The first episode of On Hannibal's Trail that aired last Friday did okay we think. We're not sure how to judge this, but 'Hitting the Road' was watched by more than 1 million people in the UK which is about four times the viewing figures we were getting on BBCFour when the show aired for the first time back in 2010. You can read more about that here (if you really want to):
The Times newspaper said quite nice things about this opening episode in a preview on January 14th. We couldn't access this review until now because The Times is for subscribers only, but here it is:
On Hannibal’s Trail - BBC Two, 8.30pm
Originally shown on BBC Four in 2010 as part of the channel’s Call of the Wild season, On Hannibal’s Trail is an odd beast. It is a six-part series in which the Australian journalist Danny Wood and his two brothers, Sam and Ben, cycle 2,500 miles from Spain to Italy to retrace the steps of the Carthaginian commander and it sits somewhere between historiography and adventure bromance. Of the three, Sam is an archaeologist for whom Hannibal is a hero, so there is no shortage of insight. In tonight’s opening episode the trio pass through the palms of Elche, the beaches of Benidorm and Valencia’s zoo, meeting the Australian cyclist Matthew Lloyd along the way.
That review was by David Chater - thanks David! And yes we did depend heavily on Sam, not just for insights but to drag us over all those hills! And at the end of the next episode, 'Barca! Barca! Barca!', that airs Friday 27th Jan at 830pm, we meet our first real hills in the Pyrenees and have a lot of fun getting there. The territory we pass through - from the Ebro Delta, to Barcelona, to the ancient ruins of Ampurias and finally the Pyrenees, is really pretty but I don't think we were appreciating it quite as much as we should have at the time because we were distracted by the physical strain of our epic adventure. Through our visit to the ruins of Ampurias we were also getting more of a feel for the sort of man Hannibal was, what his civilization was like but also how difficult it is for historians today to really come to grips with what this civilization was really like. Alberto Ruiz Cabrero from the Phoenician and Punic Studies Centre at Madrid's Complutense University had this to say in our 'Experts' section:
"In spite of the fact that the Phoenicians brought the alphabet to the ancient world, because of the fact that they wrote on Papyrus, we've lost all their documentation. Their position between an Oriental or Semitic style court and the innovations on which Hellenistic societies were based is a great unkown for investigators."
Hopefully we shed a little light in Episode 2. One of the funny and embarrassing moments in tomorrow's episode occurrs on the beach when we feast on a suckling pig - a welcome break from the pasta you might say, well, not exactly. When the piglet isn't gulped down quite as heartily as it could have been if we'd liked our pork on the rare side, our friend and chef Adam Melonas doesn't quite do a Gordon Ramsay on us, but, well, you'll see. I hope Adam still thinks of me as a friend.