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Orient Express Past and Present

Updated on September 1, 2011

Rail Travel

The Orient Express is one of the most famous trains in the world. It is the oldest of Europe’s Transcontinental’s and initially covered 13 different countries. There is a mystique and glamorized history about it due largely to books and its use as movie locations. If you are looking for adventure, decadence and luxury traveling than this may be your best ride ever.

The first so called luxury train travel goes back to 1864 when George Pullman built a train in Britain offering the latest technology and luxury available for its time. Less than 20 years later luxury train cars for continental trains were introduced and not too long after that sleeping cars were added.

The Orient Express train route started out as an international passenger service visiting many major European cities. It made its inaugural journey in June of 1883 between Paris and Istanbul and was composed of 2 baggage cars, 3 sleeping coaches of 14 beds each, one 16-bedded sleeping coach, and one restaurant coach.

Each cabin was fitted to the highest standard of its time. During the day it was a comfortable private lounge with sofa that converted to a cabin with an upper and lower bed. Private bathroom facilities were unheard of with no baths or showers on board but each cabin had a basin with hot and cold water. Passengers were looked after by cabin stewards providing any necessary services. Meals were prepared by expert chefs using the finest, fresh ingredients which were picked up along the train’s journey. Spend your evenings in the bar car sipping the best wines and champagnes with piano music in the background.

Travelling by rail had become very popular by 1900 and in 1906 the longest rail tunnel in the world was completed joining Switzerland to Italy through the Alps. The Simplon Tunnel cut the journey time from Paris to Venice and by 1921 the Orient Express was running an extended trip to Istanbul. This was known as the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.

The demand for luxury train travel diminished during the Second World War and in the depression that followed; ending an era of magnificent decadence and indulgence. Faster and cheaper air travel dealt another blow to the Orient Express, which had its last journey on May, 1977.

1982 saw the return of the Express with the maiden run from London to Venice and today it continues to make regular journeys between London, Paris and Venice transporting passengers in luxury across Europe on one of the most romantic journeys possible. Starting at £1,595 per person (2010 prices) the trip may not be for everyone but for those who can afford it and are looking for an experience of a lifetime this will be one that will live in your memories forever.

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