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Travelling around Europe with Hercule Poirot: Meet the Orient Express!

Travelling around Europe with Hercule Poirot: Meet the Orient Express!
photo: Archive / Orient Express/Travelling around Europe with Hercule Poirot: Meet the Orient Express!
12 / 07 / 2022

Originally, the name Orient express meant the connection between Europe and the Balkan Peninsula. Until World War II, these were luxury sleeper trains of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. They connected Paris with Constantinople and then Istanbul. The Orient Express gained its fame mainly thanks to the detective novelist Agatha Christie. She wrote a book called Murder on the Orient Express. She made the train a legend.

The first run of the Orient Express took place on June 9, 1883. The train was composed of first-class luxury cars, dining cars, and saloon cars. The route to Constantinople was 3186 km long. The Orient Express covered it in 69.5 hours.

However, there have been many unusual ambushes in the history of the Orient Express. For instance, in 1891, a Greek robber unhinged the train about 100 km from Constantinople. He captured four men and released them after paying a ransom. It amounted to 8,000 pounds sterling in gold. A government envoy was murdered in his compartment in the following years. In the 1950s, an American military attaché was ambushed and robbed on the Orient Express. This event is attributed to agents of the Eastern secret services.

During World War I, the train's route was interrupted. From 1916 it was operated by the German company Mitropa. It ran on the Berlin-Constantinople route. It also passed through the territory of Serbia, which was occupied then. After the end of the war, it was renamed Simplon-Orient-Express. It was intended primarily for politicians. Its route was also changed to bypass the defeated Germany and Austria. It was only in 1921 that the Orient Express started to run for the public, but initially only to Bucharest.

After the Second World War, the train ran as a normal express train. It connected Paris, Stuttgart, Munich, and Vienna. In 1950 it also carried 3rd class carriages for the first time. In 1961, it was decided that Vienna would be the destination of this train because of the Iron Curtain. However, from 1964 it started to run to Budapest and later to Bucharest in Romania.

After 1977, when the last journey from Paris to Istanbul took place, the train began to deteriorate. By the mid-1980s, the Orient Express had become an ordinary night train between Budapest and Paris.