Great Continental Railway Journeys

Transylvania to the Black Sea

Series 5 - Episode 1 Transylvania to the Black Sea



Michael Portillo isn’t the only man ever to be transfixed by Bradshaw’s railway guides. When Jonathan Harker arrived at Castle Dracula in Transylvania he found the Count poring over its rail timetables from Whitby to King’s Cross as he hatched his fiendish blood-sucking plan.

“It’s a book you can get your teeth into,” chortles Portillo at the start of this new series of his popular jaunts, as he visits Bran Castle in the Carpathian mountains, which inspired Bram Stoker’s classic Gothic tale – though Stoker never actually visited the country.

But, says a Bran Castle expert, the author familiarised himself with Transylvanian vampire legends and superstitions. Portillo moves on to Sinaia, where he marvels at an incredibly opulent fairy-tale castle as he tries out its vacuuming system, and later, amusingly, he’s harassed by a poodle on the train to Bucharest.


Armed with his trusty 1913 Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide, Michael Portillo ventures east through Romania to the shores of the Black Sea. Along the way he encounters a bloodsucking vampire in Transylvania and brown bears in the Carpathian forest, before visiting a fairytale castle with modern conveniences in Sinaia, striking oil in Ploiesti, tapping into the nation's musical soul in Bucharest and loading cargo from a crane in Constanta. This leg of his journey ends at Constanta, where Michael explores what is now emerging as Europe's largest grain port.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Michael Portillo
Executive Producer John Comerford
Series Producer Alison Kreps