Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Journey from the Past: The Orient-Express

When I think of the Orient Express, I think of traveling by train in the ultimate lap of luxury--wood paneled cocoons of soft lighting offering gourmet meals in the dining car or comfort that even home might not provide in the drawing rooms.  I also think of murder and intrigue as the journey makes its way through mountainous terrain, the train's interior thrown into darkness as it passes through pitch black tunnels only to emerge with a who done it scenario on one's hands.  The fabled 'Murder on the Orient Express' took place on the long distance passenger train known for travel between Paris and Istanbul, with multiple stops along the way depending on what era you're talking about.  

In 1872, Belgian entrepreneur, Georges Nagelmackers, created Compagnie Internationale des Wagon-Lits, catering to sleeping car services throughout Europe.  His inspiration came about after traveling across the United States on Pullman night trains.  His vision was to create a similar style of travel across boarders in Europe, infusing those journeys with high end luxury. The premier journey started at Gare de l'Est in Paris on October 4, 1883.  A complicated route which included two separate train rides and a 14 hour ferry ride, dropped passengers off at their final destination, Istanbul.  In 1889, the train route from Paris to Constantinople was complete, offering twice weekly departures with a total travel time of 67 hours.  Wow!  I get ancy on an 8 hour flight to Europe!!  Somehow, I don't think economy class on any airline is going to compare to what I might have found back then.   

In July, 1914, the Orient Express service was suspended due to war.  In 1919 it started up again and with numerous stops, starts and new routes, it continued service to Istanbul until 1977.  A shorter version between Paris and Vienna ran until 2007.  With the advent of the TGV in France, their fabulous high speed train, the Orient Express is all but lost to a shortened trip between Strasbourg and Vienna.  

You are in luck however if this romantic type of travel appeals to you.  Venice-Simplon-Orient Express is a company that caters to train travel with luxury that I am sure wasn't available in the train's heyday.  Offering packages that take you to a combination of the most fantastic cities in Europe, you can savour the "travel" as well as the destination.  

Beware!  This type of travel does not come cheap!  An eight day excursion between Paris and Vienna that leaves on October 15th (I believe that is this Wednesday) goes for $24,750/per person.  Hmm.  I am speechless which hardly ever happens to me!!  Perhaps if you're lucky, there still might be room.  

Additional Information:  Venice Simplon-Orient-Express,
                                              The Orient Express
                                              Good Magazine: Wanderlust


Phivos Nicolaides said...

I have seen the movies Kim...

Jeff Paulett said...

The Orient-Express is a beautiful, luxurious train and must be the ultimate in luxury travel.

Kim said...

I have to agree--it would be a wonderful indulgence.

Anonymous said...

I went for a day trip on the Orient Express from Shrewsbury to London organised by treatme.net. It was a fantastic day out, with wonderful staff and service.