan where Rameses the Great built an outrageous temple to himself, the presenter joins the crowds to witness the power of the rising sun.
Adventurer and journalist Simon Reeve heads to Vietnam to uncover the stories behind the nation's morning pick-me-up. While we drink millions of cups of the stuff each week, how many of us know where our coffee actually comes from? The surprising answer is that it is not Brazil, Columbia or Jamaica, but Vietnam. Eighty per cent of the coffee we drink in Britain isn't posh cappuccinos or lattes but instant coffee and Vietnam is the biggest supplier. From Hanoi in the north, Simon follows the coffee trail into the remote central highlands where he meets the people who grow, pick and pack our coffee. Millions of small scale famers, each working two or three acres, produce most of the coffee beans that go into well known instant coffee brands. Thirty years ago Vietnam only produced a tiny proportion of the world's coffee, but after the end of the Vietnam war there was a widescale plan to become a coffee growing nation and Vietnam is now the second biggest in the world. It has provided employment for millions, making some very rich indeed, and Simon meets Vietnam's biggest coffee billionaire. But Simon learns that their rapid success has come at a cost to both the local people and the environment.
2014 • Travel