Saturday, 23 March 2013

BBC: Michael Palin's New Europe - Baltic Summer directed by John Paul Davidson

A journey through the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, from Tallinn in the north via Riga to Vilnius in the south. Michael Palin tells the story of how the three tiny nations shook themselves free of their neighbour and oppressor, the Soviet Union, reshaping their lives and reclaiming their cultures, which had been forced underground but didn't die.

Michael attends a session of hirudotherapy (leech treatment), a session of fire-walking and a frolic with revellers at the pagan festival of Jaani, crowned in a chaplet of oak-leaves. In an impromptu experiment on the streets of Vilnius, he learns why Lithuanians are known as the 'singing nation'.

The documentary ends in Kaliningrad, which was once East Prussia. Kaliningrad is a relic of World War II and one of Europe's oddities - a region of Russia surrounded by Poland and Lithuania. It is City Day, a celebration of the 60 years since the region was renamed, and whatever the politics, Michael is determined to enjoy himself before sailing around the Baltic coast to Poland.

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