Thursday, September 13, 2007

A whiter shade of Palin

Prague, Czech Republic (Picture by Aiden Fitzsimons)

Proving that he’s come a long way since his days as an unscrupulous pet shop owner flogging dead parrots to unsuspecting customers, Michael Palin, the Monty Python veteran turned jolly globetrotter goes east to savour the delights of Oriental and Central Europe for his latest BBC TV series.

Back in 1989 as a young TV reviewer for the Ulster Herald I reviewed one of Palin’s earliest forays into TV travel Around the World in 80 Days in which he traversed the globe without the luxury of flight via Africa, Asia and America to get back to London within the specified time limit, but spent only a brief period of time in Europe. His latest adventure in which he roams from Estonia to Turkey and almost every country in between promises to be fascinating insight into an area which is on our doorstep, yet which many of us in the West know so little about.

Having travelled a bit in this part of the world and developed something of a fascination for the vast and varied region which once lay behind an impenetrable “iron curtain”, the TV series will naturally be of interest to me. Palin has a thought-provoking article in The Guardian about how the series came about and his perceptions were shaped by his experiences in the “New Europe”. After my own travels in the former Yugoslavia last year this extract struck a chord with me:

"The past intruded on almost every conversation we had and in every town we filmed. Not the quaint past of cobbled streets and church spires (though there was plenty of that), but the raw and shocking past of the 20th century. We in the West have fought and suffered through two world wars, but in eastern Europe the misery was prolonged and relentless. The first of our journeys, which took us down through the former Yugoslavia, was a reminder of how recently Europeans were fighting each other. As late as 1999, our boys were bombing Belgrade. In Sarajevo we talked to people in streets that were death traps only 13 years ago. The eloquent and painstaking leader of a Bosnian mine-clearance team was the same man who had planted some of the mines in the first place."

Watch this space for further coverage and commentary.

1 comment:

Lady Fotherington-Smethers said...

It must be hard to avoid the echoes of past horror. But people have to forget and move on. Memories can be painful - happy memories because we cry for the joy that has been lost, sad memories because of the scars inflicted. But nothing lasts forever and time moves on.