In 1913, Europe was criss-crossed by a network of railways stretching from Finland in the North, to Constantinople in the East, and Cadiz in the West, all of them described in "Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide and General Handbook". Steered by his copy of this guide, Michael Portillo embarks on a series of six new railway adventures, travelling from station to station, visiting the towns and villages described by the Guide whilst telling the story of Europe in 1913.
In this series, Michael returns to his native Spain to discover what the intrepid tourists of the Belle Epoque experienced on their travels through the fading Spanish empire. He travels South from Madrid and finishes with tales of British espionage on the Rock of Gibraltar. The second journey takes Michael from the former political capital of Italy, Turin, to Casanova's capital of romance, Venice. Continuing to follow his Bradshaw's, in the third journey, Michael explores Germany and learns how tourists in the early 20th century would have been visiting quite a new country, which they admired and envied but also feared. Michael then travels north into Scandinavia and discovers the royal roots of those Edwardian travellers' close dynastic ties with the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway. He also visits the final resting place of George Bradshaw in Oslo. For his fourth journey, Michael explores the stunning art nouveau architecture of Prague, then travels through the Czech Republic crossing into Bavaria, arriving in Munich and discovers an early 20th century pioneer who laid the foundations for the city's pre-eminence in science and technology today. In his final journey, Michael sets off to sample the delights of the French and Spanish Atlantic coast heading first, to Bordeaux and finishing in Bilbao in the Spanish Basque country.