Paul Merton in Europe

Sunday 7th February 9.00pm

Paul Merton continues his tour of Europe. Paul heads to Milan to see how the city’s twin loves of football and fashion have joined together with the concept of a footballer living in a department store. He watches a violent game of medieval football before meeting a group of men who have shed their macho image by learning housework. In Rome, Paul visits the spot where Julius Caesar died and encounters a self-styled ‘TV terrorist’.

Paul’s European tour continues with a trip to the home of spaghetti, espressos, the Catholic Church and Vespas. His first stop is the elegant northern city of Milan, famed for two things – football and fashion. Paul’s guide, Genevieve, shows him how a local department store has gone one better by fusing the two together. While being dragged around the shops, Paul is surprised to stumble across a semi-naked footballer, Andrea Vasa, living in a department store.

Andrea eats, sleeps and showers in the aisles for passers-by to see. This living, breathing bit of window dressing even parks his Porsche on the shop floor. The idea is the brainchild of the store owner, who believes that football is the language of the 21st century…

Next, Paul attends a game of calcio storico, a medieval mixture of rugby, football, wrestling and outright war. A recreation of a medieval match takes place every year. The game pitches two teams of locals dressed in 16th-century clobber against each other in a free-for-all stampede of gouging, stomping and head-bashing.

In the Tuscan town of Petra Santa, Paul enjoys a rather more genteel time at the Association of Househusbands. For centuries Italian men have been the embodiment of the macho male. But in this small town a quiet revolution is taking place as husbands learn ironing, washing and cleaning. Paul learns one possible reason for this change in male attitude has to do with the fringe benefits they can earn in the bedroom…

Paul’s new guide, Kim, takes him to meet Dominico Albion, a shoemaker with a difference. Dominico owns a bizarre hotel that has never had any paying guests! The establishment is part of Dominico’s strange private world, which he explains is governed by its own laws – known as the ‘30 rules of the Spaceman’. Holed up in his private space, Dominico can practise his very surreal art, which mostly seems to involve a lot of naked models.

Paul then makes tracks for Rome. The Eternal City is home to the Colosseum, the Forum and the Vatican – but Paul has some rather more offbeat sights in store. His guide is Francesco, a local journalist who has written a book probing the volatile minefield that is the Italian psyche. After keeping Paul waiting, Francesco finally shows up and decides to take him to the spot where Julius Caesar was assassinated. Paul is bemused to discover this key historical site is now home to a cat sanctuary.

Francesco introduces Paul to Paolini, a self-styled ‘TV terrorist’ who takes great delight in disrupting TV broadcasts. Paolini has done so no fewer than 20,000 times. He intrudes on the airwaves to promote safe sex, although he often is dragged away before he can espouse the virtues of the humble condom to the Italian people.

After a few false starts, Paul has become quite fond of eccentric Francesco. Before leaving Rome, he recreates one of the city’s most famous films by taking a very special bike ride into the sunset, à la Audrey Hepburn.

Sunday 31st January 9.00pm

Paul Merton continues his tour of Europe. Paul resumes his travels in Ireland with a stop to witness the unusual sport of road bowling. Near the lunar landscape of the Burren, he drops in on Father Ted’s house, before visiting a remarkable Brazilian enclave. In Dublin, Paul meets an enterprising pair who are selling Irish dirt to America, and an artist who lives in a 1930s house.

Paul Merton’s journeys through the western edge of Europe continue in County Wicklow. Paul meets a reclusive figure called Willy who has turned his bog land into an Amazon paradise for 20 rescued monkeys, as well as a number of geese, dogs, ostriches and emus.

Having fed this odd menagerie, Paul heads to County Cork to see the ancient Irish pastime of road bowling. Locals have gathered to watch two contestants attempt to fling a cannonball as far as possible down a country lane. The player who completes the distance in the fewest throws is the winner – and the spectators love nothing better than placing bets on the outcome.

Next, Paul travels to the lunar landscape of the Burren in western Ireland. These strange rock formations once lay on the ocean floor and represent 300 million years of compacted fish bone. Nearby, Paul visits the farmhouse used in ‘Father Ted’. The property belongs to Patrick, whose father appeared as an extra in the sitcom. But it seems that some of the locals were not amused by the show. “When they saw what they were involved with, they were totally disgusted,” Patrick says. “It was making fun of the Catholic Church.”

A young Brazilian lad living with Patrick’s family reveals that there is a town nearby with a large South American community. “They call it Little Brazil,” says Patrick’s wife. Intrigued, Paul heads straight to the very Irish-looking town of Gort. It takes only a few moments to realise that most of the locals look distinctly Brazilian – and there is even a Brazilian shop. “Even for elaborate hoaxes, to build a store and fill it full of Brazilian food would be going a bit too far,” says Paul.

It transpires that a large number of Brazilian butchers were brought to Gort over ten years ago to staff a meat factory. The plant has now closed down and the Brazilians have had to find other work. The locals seem content to welcome the newcomers, pointing out that the Irish themselves have a proud history of emigrating to find work. Paul’s next stop is Dublin, which was until recently Europe’s fastest-growing capital. The economy is facing tough times, but at least one pair of enterprising Irishmen have hit upon a profitable business. Patrick and Tim export tonnes of Irish peat to nostalgic Irish-Americans. “There’s 36 million Irish-Americans out there,” says Patrick. “Five per cent of that market – that’s what we’re looking for.”

Elsewhere in Dublin, an eccentric American has made the journey the other way. Artist David McDermott moved from New York 15 years ago and has adopted a 1930s lifestyle. David says he was inspired by the locals. “Even though the people might appear to be contemporary, they’re really old-fashioned,” he says. Paul is charmed and bewildered by David’s extraordinary home, which includes a large taxidermy collection. “I go for road kill,” David explains.

Finally, Paul spends an afternoon at a military reenactment at Fort Duncannon. A range of historic armies are on display, but Paul is especially interested by the Nazi encampment. While Paul is a little worried by all the Third Reich paraphernalia, it seems that the locals are more tolerant. “I’d probably get more adverse reaction if I had been wearing a British uniform,” says Joe, a member of the ‘Nazi’ team. The day concludes with a pitched battle and an appearance by Winston Churchill himself – complete with an Irish accent.

Thursday 28th January 9.00pm

Paul Merton continues his tour of Europe. Paul resumes his travels in Ireland with a stop to witness the unusual sport of road bowling. Near the lunar landscape of the Burren, he drops in on Father Ted’s house, before visiting a remarkable Brazilian enclave. In Dublin, Paul meets an enterprising pair who are selling Irish dirt to America, and an artist who lives in a 1930s house.

Paul Merton’s journeys through the western edge of Europe continue in County Wicklow. Paul meets a reclusive figure called Willy who has turned his bog land into an Amazon paradise for 20 rescued monkeys, as well as a number of geese, dogs, ostriches and emus.

Having fed this odd menagerie, Paul heads to County Cork to see the ancient Irish pastime of road bowling. Locals have gathered to watch two contestants attempt to fling a cannonball as far as possible down a country lane. The player who completes the distance in the fewest throws is the winner – and the spectators love nothing better than placing bets on the outcome.

Next, Paul travels to the lunar landscape of the Burren in western Ireland. These strange rock formations once lay on the ocean floor and represent 300 million years of compacted fish bone. Nearby, Paul visits the farmhouse used in ‘Father Ted’. The property belongs to Patrick, whose father appeared as an extra in the sitcom. But it seems that some of the locals were not amused by the show. “When they saw what they were involved with, they were totally disgusted,” Patrick says. “It was making fun of the Catholic Church.”

A young Brazilian lad living with Patrick’s family reveals that there is a town nearby with a large South American community. “They call it Little Brazil,” says Patrick’s wife. Intrigued, Paul heads straight to the very Irish-looking town of Gort. It takes only a few moments to realise that most of the locals look distinctly Brazilian – and there is even a Brazilian shop. “Even for elaborate hoaxes, to build a store and fill it full of Brazilian food would be going a bit too far,” says Paul.

It transpires that a large number of Brazilian butchers were brought to Gort over ten years ago to staff a meat factory. The plant has now closed down and the Brazilians have had to find other work. The locals seem content to welcome the newcomers, pointing out that the Irish themselves have a proud history of emigrating to find work.

Paul’s next stop is Dublin, which was until recently Europe’s fastest-growing capital. The economy is facing tough times, but at least one pair of enterprising Irishmen have hit upon a profitable business. Patrick and Tim export tonnes of Irish peat to nostalgic Irish-Americans. “There’s 36 million Irish-Americans out there,” says Patrick. “Five per cent of that market – that’s what we’re looking for.”

Elsewhere in Dublin, an eccentric American has made the journey the other way. Artist David McDermott moved from New York 15 years ago and has adopted a 1930s lifestyle. David says he was inspired by the locals. “Even though the people might appear to be contemporary, they’re really old-fashioned,” he says. Paul is charmed and bewildered by David’s extraordinary home, which includes a large taxidermy collection. “I go for road kill,” David explains.

Finally, Paul spends an afternoon at a military reenactment at Fort Duncannon. A range of historic armies are on display, but Paul is especially interested by the Nazi encampment. While Paul is a little worried by all the Third Reich paraphernalia, it seems that the locals are more tolerant. “I’d probably get more adverse reaction if I had been wearing a British uniform,” says Joe, a member of the ‘Nazi’ team. The day concludes with a pitched battle and an appearance by Winston Churchill himself – complete with an Irish accent.

Monday 25th January 9.00pm

Paul Merton continues his tour of Europe. Paul resumes his travels in Ireland with a stop to witness the unusual sport of road bowling. Near the lunar landscape of the Burren, he drops in on Father Ted’s house, before visiting a remarkable Brazilian enclave. In Dublin, Paul meets an enterprising pair who are selling Irish dirt to America, and an artist who lives in a 1930s house.

Paul Merton’s journeys through the western edge of Europe continue in County Wicklow. Paul meets a reclusive figure called Willy who has turned his bog land into an Amazon paradise for 20 rescued monkeys, as well as a number of geese, dogs, ostriches and emus.

Having fed this odd menagerie, Paul heads to County Cork to see the ancient Irish pastime of road bowling. Locals have gathered to watch two contestants attempt to fling a cannonball as far as possible down a country lane. The player who completes the distance in the fewest throws is the winner – and the spectators love nothing better than placing bets on the outcome.

Next, Paul travels to the lunar landscape of the Burren in western Ireland. These strange rock formations once lay on the ocean floor and represent 300 million years of compacted fish bone. Nearby, Paul visits the farmhouse used in ‘Father Ted’. The property belongs to Patrick, whose father appeared as an extra in the sitcom. But it seems that some of the locals were not amused by the show. “When they saw what they were involved with, they were totally disgusted,” Patrick says. “It was making fun of the Catholic Church.”

A young Brazilian lad living with Patrick’s family reveals that there is a town nearby with a large South American community. “They call it Little Brazil,” says Patrick’s wife. Intrigued, Paul heads straight to the very Irish-looking town of Gort. It takes only a few moments to realise that most of the locals look distinctly Brazilian – and there is even a Brazilian shop. “Even for elaborate hoaxes, to build a store and fill it full of Brazilian food would be going a bit too far,” says Paul.

It transpires that a large number of Brazilian butchers were brought to Gort over ten years ago to staff a meat factory. The plant has now closed down and the Brazilians have had to find other work. The locals seem content to welcome the newcomers, pointing out that the Irish themselves have a proud history of emigrating to find work. Paul enjoys a pint of Guinness in the local pub – where a carnival-style party is in full swing.

Paul’s next stop is Dublin, which was until recently Europe’s fastest-growing capital. The economy is facing tough times, but at least one pair of enterprising Irishmen have hit upon a profitable business. Patrick and Tim export tonnes of Irish peat to nostalgic Irish-Americans. “There’s 36 million Irish-Americans out there,” says Patrick. “Five per cent of that market – that’s what we’re looking for.”

Elsewhere in Dublin, an eccentric American has made the journey the other way. Artist David McDermott moved from New York 15 years ago and has adopted a 1930s lifestyle. David says he was inspired by the locals. “Even though the people might appear to be contemporary, they’re really old-fashioned,” he says. Paul is charmed and bewildered by David’s extraordinary home, which includes a large taxidermy collection. “I go for road kill,” David explains.

Finally, Paul spends an afternoon at a military reenactment at Fort Duncannon. A range of historic armies are on display, but Paul is especially interested by the Nazi encampment. While Paul is a little worried by all the Third Reich paraphernalia, it seems that the locals are more tolerant. “I’d probably get more adverse reaction if I had been wearing a British uniform,” says Joe, a member of the ‘Nazi’ team. The day concludes with a pitched battle and an appearance by Winston Churchill himself – complete with an Irish accent.

Monday 18th January 9.00pm

Paul Merton continues his fascinating tour of Europe this week on Five. In this instalment, Paul visits an American Indian Club in the former GDR before exploring the Wunderland miniature railway in the affluent city of Hamburg. His last stop in Germany is a visit to a family who make wooden sex toys! The next leg of the journey is the Republic of Ireland, starting in the ‘rebel’ county of Cork. Paul meets a solicitor called Colin who dreams of competing as a female synchronised swimmer, and an Irish monk who has opened an alternative sculpture park…

Having started his European adventure in Berlin, Paul now moves eastward into the rural backwaters of the former GDR, stopping at a small farmhouse called Crazy Horse Ranch. Here, husband and wife Frank and Simona live life as if they were cowboys and Indians in the Wild West. Ensuring Paul has a lasting memory of eastern Germany, the couple perform a re-enactment of the Battle of Little Bighorn with the help of some like-minded friends. “Having thought about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re absolutely bonkers – in a nice way!” concludes Paul.

Next, Paul travels to the historic dockyards of Hamburg and discovers a secret world run by three brothers. Wunderland is the world’s largest miniature railway. The brainchild of twins Gerrit and Frederick Braun and their younger brother Sebastian, the railway includes Hamburg itself, Germany and large parts of the world. Monitored by a complex bank of cameras and computers, Wunderland is an almost perfect reconstruction. Along its 12km stretch of track lie hidden secrets, from car crashes to more intimate moments. It is an immense, unnervingly rounded land of wonder.

For his last German experience, Paul journeys south to the picturesque woods that inspired the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Here, he meets the Thury family. While making ornamental mushrooms in his woodwork shop, father Elmar noticed he had created what looked more like a dildo! Thus began a unique family business making wooden sex toys. While Elmar looks after production, eldest son Stefan runs the website and matriarch Maria handles the varnishing.

Paul bids farewell to Germany and moves on to the Republic of Ireland. After reading about a male solicitor who is trying to break into the competitive world of female synchronised swimming, Paul travels to the picturesque and conservative town of Fermoy in County Cork to meet him. One of a distinguished line of solicitors, aspiring swimmer Colin wants to risk it all for what he sees as his right to be allowed to swim with the girls…

Paul’s visit to the Emerald Isle continues with a trip to Wicklow, where Irish Buddhist monk Viktor has created a spiritual retreat with a difference. Viktor calls the retreat his ‘midlife crisis park’ – a place where visitors question their lives. Paul takes a private tour with Viktor to see some of the most unusual sculptures he has ever encountered – from a boy slicing his head in half to a giant toothed vagina!

Finally, Paul heads back to the ‘rebel’ county of Cork. Until 1993 homosexuality was illegal in Ireland – but Paul is heartened to see a huge celebration of gay pride on the streets of one of Ireland’s most traditional cities, the city of Cork. Paul meets David Roche, head of the Cork Gay Project, to see just how much Ireland has changed since his childhood days.

Paul Merton embarks on a fascinating tour of Europe in this brand new series for Five. Beginning in Germany, Paul meets the leader of a political movement known as the Apple Front, before enjoying a ‘chess boxing’ match in a Berlin sports hall. Next, he meets a former truck driver who practises the dying art of giant bunny breeding, and samples the delights of naked bowling. The first leg of Paul’s tour ends with a bizarre spa treatment in a hotel on the Austrian border.

Having travelled far afield to explore China and India, Paul Merton is ready to take things easy with a relaxing trip around Europe. “But things didn’t turn out quite as expected,” he says. Far from gorging on sumptuous food and wine, lying on ravishing beaches and enjoying breathtaking architecture, Paul will be exploring some of the lesser-known areas of the continent. “Prepare to see Europe like you’ve never seen it before,” he promises.

The tour begins in Berlin, the capital city of Europe’s biggest economic power. “I must admit, I don’t know much about Berlin except that until 20 years ago, the city was divided by a wall,” says Paul. Other than a small section of the wall left intact for posterity and a few souvenir stalls, little evidence now remains of Berlin’s brutal division. Following reunification in 1990, the city was reborn –with billions of pounds pumped into restoring the city to a state-of-the-art capital. The result is an eclectic mix of buildings, with old and new juxtaposed.

Berlin’s difficult past is not just reflected in the architecture. Paul visits the Holocaust memorial – 2,500 stone monoliths arranged over five acres in the heart of the city. “I find it a moving tribute,” he says. But the structure has been criticised for being too abstract, while the necessity to protect the stones against anti-Semitic graffiti points towards a larger problem.

After leaving the memorial, Paul stumbles upon what looks like a neo-Nazi rally – but is surprised to find the protesters’ uniforms adorned with apples instead of swastikas. A friendly protester called Henry explains that they are the Apple Front, a peaceful organisation that holds demonstrations outside the offices of far-right parties. “We are making fun of Nazis,” says Henry. The group’s leader, Alf, is convinced that comedy is central to the fight against far-right extremism – but also confesses that he enjoys playing the role of Führer. “Every German has a little Adolf inside,” says Alf. “This has to be one of the bizarrest political movements I’ve ever encountered!” concludes an amused Paul. Before he leaves Berlin, Paul is treated to a ringside seat at a ‘chess boxing’ match. This uniquely German phenomenon sees two fighters engage in physical and mental combat across 11 alternating rounds. Either a knockout in the ring or a checkmate on the board clinches the bout. Despite his initial doubts, Paul thoroughly enjoys the experience. “I think it works extremely well!” he enthuses.

After leaving Berlin, Paul visits the former East Germany and meets Karl Szmolinsky, an ex-truck driver who practises the dying art of giant bunny breeding. Karl is one of the only rabbit breeders left in the region. In the past these giants were bred for food, a practice that attracted the attention of North Korea. Korean officials convinced Karl to sell them a selection of breeding pairs to help feed the poor – he was shocked to hear a rumour that they were served at a birthday banquet for Kim Jong Il!

Moving on to the holiday state of Bavaria, Paul meets artist Peter Koppen, who has spent his life folding tiny paper boats. Next up, following in the long tradition of naturism in Germany, Paul meets the new wave, a group called ‘Naktiv’. They believe people should be allowed to be naked anywhere they want – at home, out hiking or even at the local bowling alley…

Finally, after a tough start to his tour, Paul tries a spa treatment that involves sitting in a tub full of beer – before being tucked up in a bed of straw.

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