The train is not simply a means of transport, it is a style of travel where the route is as important as the destination. It takes you back in time, giving us back to a slower pace of life. Offers time to enjoy the trip. To watch what flows beyond the window. To chat. To read. To get lost in one’s thoughts …

Lovers of the genre dream of the train journey par excellence: the Orient Express. Commissioned in 1883 by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, it connected Paris to Constantinople, now Istanbul. It was in the thirties of the last century that it reached its peak. Luxury and exclusivity were the key words: elegant carriages and a restaurant with refined cuisine.

The maiden voyage took place on October 4, 1883 from Paris Gare de l’Est to Istanbul: 70 hours in which passengers were required to wear clothing appropriate to the standards of elegance. The wagons were built in teak wood, equipped with steam heating and illuminated by gas light. Edmond About, correspondent of Le Figaro, compared the comfort of the compartment that had been assigned to him of a rich Parisian house and marveled at the daily change of the sheets, refinement unknown even in the houses of the wealthiest. He was echoed by Henri Opper de Blowitz, of The Times, who described the immaculate tablecloths, the sparkle of glassware, the crystalline transparency of the water of the jugs and the silver caps of the champagne bottles.

The furniture of the Orient Express was refined and inspired by the best hotels in the world: the ceilings were of embossed leather, the curtains were of velvet, the mahogany furniture, the silver pottery and the bronze taps. All compartments had private bathrooms.

The strong point was the excellent cuisine: the menu included the most refined delicacies. It provided for variations in tune with the area crossed. Table service was carried out by livery waiters and white gloves.

The Orient Express evokes, in the collective imagination, luxury, mystery and intrigue. There were films and novels set. Songs and graphic works have been dedicated to him. Nowadays, it is still possible to retrace some routes at certain times of the year. Climbing aboard, we might catch a glimpse of James Bond or catch a glimpse of Hercule Poirot’s notebook on a journey that takes you to distant times.

So, gentlemen, everyone in the carriage: let’s go!

“There’s no train I wouldn’t take, no matter where it’s headed” (Edna St. Vincent Millay)

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