Orient Express

From Academic Kids

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Poster advertising the Orient Express

Orient Express is the name of a long-distance passenger train originally operated by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. Its route has changed many times, and several routes have in the past concurrently used the name. Although the original Orient Express was simply a regular international railway service, the name has become synonymous with luxury travel.


The original Orient Express

The original route, which first ran on 1883-10-04, was from Paris to Giurgiu in Romania via Munich and Vienna. At Giurgiu, passengers were ferried across the Danube to Ruse in Bulgaria to pick up another train to Varna, from where they completed their journey to Istanbul by ferry. In 1885, another route began operations, this time reaching Istanbul via rail from Vienna to Belgrade and Nis, carriage to Plovdiv and rail again to Istanbul.

1889 saw the completion of a direct rail line to Istanbul. The Orient Express at this time ran daily from Paris to Budapest, three times a week onwards to Belgrade and Istanbul, and once weekly to Bucharest and Constanta, on the Black Sea.

Later the same year, the train's eastern terminus became Varna in Bulgaria, where passengers could take a ship to Istanbul. In 1889 the train began running non-stop all the way to Istanbul, which remained its easternmost stop until 1977-05-19.

World War One

The onset of World War One 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 Versailles contained a clause requiring Austria to accept this train: formerly, Austria only allowed international services to pass through Austrian territory (which included Trieste at the time) if they ran via Vienna. The Simplon Orient Express soon became the most important rail route between Paris and Istanbul.

The heyday of the Orient Express

The 1930s saw the zenith of Orient Express services, with three parallel services running: the Orient Express, the Simplon Orient Express, and also the Arlberg Orient Express, which ran via Zurich and Innsbruck to Budapest, with sleeper cars running onwards from there to Bucharest and Athens. During this time, the Orient Express acquired its reputation for comfort and luxury, carrying sleeping-cars with permanent service and restaurant cars known for the quality of their cuisine. Royalty, nobles, diplomats, businesspeople and the bourgeoisie in general patronized it. Each of the Orient Express services also incorporated sleeping cars which had run from Calais to Paris, thus extending the service right from one edge of Europe to the other.

World War Two

The start of the Second World War in 1939 again interrupted the service, which did not resume until 1945. During the war, the German Mitropa company had run some services on the route through the Balkans, but partisans frequently sabotaged the track, forcing a stop to this service.

Following the end of the war, normal services resumed except on the Athens leg, where the closure of the border between Yugoslavia and Greece prevented services running. That border re-opened in 1951, but the closure of the Bulgaria-Turkey border from 1951 to 1952 prevented services running to Istanbul during that time. As the Iron Curtain fell across Europe, the service continued to run, but the communist nations increasingly replaced the Wagon-Lits cars with carriages run by their own railway services.

Direct Orient Express

By 1962, the Orient Express and Arlberg Orient Express had stopped running, leaving only the Simplon Orient Express. This was replaced in 1962 by a slower service called the Direct Orient Express, which ran daily cars from Calais to Budapest and Paris to Belgrade, and twice weekly services from Paris to Istanbul and Athens.

In 1971, the Wagon-Lits company stopped running carriages itself and making revenues from a ticket supplement. Instead, it sold or leased all its carriages to the various national railway companies, but continued to provide staff for the carriages. 1976 saw the withdrawal of the Paris-Athens direct service, and in 1977, the Direct Orient Express was withdrawn completely, with the last Paris-Istanbul service running on 19 May 1977.

The withdrawal of the Direct Orient Express was thought by many to signal the end of Orient Express as a whole, but in fact a service under this name continued to run from Paris to Budapest and Bucharest as before. This continued until 2001, when the service was cut back to just Paris-Vienna. This service continues daily under the name Orient Express as of 2005.

Privately-run trains using the name

In 1982, the Venice-Simplon Orient Express was established as a private venture, running restored 1920s and 1930s carriages from London and Paris to Venice. This service is today run once a week from March to November, and is firmly aimed at leisure travellers, with tickets costing over £1,200 per person from London to Venice.

The Orient Express in popular culture

The Orient Express has frequently appeared in books and films, often serving as a venue for mysteries and intrigues. The action of Agatha Christie's novel Murder on the Orient Express is set on the Simplon Orient Express, while Graham Greene's book Stamboul Train is set on another Orient Express service. There is also a 2000 movie, Death, Deceit and Destiny Aboard the Orient Express, and in the 2004 version of Around the World in 80 Days, Mr. Fogg rides aboard the train to Istanbul. James Bond's troubled escape in From Russia With Love is also set aboard the train.

See also

External links

fr:Orient-Express ja:オリエント急行 nl:Oriënt Expres pl:Orient Express sv:Orientexpressen he:אוריינט אקספרס


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