Great Continental Railway Journeys


Series 1 - Episode 4 Switzerland



Michael Portillo is turning into the thinking person’s Hairy Biker, except he isn’t hairy and he doesn’t have a bike. As well as eating his way around Europe, Portillo has a go at baking a Swiss delicacy using puff pastry: “My edges are all broken,” he wails when he makes a hash of it.

In the latest leg of his Bradshaw-guided trip he takes to Switzerland’s immaculate railways. Portillo has a lazy journey, taking in Alpine scenery of almost laughable beauty on the Glacier Express, a train that looks like a series of long, mobile greenhouses, ending at the Reichenbach Falls where, of course, he pays homage to Sherlock Holmes.


Following in the footsteps of early 20th-century travellers, Michael Portillo uses his 1913 copy of Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide to explore Switzerland, which was a favourite with Edwardian tourists. He begins in Basel, travels east to visit the industrial regions of Zurich and learns about the engineering feats needed to thread the rail network through the Alps. He takes in the striking beauty of Lake Lucerne, before ending with an ascent by train to Europe's highest station at Jungfraujoch.