Take a trip back in time and trace the paths of past travelers in the post towns and sacred spaces found in the majestic mountains of the Japanese countryside.
Japan’s Mt. Fuji is an active volcano about 100 kilometers southwest of Tokyo. Commonly called “Fuji-san,” it’s the country’s tallest peak, at 3,776 meters. A pilgrimage site for centuries, it’s considered one of Japan’s 3 sacred mountains, and summit hikes remain a popular activity. Its iconic profile is the subject of numerous works of art, notably Edo Period prints by Hokusai and Hiroshige.
Kyushu is said to be the wellspring of Japanese civilization. Yet few tourists visit the southernmost of Japan’s main islands. This documentary contrasts modern Japanese cities with traditional customs in the countryside.
The rail journey begins in Fukuoka – a city with a metro population of 2.5 million – and ends at the southern tip of the island, in the city of Ibusuki. As the train rolls along, it travels through time – and reveals the amazing diversity and contrasts of the most southerly of Japan’s four main islands. The trip provides spectacular landscape views, as well as deep insight into a foreign culture, and its ancient traditions and modern lifestyles. In the West, Kyushu is one of the lesser-known regions in the “Land of the Rising Sun.”
Even for the Japanese, the green, mountainous island is seen mostly as a holiday spot. Europeans rarely visit this part of the country – but there are plenty of restaurants and cafes that have names like “Wolfgang,” “Bavaria,” or “Côte d’Azur.” Travel guides say that these words sound “European” to Japanese.
The family of the emperor, or Tenno, comes from Kyushu as well. This is also where the dynasties of the proud warrior class, the samurai, have their roots. And there are a number of active volcanoes on Kyushu. One of the most famous is Mount Aso. Its caldera – the cauldron-like hollow at the top — has a circumference of about 120 kilometers.
The world heritage listed Albula Railway. With it’s 55 bridges and 39 tunnels, it is one of the most spectacular narrow gauge railways in the world. The centerpiece is the 5866m long Albula tunnel, which at 1820m above sea level, is the second highest alpine tunnel in Switzerland. Our journey starts in Chur, the terminus station of the SBB normal gauge line from Zürich.
Michael Portillo’s 1936 Bradshaw’s Guide brings him to the Italian ‘treasure island’ of Sicily, full of natural beauty and ‘scenery of the greatest charm’. But the interwar guide book also tells Michael that the head of government in Italy is the fascist leader Signor Benito Mussolini.
On a railway journey from the capital, Palermo, through the ancient town of Agrigento and the port of Siracusa, to Europe’s largest volcano, Mount Etna, Michael explores Sicilian life under the dictatorship. Michael finds out how the dictator took on the mafia and asks whether it is true that under Mussolini, the trains ran on time. In Palermo, Michael takes in the art and architecture of the futurists and feasts on a Sicilian speciality – spaghetti and sardines – in the city’s Ballaro street market. In the Capo district, Michael learns how the island’s distinctive puppets are made and is enchanted to see them in action.
Among the spectacular ancient Greek and Roman temples of Agrigento, Michael hears of the passionate ten-year search by a British archaeologist at the time of his guide for a long-lost ancient Greek theatre. The drama of the interwar period comes to life in front of Michael’s eyes as he joins six characters in search of an author at the Teatro Pirandello.
Michael takes the helm to explore the port of Siracusa by boat before visiting a controversial monument, which depicts a dark chapter in Italian history. He concludes his Sicilian journey on the circular railway around Mount Etna, aboard the sleek, futurist-inspired train inaugurated by Mussolini in 1937 – La Littorina.
It takes an average of 37m to travel from Grindelwald to Lauterbrunnen by train, over a distance of around 6 miles (10 km).
Grindelwald: The Eiger village of Grindelwald in the Bernese Oberland lies embedded in a welcoming and green hollow, surrounded by a commanding mountainscape with the Eiger north face and the Wetterhorn. This mountainscape and the numerous lookout points and activities make Grindelwald one of the most popular and cosmopolitan holiday and excursion destinations in Switzerland, and the largest ski resort in the Jungfrau region.
Kleine Scheidegg: Kleine Scheidegg lies in the middle of the mountain world. In the central mountain station, all options are open: Up to Jungfraujoch with the Jungfrau Railway, down to Grindelwald or Wengen with the Wengernalp Railway. It connects the two villages via Kleine Scheidegg station, where passengers change trains. Those who prefer to walk instead of riding the train are in luck. From the Kleine Scheidegg numerous hiking trails lead to the most beautiful mountain landscapes and viewpoints.
Wengen: With its nostalgic timber houses, the many dispersed holiday chalets and hotels dating from the belle époque period, this Bernese Oberland holiday resort has retained all the character of a picture-postcard mountain village. Opening widely to the south west, the terrace guarantees above-average hours of sunshine. Since 1893, car-free Wengen has been able to be reached from Lauterbrunnen via the Wengernalp railway; cars remain parked in Lauterbrunnen.
Lauterbrunnen: Lauterbrunnen is situated in one of the most impressive trough valleys in the Alps, between gigantic rock faces and mountain peaks. With its 72 thundering waterfalls, secluded valleys, colourful alpine meadows and lonely mountain inns, the Lauterbrunnen Valley is one of the biggest nature conservation areas in Switzerland.
The Glacier Express is a direct train from Zermatt to St. Moritz. The train is also referred to as the ‘slowest express train in the world’: the journey takes about 8 hours. There is a good reason for this slow pace: the train squeezes its way through the Alps, through narrow valleys, tight curves, 91 tunnels, and across 291 bridges.
The section from Trondheim to Hell opened on 22 July 1882. The next section, initially the Hell–Sunnan Line, opened in stages between 1902 and 1905. The line was lengthened to Snåsa Station on 30 October 1926 and then to Grong on 30 November 1929. Construction continued in a slow pace northwards, but was accelerated by the Wehrmacht after the 1940 occupation. The line was built through most of Helgeland and opened in seven stages to Dunderland Station in the next five years. The line then had to be brought up to standards before continuing northwards. It opened to Røkland Station in 1955, to Fauske Station in 1958 and to Bodø Station on 1 February 1962.
This train not only provides sustainable travel through the gorgeous Canadian Rockies, it supports efforts to preserve the environment throughout Canada.
Travel through the legendary Spiral Tunnels, traverse the Continental Divide, and be inspired as you wind through mountain passes and dramatic canyons. Experience the only passenger rail service on this historic rail route by Rocky Mountaineer, celebrated for connecting Canada from East to West.