This week we are exploring Muntenia, also known as Greater Wallachia, a region once presided over by Vlad the Impaler, whose famous cruelty as a ruler spawned the legends that inspired Bram Stoker's iconic novel, Dracula.
This week we are exploring Romania's largest and most iconic region,mistaken by many Americans and others as a country in its own right. In fact Transylvania is a name that most of the western world still associates with Dracula, werewolves and folk legend. But this land beyond the forest defies all preconceptions and remains one of the most culturally important and beautiful parts of Eastern Europe.
2018 • Travel
On the last leg of his journey across the South American country, Michael explores the Brazilian south, where he is surprised by the rich diversity of European and Asian influences. Along the way he meets Dom Joao de Orleans e Braganca, second in line of succession to Brazil's defunct throne, goes flying with a man who has made a fortune out of rubbish and meets rap star Criolo, who believes social equality is a distant dream for most of his countrymen. Travelling farther south to Blumenau, the former Python's views on what makes a typical Brazilian are challenged when he finds German speakers and Bavarian dancers, before he catches piranha for sushi and helps cowboys treat a calf attacked by a jaguar
Setting out amongst the active, snow-capped volcanoes of Kamchatka, over 4,000 miles from Moscow, Simon explores one of the remotest regions of the country. The population of Russia's far east has fallen dramatically in recent years, but travelling by chopper and skidoo, Simon finds indigenous reindeer herders who are still eking out a fragile existence. In the port city of Vladivostok, Simon visits a newly built mega casino, designed to attract high rollers and tourists from neighbouring China. Deep in the forest, Simon meets the inspirational conservationist who has created a sanctuary for the country's most iconic predator, the giant Amur tiger. Simon ends his journey on the rim of a giant crater that has emerged in the Siberian landscape - chilling evidence of the impact of global climate change.
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 part 2 under the protection of armed guards, Michael discusses the country's nuclear weapons programme with an army lieutenant, visits a massive tourist resort being constructed on the beach, and embarks on a hike through the stunning landscape.
At the centre of this great sea, and surrounded by crystal clear waters, is Simon's first stop, the beautiful island of Malta. Driven by a surge of tourists, modern-day Malta is booming. But beneath the picture-postcard image lies a country accused of being a haven for money laundering and organised crime, where journalists can be murdered by car bombs. When Simon takes a ferry to his next destination, Calabria in southern Italy, he discovers a region in the grip of Europe's most powerful mafia, the 'Ndrangheta. With rare access to police and customs investigators, Simon follows an armed convoy carrying a ton of seized cocaine, joins a stakeout of a high-level suspect, and crawls through a huge underground warren of tunnels and bunkers built by fugitive mafia bosses. Travelling east along the southern tip of mainland Italy, Simon visits a turtle conservation centre, meeting Raoul, a loggerhead turtle rescued after swallowing huge quantities of plastic, a massive and increasing threat to Mediterranean wildlife. Simon helps release him back into the sea. Taking the overnight ferry from the heel of Italy, Simon arrives in one of the least-known but most beautiful corners of the Mediterranean, Albania. Under communist rule, Albania was isolated and shut off from most of the world. In a country now hoping for EU membership, Simon discovers an ancient culture of vendetta, where if an adult commits a crime, a child can be killed in revenge. Simon ends the first leg of his journey at a spectacular wildlife reserve where bird life is now recovering following the country's groundbreaking ban on hunting.