Why did you agree to go to Greece - was there any personal reason?
"First was the notion of the Olympics Games coming here, but also how little one knew of Greece.  I’ve been there before and filmed there, spent Easter there, stayed with friends, but I didn’t really know Greece and couldn’t really join it up.  I couldn’t think where places were and how many times it had been invaded and overrun by different empires.  The whole thing seemed fantastically thrilling – gods and legends and myths – and how much our country and the whole of the western world owed to Greece. It seemed ripe for a visit. Any excuse…but this was a pretty fine one."

Which places did you most enjoy visiting and why?
"The Mani peninsula, south of the Peloponnese. When we went there it was spring and it was as if the whole of the Chelsea Flower Show had tipped its flowers on the ground.  I’ve never seen such a blizzard of wild flowers.  Because they have no spray or chemicals down there and I realised that this is how nature intended it to be.  That was very thrilling. 

Throughout filming what I found staggering was to be in the same place as all the myths and legends and gods that have such a place in history.  I couldn’t believe I was on the spot where the Delphic Oracle sat, with the rain slicing down as it was when we were there.  You almost have to pinch yourself."

What surprised you most during your visit?
"Nothing didn’t surprise me.  The mountains surprised me.  I had forgotten that Greece had so many and the sheer beauty of them.  I had kind of got used to the notion of Greece being a place for beach holidays.  I hadn’t expected this extraordinary range of places and culture, this tapestry of, nightclubs in Athens, tobacco growing Muslim villages high up in the hills, vineyards, vast pebble beaches, finding out about the British influence from the occupation of Corfu.  It all seemed utterly unexpected and it all made me go, “Good grief, why didn’t I know this?”  It’s fascinating and one just wants to know more, but hopefully what we’re able to show will whet the appetite of people watching.”

The encounter with Nana Mouskouri, seemed to move you intensely. What made it so special?
"I’ve always admired her and thought she was great. But I was struck by this sense of her never having sung at Epidavrus.  Because she was trained as a classical singer and she was meant to sing there when she was young, but was turned down because she was a pop singer.  They were very snooty [about her pop career] so as a young girl she went away and cried because she was so upset.  And then there she was for the first time singing for us with no orchestra, on a Monday evening with very few people there and light rain falling.  And I just couldn’t stop myself from crying, I think at the thought of what it must have meant for her."

The weather didn't seem brilliant.
"We had gorgeous days and we had days when it rained as well.  But I quite like the idea that we don’t think of places as purely picture postcard holiday destinations.  I think there’s more to Greece than that." 

How bad was your vertigo when you were filming the reconstruction work going on high up on the side of the Parthenon?
"It was literally a near death experience.  I did manage to mask it, because I’ve watched it back, but I became almost petrified.  They asked me if we could do more filming up there and I just said no.  My heart was humming, my pulse was going at one hundred and ninety a minute for about an hour afterwards.

With vertigo, first of all you’re worried that you’re going to fall off and die, but also you have a compulsion to jump over the railings and die.  Even talking about it now I feel strange."

What do you try to give to the viewer when filming a programme about a journey like this one?
"The viewer is my best friend when I’m making these programmes.  I think of myself as if I’m talking to the individual person watching.  I want them to be interested, so what I want is if anyone watching goes, ‘I didn’t know that, I’m going to go to the library to find out more,’ or if it makes them decide to Google for more information, or, best of all, think, “I’ll get a ticket, I’ll go there.”

(© ITV.com)