Best travel TV shows: I travelled the world during the pandemic, without leaving my couch

The Faroe Islands is a north Atlantic archipelago which lies north of Scotland and halfway between Norway and Iceland and is a constituent of Denmark.

Remote, windy, wet and cold, the eighteen volcanic islands are bleak but astoundingly beautiful, indented by fjords and marked by vertiginous cliffs covered in peat and moss, and dotted with villages featuring brightly painted houses topped with green turf. The islands are also home to lots of sheep, which produce wool to make the famous Faroese patterned sweaters worn by detective Sarah Lund in the Danish TV series The Killing.

I've never set foot in the Faroes, as they are known. And yet, I've just been on a fantastic holiday there, thanks to Trom, the first drama series made in the islands, which is based on a crime novel by Faroese writer Jagvan Isaksen and currently streaming on SBS On Demand.

The series is so beautifully shot, I feel I've hiked those specular bluffs and valleys. It's so well acted I feel that I know many of the locals, including the police, anti-whaling protesters, fishermen and criminals. I understand their idiosyncrasies and I've even worked out their strange (to me) accents. And the story is so gripping, when the season ended after six episodes, I wanted to book my return trip straight away.

This has been the story of the past two years - most of my travelling has been done via my television set. Unable to go anywhere physically, I took my mind on a cinematic journey around the world.

Where did I go? Almost everywhere. Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Portugal, USA, Italy, Amsterdam, Israel, Spain, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Scotland, Russia, South Korea, even the Canary Islands, among many wonderful destinations. And I did it for a very modest fee thanks to those online travel agents, SBS, Stan, Netflix, Binge, Prime, Apple+ and the ABC.

Maybe it wasn't the most immersive way to travel. Touring by couch is no substitute for walking, cycling, riding trains or sailing – or even simply inhaling a place. But I learned a lot of things I may not have learnt even if I'd visited some of these destinations.

I had no idea Belgium had trailer parks (the entertaining crime drama Undercover on Netflix) or that people dress up in horrifying Krampus costumes in Austria at Christmas (the spooky Pagan Peak on SBS On Demand) or that Ostia on the coast near Rome is a hotbed of violent activity carried out by Roma gangsters with a fabulous sense of style (Suburra Blood on Rome on Netflix).

I now know what to do if arrested in several different countries, thanks to a slew of Scandi crime shows (most recently The Investigation on ABC iView), some Italian detectives (Ice Cold Murders on SBS), a determined Indian policewoman (Delhi Crime on Netflix) and eight seasons of the best-ever TV police show, Spiral (SBS), which has me well primed for what to do if I get in strife in Paris.

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Where else did I go? Familiar places such as Tokyo, via the laneways and bars of the sweetly innocent Midnight Diner. Or jet-set Zurich, with the sophisticated thief Johann Friedrich von Allmen and his manservant Carlos, in the wonderfully louche but under-appreciated mini-series, Allmen, on Prime.

I've been to Baltimore (the searing We Own This City on Binge), Albuquerque (Better Call Saul on Stan), Las Vegas (the brilliantly witty Hacks on Stan), Marseilles (Netflix) and Atlanta (SBS.) Then there was edgy Naples (Gomorrah on SBS), South Africa (Reyka on SBS), Amsterdam (Red Light on SBS and Van der Valk on ABC iView), Madrid (Antidisturbios on SBS) and the Canary Islands with Hierro (also SBS.)

While stuck in Sydney, I found it really comforting to hear other languages spoken. I brushed up on my Swedish with the sexy Love & Anarchy (Netflix) and my French with Call My Agent (also Netflix.). I learned a little more Yiddish from the heart-warming Shtisel (Netflix.)

I went back in time to cold-war era Portugal (Gloria on Netflix) and Finland (Shadow Lines on SBS), Weimar Republic Berlin (Berlin Babylon on Netflix), Baghdad during the American invasion (Baghdad Central on SBS) and pre-war Poland (The King of Warsaw, SBS.)

OK, I'm a TV addict, that's clear. I'm about to head off to Denmark with the new season of Borgen on Netflix. But I think the time has come to get off the couch and do it again for real.

lee@traveller.com.au

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