By Jessica Voigts
The Orient Express – when you hear the name, what do you think? Romance, overland travel, the rhythm of the train on the tracks, elegance, tuxedos! Here’s a little history of the most romantic journey in the world…
Beginnings of the Romantic Journey
Belgian Georges Nagelmackers created a Lightning Luxury Train (Train Éclair de luxe) in 1865, and incited some guests. In 1882/3, the train left Gare de l’Est (Paris) and arrived in Vienna the next day. IT was fast! He then founded Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, which turned into a conglomerate of luxury trains, hotels, and travel agencies.
The Orient Express
In 1883, the very first Express d’Orient traveled from Paris to Vienna. It was later named the Orient Express, in 1891. The route took travelers on this most romantic journey from Paris to Munich and Vienna, and ended up in Romania. Travelers took a ferry across the Danube and took another train to Varna, and then onward to Istanbul.
During WWI, the luxury train service was suspended. After the war, a new tunnel (the Simplon Tunnel) allowed the route to include Milan, Venice, and Trieste – this route was called the Simplon Orient Express. Another route was added, the Arlberg Orient Express, which ran from Zurich to Innsbruck, Budapest, and Athens. The Orient Express was again suspended during WWII, and resumed later.
The Orient Express had a reputation not only for luxury, but for changing the face of train travel, introducing sleeping cars (with sinks and toilets!) and dining cars with exceptional offerings. Everyone who could rode the Orient Express – royalty, the wealthy, diplomats, and the bourgeoisie.
Since 2009, the Orient Express has changed – featuring smaller routes, and a differently owned company, using restored vintage train cars. However, the Venice Simplon Orient Express still has a reputation for luxury train travel and the name still conjures a romantic journey. There are now Orient Express routes through other continents – the Americas, Asia, and the East.
Learn More about the Most Romantic Journey
The Orient Express has been featured in books, movies, and on tv
From Agatha Christie to Dracula, Paul Theroux to James Bond, Graham Greene to Disney, David Copperfield to Star Trek, the mystique of the Orient Express has captured our imaginations for over a century.
Here are some of my favorites about the Most Romantic Journey– Orient Express…
Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
Orient Express, Graham Greene
Dracula, Bram Stoker
Flashman and the Tiger, George MacDonald Fraser
The Great Railway Bazaar, Paul Theroux
Murder on the Orient Express (Lauren Bacall, directed by Sidney Lumet)
From Russia with Love (James Bond)
Travels with my Aunt (Henry Pulling)
Orient Express (adaptation of Graham Greene’s book)
Around the world in 80 days (2004 movie)
Country Mouse and City Mouse Adventures: Adventures on the Orient Express
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Season 7, episode 10
The New Adventures of Madeline, season 2, episode 2
Thea Stilton and the Mystery on the Orient Express
Backyardigans (episode Le Master of Disguise)
Do you remember the first time you heard or read of the Orient Express or saw the most romantic journey on the screen?