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Michael Palins New Europe

Episode 2 - Eastern Delight

Eastern Delight

From Lake Orhid in Macedonia, Michael Palin crosses into Bulgaria where he treks up to the Rila Mountains to join the summer solstice celebrations of the mystical White Brotherhood sect.

En route to Sofia he meets up with Stefan Kitanov and learns how to make Bulgarian moonshine. Another highlight comes from Aziz, a gay transvestite gypsy whose turbo-folk songs have made him an unlikely Balkan superstar, talks of the difficulties of being a gypsy in Bulgaria and in Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second city.

In Edirne, the first capital of the Ottoman Empire, he admires the great mosques of master architect Sinan. In the company of Selen Korkut, Michael has to rethink attitudes towards the Ottomans when he visits a 15th-century mental hospital that practised the epitome of enlightened treatment. A local oil wrestling competition, Turkey's most popular indigenous sport, is a chance to watch men slippery with olive oil grappling each other in a most unusual way.

Crossing over the Bosphorus in Istanbul, he doesn't learn how to belly dance from Tanyeli, who had rather more success with Madonna than Michael Palin, but discovers from art curator Raffi Portakal just how European many Turks consider themselves and how actively many want to be part of the European Union.

Eschewing politics, Michael is serenaded by sultry siren Sevval Sen at a local meyhani restaurant but manages to tear himself away and leave for Ephesus on the Aegean. On a hill overlooking the ancient Greek city he marvels at the annual camel-wrestling festival where randy male camels lock legs in a manner even more bizarre than the oil wrestlers...

Leaving the camel celebrations behind, he follows the old route they took in centuries past towards the borders with Iran and Iraq.