The Orient Express
Travel, Luxury and Comfort have always been a part of live for those looking for a Lifestyle Vacation.
Staying at Luxury Hotels, Resorts, Palaces or Villas. Cruising in Luxury Liners around the world. Driving at your pace along the most scenic drives or experiencing the sheer luxury and comfort in one of the legendary Pullmans railroad car are all part of Luxury, Style, Glamour and Romance.
Ever since Agatha Christie’s classic “Murder on the Orient Express” hit the screens, the Pullman has attained cult status immortalising the legendary “Orient Express”. Started as a normal international rail service, this name has become synonymous with intrigue and the first luxury train in Europe and perhaps the most famous of all Luxury Train Journeys in the world.
The Orient Express was a long-distance passenger train service created in 1883 by Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL). The route and rolling stock of the Orient Express changed many times. Several routes in the past concurrently used the Orient Express name, or slight variations. Although the original Orient Express was simply a normal international railway service, the name became synonymous with intrigue and luxury travel. The two city names most prominently associated with the Orient Express are Paris and Constantinople (Istanbul), the original endpoints of the timetabled service. The Orient Express was a showcase of luxury and comfort at a time when travelling was still rough and dangerous.
In 1867 Belgian-born Georges Nagelmackers travels to the United States, where he finds the railways feature sleeping cars and dining cars. Upon his return to Europe, the young engineer begins what will become his life’s work: designing luxury trains to take passengers to the gateway to the East.
Georges Nagelmackers founds the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL). His innovative train design provides travellers with comfort and hotel-style service in luxurious surroundings. This means people can travel through Europe without having to find lodgings each night.
On June 5, 1883, the first Express d’Orient left Paris on her maiden Voyage for Vienna. Vienna remained the terminus until October 4, 1883. The train was officially renamed Orient Express in 1891.
The original route, which first ran on October 4, 1883, was from Paris, Gare de l’Est, to Giurgiu in Romania via Munich and Vienna. At Giurgiu, passengers were ferried across the Danube to Ruse, Bulgaria, to pick up another train to Varna. They then completed their journey to Constantinople by ferry. In 1885, another route began operations, this time reaching Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) via rail from Vienna to Belgrade and Nis, carriage to Plovdiv, and rail again to İstanbul.
Between 4 and 20 October, the Orient-Express makes the first return journey between Paris and Constantinople, covering 3,959 miles in 13 days. In a single journey, the entire geography of Europe is turned on its head.
In 1889, the train’s eastern terminus became Varna in the Principality of Bulgaria, where passengers could take a ship to Constantinople. On June 1, 1889, the first direct train to Constantinople left Paris (Gare de l’Est). Istanbul, known as Constantinople until circa 1930 in English, remained its easternmost stop until 19 May 1977. The eastern terminus was the Sirkeci Terminal by the Golden Horn. Ferry service from piers next to the terminal would take passengers across the Bosphorus to Haydarpaşa Terminal, the terminus of the Asian lines of the Ottoman Railways.
The onset of the First World War in 1914 saw Orient Express services suspended. They resumed at the end of hostilities in 1918, and in 1919 the opening of the Simplon Tunnel allowed the introduction of a more southerly route via Milan, Venice, and Trieste.
The service on this route was known as the Simplon Orient Express, and it ran in addition to continuing services on the old route. The Treaty of Saint-Germain contained a clause requiring Austria to accept this train: formerly, Austria allowed international services to pass through Austrian territory (which included Trieste at the time) only if they ran via Vienna. The Simplon Orient Express soon became the most important rail route between Paris and İstanbul.
In 1982, the Venice-Simplon Orient Express was established as a private venture, running restored 1920s and 1930s carriages from London to Venice. This service runs between March and November, and is firmly aimed at leisure travellers, with tickets costing over $3,120 per person from London to Venice (via Paris, Zürich, Innsbruck, and Verona—also, despite its name, the train is running via the Brenner Pass instead of the Simplon tunnel) including meals. Two or three times a year, Prague or Vienna and Budapest are also accessed, starting from Venice, and returning to Paris and London.
Every September the train also goes from London and Paris to İstanbul via Budapest, Sinaia, and Bucharest—in the last three cities a sightseeing (and in the two capitals an overnight in hotel) also takes place—the return trip on the same route ends up in Venice. While the above-mentioned routes are available almost every year, some seasons have also included unique destinations, among them Cologne, Rome, Florence, Lucerne, the High Tatras, Kraków, Dresden, Copenhagen, and Stockholm. Such a journey is provided currently to Berlin.
The journey from Paris to Istanbul, taking in Budapest and Bucharest along the way, lasts eight days and offers travellers spectacular views throughout Europe making it a fascinating and unique journey across seven countries and cultures.
Included in the ticket price are guided tours of all stop-off destinations and the majority of overnight accommodation is in local luxury hotels.
The company also offers a similarly themed luxury train in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand called the Eastern and Oriental Express, and operates other luxury overnight trains in Scotland, Ireland, and Peru.
New Pullman lounge cars are introduced in Europe, kitted out with all the latest fixtures and fittings. With designs by master glassmaker René Lalique and decorator René Prou, they exemplify all the refined luxury of the French style of travel.