CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Welcome aboard Transylvanian Railways. Your trip will be torture

Extreme Railway Journeys

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The Mallorca Files

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That’ll make anyone’s eyes water. An unsmiling East European lady showed Chris Tarrant how Vlad the Impaler despatched his victims, with the aid of a Teddy bear and a lethally sharpened pencil.

‘You are inserting pencil here,’ she intoned, as Tarrant clapped his hands to his jowls in horror, on Extreme Railway Journeys (C5). 

‘And then . . .’ The point emerged at the top of Teddy’s spine.

Tarrant wasn¿t trying to make any political points, but this hour-long travelogue presented Romania as a basket-case economy that has never recovered from 40 years of Soviet socialism

Tarrant wasn’t trying to make any political points, but this hour-long travelogue presented Romania as a basket-case economy that has never recovered from 40 years of Soviet socialism

Tarrant has spent his life tormenting people on TV, from pouring gunge over Radio 1 DJs on Tiswas to handing people cheques and snatching them away again on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

But the wilful abuse of cuddly toys was too much even for him. Surely the world ought to be ashamed of a monster such as Vlad the Impaler, he said.

The grim-faced tour guide bristled: ‘For Romanians, he is pretty much national hero.’

Vlad ended his days in a dungeon, amusing himself by running mice through with splinters. But though he skewered around 20,000 of his human enemies, he’s far from being Romania’s worst serial killer.

Surely the world ought to be ashamed of a monster such as Vlad the Impaler, he said. The grim-faced tour guide bristled: ¿For Romanians, he is pretty much national hero'

Surely the world ought to be ashamed of a monster such as Vlad the Impaler, he said. The grim-faced tour guide bristled: ‘For Romanians, he is pretty much national hero’

That honour goes to a man whose poster might have decorated Jeremy Corbyn’s student digs at North London Poly in the Seventies . . . the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. 

Tarrant wasn’t trying to make any political points, but this hour-long travelogue presented Romania as a basket-case economy that has never recovered from 40 years of Soviet socialism.

One service he used was apparently cobbled together with carriages rescued from scrapyards: rock-hard seats and no bar or buffet for the seven-and-a-half-hour journey. Hardly surprising the people don’t smile.

Another loco consisted of a Ford Transit jacked up on train wheels and fitted with an electric motor. Don’t laugh — that’s what nationalisation does to the railways.

The one moneyspinner that Romania does have is the legend of Dracula, which is why Ceausescu ordered the Transylvanian Tourist Board never to mention it.

One hotelier bypassed the ban by building a secret crypt with a coffin where guests could rest during daylight. 

The walls were decorated with buxom vampiresses falling out of their nighties. Hammer (and Sickle) Horror was evidently popular behind the Iron Curtain.

Tarrant’s globetrotting is unique on travel TV, since it makes me want never to visit the places he’s seen. So far he’s put me off everywhere from Latvia to Peru. Now Romania’s off the list, too.

However, the millionaire villas in The Mallorca Files (BBC1) look endlessly inviting.

I wouldn’t even mind that there seems to be a body floating in every infinity pool from Palma to Port d’Andratx. 

This light-hearted romp, a Club Med version of Death In Paradise, is a ray of sunshine in the afternoon schedules. 

Cops Max and Miranda (Julian Looman and Elen Rhys) distract themselves from the frustration of fancying the pants off each other by solving intricate mysteries.

The millionaire villas in The Mallorca Files (BBC1) look endlessly inviting. I wouldn¿t even mind that there seems to be a body floating in every infinity pool from Palma to Port d¿Andratx

The millionaire villas in The Mallorca Files (BBC1) look endlessly inviting. I wouldn’t even mind that there seems to be a body floating in every infinity pool from Palma to Port d’Andratx

Their first couple of adventures predictably involved lots of chases and action sequences, but the show has settled down now into a series of smartly scripted interviews, with plenty of quips.

Special mention must go to Lauren Carse, playing the call- girl Carino de la Noche (‘Sweetheart of the Night’), who used a Taser to stun her clients before robbing them.

The moment that she dropped her sultry Spanish accent for a Mancunian squawk was laugh-out-loud funny.

A second series of The Mallorca Files has already been commissioned. Get the big net out, there’s going to be a lot more bodies in those pools.

Gentle stroll of the night: After exploring England’s canals last week, we’re on Shanks’s pony for Yorkshire Walks (BBC4).

Artist Shanaz Gulzar chats to locals, sketches the view and reads poetry, while we watch via aerial cameras. It’s all so tranquil. 

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