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,