Tonight on BBC2 at 8pm Michael Portillo uncovers some dark history secrets in Great Continental Railway Journeys on a train journey through Austria and the Czech Republic.
Carrying his trusted Bradshaw’s Continental Guide which was published in 1936, Michael’s journey takes from from the Austrian city of Linz, through historic Prague and on to the canyons and caves of the Moravian Karst region. He ends his journey in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava.
On his journey he hears some incredible stories including how in 1938 Hitler returned to Linz, where he had lived a a boy. In the city’s main square cheering crowds welcomed his announcement of the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany.
On a happier note, the show also sees Michael meet 87-year-old Zuzana Maresova. As a child she was one of the lucky child refugees who boarded a train to safety in London as part of British stockbroker Sir Nicholas Winton’s famous Kindertransport programme which saved thousands of Jewish Czech children from death.
Czech Republic is also famous for its amazing gymnasts and art nouveau architecture. At the Sokol sports stadium in Ceske Budejovice gung-ho Michael puts his gymnastic poweress to the test and later he meets with the great grandson of famous Czech artist Alphonse Mucha who explains why the father of art nouveau is still remembered around the world today.
Architecture junkies will also love seeing an amazing steel and glass villa that was designed in 1930 by the renowned German architect Mies van der Rohe in a suburb of Brno. During the Second World War it was a wedding present to a Jewish couple who, as Michael discovers, had to leave it to escape from the Nazis. These days it is quite rightly, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Crossing the Czech border into Slovakia, Michael’s final destination is buzzy Bratislava, one of Europe’s youngest capital cities.
See more of Michael Portillo Great Continental Railway Journeys at bbciplayer.com